Vettel: We have exceeded all expectations by quite a lot

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Sebastian Vettel did his utmost in the final laps of the United States Grand Prix to keep his title hopes alive as he pursued second place, but in the end the Ferrari driver was a lap or two short and had to settle for third place in a dramatic race at Circuit of the Americas. He spoke afterwards.

You started off 14th [13th] on the grid – congratulations – and finished third. You drove an amazing race. And at one point you were going faster than anyone else. Does that give you encouragement for the rest of the grands prix and for next season?
Sebastian Vettel: Yeah, it does. We have a great car; we have exceeded all expectations. But yeah, it doesn’t feel great when you cross the line and you know that you can’t fight for the championship anymore, so congratulations to Lewis, he did a superb job all year round. Congratulations to his team as well, but we are getting closer and hopefully next year we can give them a very, very hard time.

There’s so much to go through and analyse and understand from a race like that, but basically you took a gamble at the safety car to go onto the medium tyres, intending to go to the finish, and it looked like it might work, except that then there was another Virtual Safety Car and then another Safety Car. Did you believe it was one and that without those two events you might have won this grand prix? Were you feeling good about your gamble?
SV: Yeah, I think it was the right thing to do, given where we were, given that we wanted to make our chance last as long as possible and I think there was a chance definitely to do it. Obviously when the safety car came that was gone, because we’ve seen that with the option tyre everyone one of us was in the same boat with a lot of graining. First laps amazing and then the laps after that falling off quite dramatically. With a green track that’s what happens. So I think I had a good chance. Already after four or five laps on the medium tyre, six laps, I don’t know how much it was, I was doing more or less the same pace as the guys in front. A shame to lose out, but on the other hand in a race like this I think all three of us in a way at some point in the race we got lucky with timings, because it can also work against you. But yeah, a bit mixed. Thinking a lot about the season, what we could have done better here and there to squeeze even more out. I think we did a fantastic job, much better than everyone expected, but still it’s not great when you lose the fight for the world championship. But, as I said, this is Lewis’ day, congrats to him, he deserves to win the championship. The race we had, there’s not much to add. It was every exciting – I started 14th, had an average start and then we had a very, very good opening lap and after that we did the right things. Amazing pace when we switched to dry tyres, closing to the field. And then I think it was very close with Nico in the end but not close enough, so that was it.

You [and Lewis Hamilton have] won multiple world championships – but what does it signify for any driver to win even one world championship? What does it mean?
SV: One thing is to be able to perform on that level, that’s a big achievement already if you’re in a position to be able to win races. Then obviously if you can crown that with winning the championship… it’s very difficult to describe. I think the first championship is probably the most powerful. But then it’s not like you have a head start for the next year’s. It all starts from zero again. In the end I think you have something inside you that drives you to keep doing it. As long as you have that hunger, you’re into probably fight for it again. And if you manage to do it more than one time, obviously that’s a big bonus. So, it’s an incredible feeling. And that’s why I can only underline, this is Lewis’ day and obviously I’ve been in his seat before. It’s a great feeling. Especially the nights after you win the championship. They’re quite good!

Lewis was talking about all the times we were sitting here watching when it was your day. You’ve each publicly stated you want a showdown with the other next year; is Ferrari ready to make that step? How badly do you want it to be your day again this time next year?
SV: Well, on days like this, very badly. It’s a long way, for sure today it doesn’t feel as good as probably it should after a great race to be honest. When you start 14th and you finish on the podium that’s a pretty good. Equally, let’s not forget the targets that we set out in the beginning… it’s a new start for the entire team, with a lot of things changing. I think we’ve exceeded expectations this year by quite a lot so yeah, the target is to do better next year and to keep fighting until the end and be in a better position. Equally we have to be patient because it’s a big project, there’s a lot of effort that’s going in in Maranello and the people are really hungry and I think that probably the whole factory, the whole team here feels similar to me today whereas it’s great to know that we had a fantastic recovery and another strong race but equally it’s not so nice if you lose out on the championship, so the target is definitely to come back stronger next year and just to keep making progress. I think that’s the best medicine that we need to prescribe to us.