F1

Sebastian Vettel ‘over the moon’ as German silences retirement claims with Baku podium

Sebastian Vettel sits in Aston Martin Formula One car

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Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was grinning from ear to ear after he jumped up nine places from his grid slot in a thrilling Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, which saw championship leader Max Verstappen crash spectacularly out of the lead of the race.

Vettel quietly carved his way through the pack, putting himself in the top five when Verstappen had a high-speed tyre failure, bringing out the red flag.

The German had a spectacular restart, steaming his way through to fourth before Lewis Hamilton forfeited positions with what looked to be a lock-up into turn one.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff defended his driver’s mistake, explaining: “He touched a button and the brake balance changed. The brake balance went all the way forward and ultimately the car couldn’t stop.”

Vettel ultimately finished second, claiming Aston Martin’s first podium in F1, putting to rest any suggestions he should’ve retired when Ferrari axed him at the end of 2020.

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“I think this means a great deal [to the team],” said Vettel in the immediate aftermath of the race. “Obviously, it’s been a tough start for us and I think it was a great race.

“We had good pace, that was the key. I had a good start, made some positions for us straight away, and looked after my tyres as soon as everybody went to the pits.

“I had really good pace to overcut Yuki [Tsunoda] at least, then the restart worked brilliantly for me – I got another two positions there.

“We obviously had fresher tyres, which I guess helped with warming up the tyres later on.

“Great day. I’m over the moon for the team, it’s great. Obviously, a podium – we didn’t expect that when we came here.

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“But already on Friday, even though we were nowhere it felt good. I was quite relaxed and yesterday, we didn’t quite get it but today, it was even sweeter.”

After missing out on Q3 during Saturday’s qualifying session by just over three tenths, Vettel by virtue could use a fresh set of softs during the race.

The German used it to his advantage during a safety car period after team-mate Lance Stroll’s own tyre blowout.

“Strategy-wise, it’s always better to start further up but the new tyres for sure didn’t hurt, because other people already had laps on theirs from qualifying,” he added.

“It helped us to go longer but we really preserved the tyres well, and I think that was the secret – plus the pace that we had in the race.

“As I said, the car felt good and it was the key to keep progressing and shifting forwards.”

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