By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Sebastian Vettel believes his steering issue that attempted to plague his victory began prior to the start of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 30-year-old German started the race from pole and held over a 3.5 second gap on Scuderia Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in the early stages following a brief safety car period. However, Vettel cited a problem with his steering in the lead-up to his first pit stop. This allowed Raikkonen to close the gap and play as a buffer the remainder of the race to a charging Lewis Hamilton and help the Italian squad retain a 1-2 finish.
“Well, it was a tough one,” said Vettel.
“I was hoping for a bit more quiet afternoon. I had a very good pace and I think Kimi had a good pace, so I think he could go a lot faster than me for the majority of the race. I don’t know, I felt already that there was something not right when we dropped the car on the grid.
“Now, driving the car to the grid was fine but then for the formation lap when we dropped that the steering wheel was not straight and then… well, I did the start and then there was a safety car and then during the opening laps I felt that it wasn’t right but it didn’t impact too much because it was only small. Then it did get worse and towards the end of the stint it started to ramp up and gradually get worse. It was more and more difficult.
“I think after this race I am quite certain there is a reason why the steering wheel is straight and not shifted to one side. Because it’s very tricky – left-handers to right-handers and then if it keeps changing to adapt. I did try to adapt and I obviously knew that we can’t change it. Then I tried to save the car, also we spoke a little bit on the radio about it.
Vettel added that navigating away from the curbing helped lessen the issue.
“I was talking through the problem and they told me to avoid the curbs, which I was doing already, but on a track where you use the curbs nearly on every corner it’s obviously also compromising your performance,” he continued.
“In the second stint then I just wanted to make sure that I’ve got enough tires with whatever problem I might face, so just towards the end of the race I’d have enough tires. So of course I was holding it back a little bit. It’s not like I had an awful lot more pace. Also, in the end I was really going flat out and obviously they were all behind me, queuing and it’s good that you can’t overtake that easily around this track but I had no room for error.
Overall, the win was Vettel’s fourth of the season and 46th of his Formula 1 career – which places him with a 14-point lead heading into the summer break.
“It was a tricky race, with the lapped cars not the easiest to go through,” said Vettel.
“As I said, there was no room to the cars behind. It was difficult but the mindset that I had half way through the race was ‘It doesn’t matter. I can’t change it now – I’d love to but can’t. We keep going and just try to hang in there as much as possible.’
“The race felt very, very long. Every lap I was looking down; it didn’t end. The last couple of laps I was able to find a bit of a rhythm, opened a bit of a gap, which helped me to take the very last bit of the race a bit easier through the traffic and controlled the race to the end.
“The result is great. How we got there was very tense but very happy, obviously great result for the team.”