LONDON • Sebastian Vettel feels there is no need to panic, even after seeing his Formula One championship lead slashed to a single point last Sunday.
The Ferrari driver, who was lucky to see the chequered flag after a puncture on the penultimate lap at the British Grand Prix, finished seventh, with Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton triumphant in front of his home crowd.
Vettel now has 177 points after 10 races, with Hamilton second on 176.
"The car is great, it was fantastic in the race again," the German said. "So there is no reason to panic or to worry. But we need to be aware that they (Mercedes) are very quick and there are a couple of advantages that we need to work on. Then it could be a different picture."
Vettel said the puncture happened out of the blue. "It was very sudden," he said, explaining that he had already dropped the pace and was nursing the car home in third place before the blowout. "The tyres were going down but nothing out of the ordinary, so it was quite sudden when the tyre decided not to take me to the end of the race."
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen finished third but he too suffered a late tyre problem that forced him to pit while in second place.
Pirelli's sporting director Mario Isola said the tyre failures were not the same on the two cars and the supplier was investigating the causes.
"What we can exclude is that we had any carcass failure on Kimi's tyre, because the tyre was still inflated," he said. "There is a part of the tyre that is damaged and we will investigate deeply on all the tyres.
"Sebastian had a different issue with a loss of air."
Vettel began in damage limitation mode, with Hamilton heading for a dominant victory while the German struggled at the start with smoking brakes and then battled with Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
The tyre problem changed the picture entirely, leaving him with a fragile lead as he prepares to go to one of Hamilton's favourite circuits - Hungary.
It could have been a lot worse, however, with Vettel looking at one point like failing to score - an outcome that would have sent Hamilton into the overall lead.
"It could have been a bit better for sure, but a disaster? I don't think so," said Vettel, who has won three races this year to Hamilton's four.
Hamilton, meanwhile, warned critics to never again question his race preparations after he completed a record-equalling fifth victory at the British Grand Prix.
The Briton had chosen to miss the F1 Live event in London last week, a decision met with a chorus of disapproval. He needed to prepare for the race, he argued, his point affirmed by his driving in front of 350,000 supporters.
"There's no need to question my preparations," he said. "I have more poles than most and I am building up the wins. If you don't know my preparations are on point, then I guess you never will."
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes executive director, said the criticism of the past few days had given Hamilton, who took a two-day holiday in Greece at the expense of the London event, extra motivation.
"Extracting maximum performance is an answer to the critics," Wolff said. "I don't understand why the British hero was being beaten up before his home grand prix. It made him more determined about how he can drive - and he can drive."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS