Sebastian Vettel says the only consolation about his late race heartbreak in the Bahrain Grand Prix is that he did not miss out on any champagne – because the drink is not sprayed on the podium there.
The Red Bull Racing driver appeared to be in full control of the Formula 1 season opener until a spark plug problem slowed his car and saw him slip down the order to eventually finish fourth. Although the points he gained could prove vital at the end of the season, Vettel said there was little to take from the event.
"Well, we have a very nice trophy here, it's one of nicest in the season," he said in his reaction to the events of the day. "I didn't miss champagne because there wasn't any but... It's important to finish, that's the secret of the season, so to finish fourth, overall is not a bad result. But I could have won."
Vettel said he felt totally comfortable at the front of the field, even though his closest challenger, Fernando Alonso, reckoned he had plenty in reserve to launch a late-race attack.
"It was a straightforward race, excellent start, excellent first stint, I think we were looking better than anyone else on the super soft, against probably people's expectations," he said. "Then we had the freedom to stop a lap later than Fernando, or the Ferraris, and obviously we lost a little bit because of that. Nevertheless I think, up to the point where we had the failure, it was looking very good, and at any time I think we were in control.
"Anyway, we were lucky not to retire at some stage. In the end, we still finished fourth. It seemed to get slightly better again with less fuel in the car. It was costing a lot at some stages, you could see the people passing me, and they didn't have any difficulty. We just lost power. Every time I was on the throttle I just had less power.
"I had to try to push as hard as I could on the brakes and in cornering. Fortunately, I still had reasonable tires, I was trying to manage those, which I think was the secret to finishing fourth. But I should have won."
Vettel believes that Red Bull Racing can at least take heart from the fact that the team appears to have delivered a car that is both quick over a single lap and is able to look after its tires.
"For me there is nothing I could have done better," continued Vettel. "It sounds maybe a bit harsh, but at any time I think we had a good position and we were controlling everything. There is a lot of positives.
"I think we have made a huge step forward in the tire management side. You could see in the first stint the Ferraris were struggling more than we were with tires. That's very positive and the speed was good. But the result obviously wasn't."