Sebastian Vettel said he had to be satisfied with salvaging fifth place from the Chinese Grand Prix after his poor qualifying result and even worse start, despite briefly looking set for a podium..
The reigning World Champion only managed 11th on the Shanghai grid on Saturday, then dropped to 15th with a slow start. A two-stop strategy finishing short first two stints saw him emerge in second going into the closing stages, but as his tires faded, Vettel was passed by both McLarens and his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
"It was getting more and more difficult," Vettel admitted. "I had nothing left in the tires. I knew that the only chance was trying to escape from Kimi [Raikkonen]. I think he ran into the same kind of problem."
Last year in China, Vettel lost victory to Lewis Hamilton when the three-stopping McLaren overcame the worn tires of the two-stopping Red Bull at the end. While content with fifth in the circumstances, Vettel admitted that it was hard to be happy having come close to a podium.
"I think it was the same here last year," said Vettel. "It was a bit different, but the last five laps were the same – people from behind eating me up as I had no tires left.
"You try to get them back to life, get a little bit more out of them, but they were pretty dead. I tried to react with brake balance, diff, everything I had, but there was nothing I could have done. A shame, because the podium was so close and yet so far. Nevertheless, good points and a good recovery from 15th."
Vettel also reckons that a lack of straightline performance had hurt Red Bull during the race.
"We were generally too slow on the straights," he said. "We were losing a lot of time there. That made it extremely difficult to pass."
He accepted responsibility for losing ground on the first lap.
"I think I missed out a little bit on the start," Vettel admitted. "I was a bit too late. I wasn't entirely happy finding the revs and I was a bit confused. Usually I'm pretty quick when the lights go off, but today I think I was one of the last ones. I didn't wake up enough.
"Then I was behind the Williams and at Turn 1 they crashed into each other a little bit and I had to hit the brakes and I didn't know what was going to happen. Then I lost another couple of positions – I nearly lost a position to Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham, so I think it was a really bad stage on the first lap. With the strategy we managed to kind of come back."