Sebastian Vettel says he had no choice but to “surprise” Valtteri Bottas amidst his race-winning overtake at the British Grand Prix, labelling the battle as “quite intense”.
The German made a clean getaway from the front row of the grid to lead the field through the opening corners, building a buffer of more than five seconds to second-placed Bottas ahead of the first round of pitstops.
A late safety car period led to Ferrari calling Vettel in for an unplanned second stop, which saw him re-emerge behind Bottas after Mercedes opted to not pit the Finn for fresh tyres.
Despite Bottas’ tough defence of the position, Vettel dived down his inside at Brooklands to out brake the 28-year-old and claim the lead of the race, going on to secure his 51st career victory matching Alain Prost.
“It was quite intense,” Vettel said. “Obviously I had the advantage on the tyres, but he had clean air, so in high-speed stuff I was able to follow but it was difficult the closer I got.
“I sort of sniffed my chance already in the first laps after the restart out of Turn 4 [The Loop] and then on the Wellington straight down to Turn 6 [Brooklands].
“The final move, obviously I was able to surprise him. I think he thought that I wouldn’t dare [to go down] the inside and the braking zone was coming quite fast.
”I would’ve liked to be closer [exiting Aintree] but I wasn’t, but I still thought it’s good enough to have a shot, so I gave it everything.
“I tried also the outside before, and he was very late on the brakes, and so was I, and I couldn’t really go anywhere – so I thought ‘okay, time to do that again’, and I have to somehow surprise him.
“I think I was a little bit further back, and close to the braking zone he was covering the inside – but then still gave me a little bit of room to make the move happen.”
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was handed a 10-second penalty for a coming together with Vettel’s title rival Lewis Hamilton on the first-lap. Hamilton later referred the collision as “interesting tactics”, with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff pondering if it was “deliberate or incompetence”.
Asked his thoughts whether Raikkonen’s manoeuvre was intentional, Vettel replied: “Why? Things can happen.
“It’s quite silly to think that anything that happened was deliberate. I, at least, would struggle to be that precise and take somebody out.
“In France I lost my wing, so I screwed my race. I think it’s easy to attack and have a great move and easy to have an incident.
“I only saw it briefly but I don’t think there was any intention and I find it a bit unnecessary to even go there.”