Sebastian Vettel may have made victory in the Italian GP look easy, but in fact the German had to overcome serious concerns about the Red Bull gearbox.
Both drivers were allowed by the FIA to change their fifth, sixth and seventh gears before the race after a reliability problem was flagged up, and in the race both were told to shift early in order to save their equipment. Despite that Vettel stayed safely ahead of Fernando Alonso.
“In the end we finished the race so it was not a disaster,” he said. “I think the heartbeat was a bit higher in the car and also at the pitwall, because we didn’t know what’s going on. Fortunately we didn’t have any big issues. Just the last 10, fifteen laps, tried to pace myself a little bit more and control the gaps. Obviously it was good to have these 1o seconds on hand, so I didn’t have to push that much and also I didn’t have to squeeze it all out of the tyres, even though I stopped a couple of laps earlier than Fernando.
“So that was positive. But yeah, we didn’t know how bad the problem is. We’ll probably know better once we strip the car next week and have a look inside the gearbox. We’ll probably know for both cars, I think, how close it was.”
Vettel admitted that the gearbox had given cause for concern all weekend.
“We already saw something on Friday, obviously something similar but Friday to Saturday we changed the gearbox and then I think in the race it was a surprise. We were obviously aware of the Friday problem but we didn’t see anything before that. There’s not much you can do; obviously once you start the car there’s nothing you can change so in the end, I think we were lucky or in a comfortable position to have a little bit of a gap especially towards the end.
“I don’t know what they saw on the pit wall in terms of data, if the problem got worse and worse and worse or stabilised, but obviously I tried to save the car, save the engine and gearbox as much as I can. In the end, I still have to go full power on the straights; basically try to short shift and save the car a little bit.”
Vettel said that the pace of the car at Monza had come as a surprise even to RBR technical guru Adrian Newey: “I think he was as surprised as we were. Just on the way up to the podium, he said ‘I thought that it was going to be damage limitation this weekend.’ I said to him ‘well, if damage limitation is like that, I want to have a lot of damage for the rest of the season.’ It was very unexpected. Already the pace on Friday surprised us.
“From a balance point of view, I was very happy with the car, similar to two years ago. So obviously we’ve been very competitive in Canada, very competitive in Spa on medium downforce tracks. This one was a little bit unknown. We haven’t been the fastest down the straights again, but fast enough, somewhere in the mid-field which is enough to use the strengths that we have through the corners, despite running as little wing as we can afford.”
Meanwhile Vettel had an interesting response to the boos he received on the podium.
“I said on the radio on the in lap that the more booing we get, the better we have done today. It’s normal. I don’t blame the people to be honest, I think their love of Ferrari is in their genes. It’s something very special. Obviously Fernando is in a great position on the podium, whereas if you’re dressed in any other colour it’s not the same, but still, it’s a fantastic race, a fantastic podium here.”