Sebastian Vettel has denied suggestions he cracked under pressure as he spun while battling with Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Vettel and Hamilton were squabbling over second place as the race moved into its closing stages with the Mercedes twice harrying the Ferrari.
At the first time of asking, Vettel was able to rebuff the attack as Hamilton sent it around the outside at Turn 4.
However, at the second attempt Hamilton was able to make the move stick, with Vettel dropping the back end as he exited the right hander.
The incident had hallmarks of errors made in the latter stages of the 2018 championship, when Vettel spun in both Japan and the United States.
Those mistakes were put down to the pressure of battling with Hamilton for the world title.
“To be honest, I don’t think it has anything to do with pressure,” Vettel said of his Bahrain spin.
“Obviously, when I was fighting with Lewis, the target was to stay ahead and that was the ambition.
“I got surprised when I lost the rear that suddenly, and then when I was in the spin it was already too late.
“Certainly it was my mistake and I need to digest that our race could have been a bit better without that spin at that time.
“It was a difficult race and there is plenty of homework on my side.”
The added impact of Vettel’s spin was that he was no longer in a position to capitalise for Ferrari when team-mate Charles Leclerc struck trouble.
The runaway leader at the time, Leclerc lost the energy recovery on his hybrid engine in the closing stages.
Left with heavy flat spots following the spin, the vibrations soon accounted for Vettel’s front wing too as he toured back to the pits for repairs.
Hamilton was therefore left unchallenged to claim the lead and go on to win when Leclerc ailed, with Bottas following him through to make for a Mercedes one-two on a weekend that had been dominated by Ferrari.
“It was a mistake and I don’t think we should discuss about mistakes,” said team boss Mattia Binotto.
“We are always in the battle and in the fight — that is what we are doing and it is never easy. I think at the end it is something that can always happen.
“I think we need to encourage our drivers, because it is only by driving to the limit that they achieve the best result and that is what Seb was trying to do.
“As he said, there is some homework on the balance to improve, we are still learning about our car.”
Vettel recovered to fifth behind Max Verstappen and Leclerc who clung on to the final podium step.