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Vettel avoids team-order talk as Ferrari shines in the sun

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel came third in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix after his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen © AFP/File / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC

SPIELBERG, Austria, Jul 2 Sebastian Vettel neatly sidestepped all talk of Ferrari team orders as he praised Max Verstappen on Monday for his flawless triumph in the Austrian Grand Prix.

Vettel’s third-place finish behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen on Sunday lifted him back to the top of the drivers’ championship by a single point ahead of this week’s trip to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.

There had been speculation that Ferrari could ask their drivers to swap positions in the closing laps at Spielberg to boost Vettel’s bid for a fifth drivers’ crown.

Ferrari created a furore when they exercised team orders at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix by asking Rubens Barrichello to slow down and allow Michael Schumacher to pass him and win.

But Vettel stressed that no such notion entered his thinking.

“Max won the race because he deserved it and he didn’t make any mistakes,” he said.

“So that’s a strong performance from him, and Kimi did everything he could…

“I was trying to hunt both of them down. Kimi was pushing as hard as he could and I was pushing as hard as I could. Both of us were closing, but it wasn’t enough.”

He said he was pleased with his recovery to claim a podium finish after being demoted to sixth on the grid, from third, for impeding Carlos Sainz of Renault during Q2 on Saturday.

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“Obviously I was further back on lap one,” Vettel said.

“And I lost with the pit stop, so I arguably had to recover more than others, but I’m fine with that. We had great speed, but the difference was made with the tyres, which worked well.

“Our strategy worked well. I’m happy with a podium. I think it was a great race, but equally I think there was more up for grabs. So a bit mixed.”

The team are likely to want the heat-wave conditions in Britain to continue this week after a high track temperature in Spielberg brought the best out of their tyre management, while their main rivals struggled.

It was also notable in Spielberg that the Ferrari-powered teams –- including Haas and Sauber – enjoyed their best weekend of the year.

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