Sebastian Vettel once again found himself at odds with his Ferrari team after finishing 40 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton in third at the Singapore Grand Prix.
The German headed to the street circuit at Marina Bay as the strong favourite for victory at the start of the weekend but ended it with seemingly growing strain between himself and the Scuderia after another lacklustre result.
Where it had been Vettel's own errors many had pointed to for hurting his championship chances, this time it was the team who had to share the burden of responsibility as the strategy put the 31-year-old squarely on the back foot.
Sebastian had done the hard work of getting ahead of Max Verstappen, with a bold move around the Red Bull driver approaching Turn 7 on the opening lap.
But when trying to apply pressure to the leading Mercedes by pitting earlier, Ferrari only succeeded by putting him behind the Force India of Sergio Perez, which allowed the Dutchman to have a tricky pit-stop of his own but still re-emerge in second place.
“Overall we were not fast enough, didn’t have the pace in the race,” Vettel commented afterwards.
“[We] tried to be aggressive in the beginning but didn’t work out."
Another error Ferrari made was putting their lead driver onto the Ultrasoft tyre compound while Hamilton and Verstappen around him both opted for the Soft.
“I had a different race on a different tyre to the other guys and didn’t think it would last but pitting wasn’t an option," he explained.
“We focused on making it home.”
Faced with now having to make up 40 points on Hamilton in the final six races, and perceptions by some that Vettel is trying to be as much a team boss as a driver, the four-time world champion doesn't think there is reason to panic just yet.
“It doesn’t help but I’m mostly thinking of today’s race," he claimed.
“The way we raced we didn’t have a chance. I said before the weekend we can only beat ourselves and we didn’t get everything out of the package."
In recent races, even Hamilton himself has agreed with the conclusion that Ferrari has the quicker car over Mercedes and Lewis expressed surprise at the lack of pace the Italian team showed.
“I mean they put up a good fight this weekend,” he stated. “[But] I am not really sure where their pace disappeared to.
"As I said, I am just grateful for everyone’s hard work [at Mercedes]."
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