Maurizio Arrivabene says Ferrari was confident of winning the Australian Grand Prix until the race was neutralised, and defends the Scuderia’s “aggressive” strategy to leave Sebastian Vettel on the supersoft tyre at the restart.
Lining up third on the grid, the German had a great start that propelled him ahead of both Mercedes.
Vettel then went on to build nice gap in front and looked in control, even more so with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen serving as buffer after he too overhauled Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at the first corner.
The turning point of the race came on Lap 19 when a huge crash between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez caused a red flag. With teams free to change their tyres during the interruption, Mercedes put Rosberg on the medium compound while Ferrari elected to keep Vettel on supersofts. That would impose another stop for the four-time world champion, who was ultimately leapfrogged by Rosberg and Hamilton to finish third.
Asked whether Ferrari thought Vettel could win the race before the red flag, team principal Arrivabene replied: “I mean, on the pit wall we were confident in all honesty. We were looking at the race and looking at the gap we were gaining and at that time our radio was to go with our strategy and keep going.
“I don't want to make any excuses, it's part of the race and you have to accept it and that's it.”
Vettel himself admitted his team could have done things differently in hindsight, but Arrivabene was quick to defend Ferrari’s strategy.
“The choice of tyres, at that stage of the race you have to be more aggressive,” the 59-year-old added. “It could be right, it could be wrong, I think Sebastian was talking about that. At the end we were pushing like hell and Sebastian had a chance to be able to overtake Hamilton, it was in our strategy.
“If you want to look at the glass not half empty, we were better and this is the news. Of course you can't be happy after this, but this is racing.”
The Ferrari boss also argued that fitting medium tyres on Vettel’s car during the neutralisation would have necessarily led to a Ferrari victory in the Melbourne opener.
“No, I can't say. We need to look at the data in the garage because every car has different consumption and degradation. To be certain if we were right or to be certain if we were wrong makes no sense now. We need to look at the data from the car.”