Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen managed to snatch a podium spot away from Red Bull at last weekend’s France Grand Prix, while his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, crossed the finish line in fifth. Vettel caused a crash in the opening moments of the race, colliding with Mercedes-AMG driver Valtteri Bottas heading into the first corner, forcing both himself and Bottas to have to battle their way back to the fore from the back of the pack.
Vettel fought through the ranks swiftly, recovering lost ground and earning a “Driver of the Day” nod from the fans for his performance. He pitted late in the race for a fresh set of Ultrasoft tires, at the same time serving a five-second penalty for causing the crash, but there wasn’t enough time left on the clock for him to mount an attack on Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who finished fourth.
With Vettel and Bottas running toward the back of the pack, Kimi Räikkönen was free to concentrate on maintaining a strong enough pace that he could challenge the two Red Bulls in second and third. He caught his break toward the later stages of the race, when Daniel Ricciardo’s No. 3 Red Bull reportedly suffered some front wing damage from track debris, slowing him enough that Räikkönen was able to slip past.
The 2018 France Grand Prix marks Räikkönen’s 102nd race start without a win, and his 25th podium finish with no wins – a first in F1 history. Vettel, who had regained the lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings after the previous race, lost it again as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton cruised to victory.
Speaking with the media about his first-lap contact with Valtteri Bottas, Sebastian Vettel said it was “his mistake,” pinning the blame largely on his strong launch from the third spot on the grid, which put him at an impasse with Bottas, who started from second.
“I tried to brake early and get out of it, [but] I had no grip being so close to the cars in front and also next to me,” Vettel said. “Valtteri tried to get his position back, [which is] fair enough and I had nowhere to go obviously. The turn goes left and I tried to slow down, but with the grip I could only open the radius and that meant unfortunately I had to make contact to Valtteri.
“Obviously for Valtteri it was very bad because it affected his race and he had nothing to do with it, so I went to him after the race. Given the situation, how tight it was, I think we were both lucky in a way to be able to continue.”