Sebastian Vettel takes blame for Bahrain spin, denies choking under pressure

Sebastian Vettel apologised to Ferrari for the incident Sunday that ultimately cost him at shot at winning the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Vettel spun on Lap 38 of 57 while defending second position from Lewis Hamilton at the medium-speed Turn 4 corner, losing control of his car despite not making contact with the Mercedes driver. The spin damaged Vettel's tyres and the vibrations the car suffered meant his front wing tore off the car before he had made it back to the pit lane.

Not only did it relegate Vettel down the order, but it also meant it was Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas who capitalised when Charles Leclerc's Ferrari engine suffered problems in the closing stages of the race. A contrite Vettel took full responsibility when it was all finished.

"OK, sorry guys, my mistake," he said on race radio. "I got surprised and lost the rear, then I couldn't catch it anymore. Really sorry. And not sure about what I saw on TV, but I'm really sorry for Charles. Please tell Charles that he drove an excellent race, very strong and he should have won it."

The spin will undoubtedly raise speculation about Vettel's mindset after what happened in 2018. Vettel squandered a golden opportunity for a fifth world championship last year with a series of high-profile mistakes, most notably crashing out of the lead of the German Grand Prix.

"To be honest, I don't think it has anything to do with pressure," he said after the race. "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 I had a look at it again, 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, but nevertheless it was difficult race and there is plenty of homework on my side this weekend not having the feel for the car, especially yesterday and today, so we need to have a good look.

"From a team's point of view it was a good step forward from two weeks ago. Plenty of reason to look forward, and generally I am looking forward. Certainly, I am not happy today and I won't be happy tonight, but I am quite happy to get in the car for Wednesday for the test and there is quite a lot of things I would like to try."

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto was quick to defend his driver.

"As Seb already said, it was a mistake and I don't think we should discuss about mistakes. 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 and we have some days of testing next week in Bahrain and that will be useful for the preparation ahead of China [April 14 in Shanghai]. So I think all good in that respect and we will keep focus on that and hope to improve."