|© AP Photo/Greg Baker
After spending the weekend as Formula 1's new bad guy, Sebastian Vettel doubtless won back many of his fans with a barnstorming finish to Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, coming within a whisker of a remarkable place on the podium.
Vettel trailed third-placed Lewis Hamilton by 14.6 seconds with four laps left, but with the benefit of fresh soft tyres he put in a withering finish and ended up only two-tenths of a second behind the Mercedes.
The German gambled on strategy by starting on the harder tyre and when he made the compulsory switch to the softs with five laps to go, a podium finish looked beyond him, with Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton more than a kilometre ahead.
"When I came on to the long straight and saw Lewis at the other end turning into the hairpin I thought ‘well, that's a bit too far,'" Vettel said.
But Vettel whittled the gap down to almost nothing in the final few corners, with Hamilton forced to lock up his wheels on the final turn as he pushed the car to the limit to stay ahead.
"It was a little bit disappointing to lose out by such a tiny bit; a few corners more and we could have tried something," Vettel said.
The German was held up marginally in the early part of the race behind compatriot Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber, and he said that ultimately cost him third, and probably second, place.
"I was faster than Nico but if you follow another car you lean on your front tyres too much and it was hard to find the right compromise, but overall we can be happy," Vettel said.
Happy was not a word readily associated with Vettel in the days before the race, as he threw off his standard happy-go-lucky demeanour and made some very sharp comments about his teammate Mark Webber.
He said the Australian's past actions had justified his decision at the previous race in Malaysia to ignore team orders and snatch victory away from his teammate.