Chinese Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel and Chales Leclerc stand by Ferrari team orders despite disappointment

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto maintained that the team made “the right choice” in ordering Charles Leclerc to let teammate Sebastian Vettel past even though it may have cost him fourth place following a disappointing Chinese Grand Prix for the pre-race favourites.

Leclerc stewed inside the cockpit of his Ferrari after being told on lap 11 to move aside for Vettel, but despite believing he was faster, the four-time world champion failed to pull away and struggled to make in-roads into the gap to the leading Mercedes’ of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

The incident has the potential to spark further problems between Leclerc and Vettel in future grands prix, namely due to the fact that Ferrari sacrificed Leclerc in leaving him out on worn tyres when the Red Bull of Max Verstappen had pitted early in order to take the fourth position that he would hold on to until the end of the race. But both drivers and management were in agreement afterwards that at the time it was the right call for the team – even if Leclerc needed a bit of persuading.

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“It’s fair if you see the whole race,” claimed Vettel, who in the end trailed race-winner Hamilton by 13.744 seconds and Bottas by 7.192s. “I knew at the moment it happened, I would have to face these questions.

“I was asked if I could go faster. I answered that I felt I could and once I found a rhythm I was able to chip away at the gap. The objective was to catch the Mercedes cars.


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“I want to be ahead of Charles and he wants to be ahead of me. It is just a pain to answer the same questions. The priority lies within the team. We are driving for the team, and this stuff is not pleasant, but what goes around comes around. It is not easy for anyone involved.”

Leclerc vented his frustration with the decision over the team radio, arguing that he had increased his pace when asked to and was actually pulling away from his German teammate, but did not fight when the call eventually came.

“If you look my own race, I think obviously we would have pitted earlier,” said Leclerc. “If you look the team’s race, I think they did the right thing trying to slow down the Mercedes for Seb to come back, which was I believe the target.

“It didn’t work but that was the target. At least we tried and we look forward now.”

Ferrari’s team principal Binotto, who like Leclerc is in his first year in the hot seat, hailed the 21-year-old for the way he handled the situation.

“It was not easy to give the order,” Binotto said. “I thank Charles for the way he behaved and showing he is a good team player. We made the right choice.”

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