Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2019

Leclerc ready to be Vettel’s “number two” when asked

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says he is prepared to adopt a “number two” role to team mate Sebastian Vettel if Ferrari ask him to.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has indicated Vettel will be given priority if “ambiguous” situations arise during the opening races of the year.

Speaking to media in Melbourne, Leclerc said: “Obviously I completely understand the decision.

“As in any team there has to be a number one and a number two in a 50-50 situation. But then also from my side it’s my job then to turn things around. It’s not going to be easy, I have a lot to learn. But I will try that.”

Leclerc says he expects the team will handle such situations on a case-by-case basis and advise him on the radio if they want him to assist his team mate.

“To be completely honest these 50-50 situations when the time will come I will probably be let know in the car,” he said.

“To have any proper examples, I don’t know, we’ll see at the first race obviously. It all is very new to me.”

Binotto and Vettel have both stressed the two drivers are free to race each other, which Leclerc acknowledged.

“We are free to fight in qualifying [and] I can try and go faster than him which won’t be easy.”

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Keith Collantine
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33 comments on “Leclerc ready to be Vettel’s “number two” when asked”

  1. Didn’t expect these words so early although it is something that was inscribed way earlier.
    Nevertheless, glad to know there is equilibrium within the team.

    Next up, Max and Pierre…

    1. I am actually happy about hearing them now. At least Ferrari is not trying to act as if they don’t put Vettel first (just a little) like they have been saying for the last few years, when we could all see on track that Kimi got rather short changed in the strategy department when it came to it.

      Also, I hope this helps Vettel muster the self confidence not to break down when it comes to clinch situations, especially if Leclerc starts beating him on track too.

  2. Magnus Rubensson (@)
    14th March 2019, 8:27

    I hope he goes straight for the win in AUS.
    Especially since I bet a fiver on him. :)

  3. Seb is going to have a tough fight on his hands. There seems to be a quiet confidence about Leclerc, I really feel he can beat Seb, if he is allowed to. He will probably take a few races to bed in with the team.

    Seb hasn’t been handling pressure very well of late, and it would be interesting to see how he deals with a fast young guy who at this stage has nothing to lose.

    1. If it only takes him a few races then F1 is too easy imho.

      1. It is his second season in f1, its a new team but he`s not new to driving f1 cars

    2. Bottas had a quiet confidence only to show he wasn’t all that. I’m ready for either result.

    3. @jaymenon10

      Leclerc is a confident and talented chap.. But if he openly admits that he’s ready to play number 2 to Vettel if asked, it just shows that Vettel won’t have his hands full with him this year.

      It’s a real shame that the excitement between this battle has fizzled off even before it began. It’s even more disappointing considering how poor a #1 driver Vettel has been for Ferrari.

      1. @todfod Exactly, this is bizarre. The whole point of giving Leclerc the drive, should have been to challenge the woefully underperfoming Vettel. Telling their challenger that he potentially will be #2 from the start would massively undermine that role.

        Or perhaps they are attempting to egg Leclerc on to be competitive from the get go. Like Hamilton was in 2007.

  4. I think Ferrari are being clever here. They aren’t saying “Yes, Vettel is our number 1 regardless of what happens”. They are saying “if a race is up in the air and we can go one of two ways with each car, we will give Vettel the strategy we think will be best initially because he is the driver with the pedigree.” If What this doesn’t mean is that if Leclerc comes out and blows the doors off of Vettel they will slow Leclerc down. I think this approach is good for Leclerc too, it takes the pressure off him a bit. All he has to do is go out there and give it his best.

    1. @geemac For sure there is pressure just to be a driver at Ferrari, but in a way he is in a low pressure situation. Do well against SV and it’s a pleasant surprise, but lag behind as the newbie and near rookie on the team and it’s no surprise. Next year though will be different. He absolutely ‘just’ has to go out there and do his best and learn. That’s his main mandate.

  5. What a massive mistake from him to say.
    You dont ever, not once, ever what to be looked at as number two at any point in your F1 career, its almost impossible to shake that off.

    1. I get the sentiment of what you are saying but one also has to be wary of coming across as cocky and heaping pressure on oneself. There is a saying ‘better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around.’

      I envision him as a natural number two this season simply because he is the newbie on the team and will need time to grow into his opportunity, and while that is going on presumably SV and LH will be off to the Championship battle from race one this weekend.

      But CL can shake the number two aura by next year coming out and dominating his teammate and all the others like all WDC’s need to do.

    2. I would say after joining Ferrari after your rookie year, reassuring your team you are willing to do what it takes , is hardly a bad idea.

      I feel like Leclerc isn’t stupid… anyone who thinks vettel and leclerc are100% on the same level IS. Of course Ferrari has to claim otherwise, but don’t be dense. They’re apex level race car drivers, not forklifts.

  6. Better not be another Hamilton-Bottas scenario. Would be bad for F1 and mind-numbing for the viewers.
    I personally love the excitement of heated team battles like Perez-Ocon and Ricciardo-Verstappen.

    1. Would you pay Ocon and Perez to crash your race cars into each other? I doubt it.

      What’s good to watch isn’t always good for the race effort, otherwise I wanna see Jessica Alba in one of the Williams.

    2. @digitalhank A Hamilton-Bottas scenario is fine. They only asked Bottas to help Hamilton when Hamilton was about 100 points ahead of Bottas and Bottas was well behind Vettel.

      In fact this is more like The Vettel-Raikkonen situation. Already from the first races Ferrari sacrificed Raikkonen’s strategy to aid Vettel. In many races they called in Raikkonen way to early, forcing Mercedes to cover for the undercut. Helping Vettel into free air.

  7. I never saw a F1 driver before who was acutually better than his team mate but forced to #2 role. All the talks about this subject is just nonsense. If Charles shows he is faster than Vettel than no one will force him to act as #2 driver. All the certificeted #2 drivers, like barichello, irvine, kovalainen, bottas were/are not a match to their much talented team mates.

    1. I have seen this (arguably Villenueve at the end of 1996, Schumacher at the end of 1999, Barrichello at the ends of several Ferrari seasons in the early 2000s and in Indy 2005, both McLaren drivers at different points of 2007) though it was far more common in the 1970s and earlier, apparently.

      The common thread of all the situations I cited here was that the situation was at odds with the general run of play in some way:

      – 1996: Hill had been faster than Villenueve for most of the season. This is the classic “second-placed driver in the team must play second-fiddle to a title bid”, but it was more notable because technically both drivers were in the title fight. Williams never asked one driver to stand aside for the other (as the more blatant #1/#2 situations do) but sometimes in the garage there was only one upgraded part due to Williams production having to meet the laws of temporal physics…

      – 1999: Schumacher was, no doubt about it, the best driver on track all season. Except, of course, for the races which he missed due to breaking his leg. Irvine had a title bid going, Schumacher didn’t. Irvine descrived Schumacher’s efforts to help him: “Michael Schumacher is unbelievable. Not only is he the best #1 in the world, he is also the best #2 in the world”.

      – Early 2000s: Barrichello was often stronger towards the end of the season… …when Schumacher often (not invariably) was slightly weaker at the ends of seasons. Sometimes this was because he’d already won the title by that point and was sensibly conserving his energy for next year (as anyone on those early 2000s grids would tell you, Schumacher at the end of any season was still a stern test of anyone’s mettle), sometimes because the tracks that appeared to be bogey venues for him (Shanghai and to some extent Suzuka) were at the end of the season. However, if Ferrari felt it was necessary to have Barrichello maintain racing position behind Schumacher (I don’t think it did any swapovers in Schumacher’s favour that late in the season), it would certainly do so. However, Barrichello would have overtaken Schumacher in Indy 2005 (and thus obtained that hollow win) minus team orders given while Rubens was in the pit lane…

      – 2007: McLaren’s approach was to favour whoever they thought was the stronger title contender, but in such a way as to attempt equality of opportunity. In Monaco that was Alonso even though Hamilton was faster. In Hungary qualifying that was Hamilton even though Alonso was quicker. These efforts famously backfired.

      hamiledon’s point, if expressed as “No driver who was better over an entire season was ever forced to the #2 role in a specific race”, would be correct.

  8. Perhaps I’m still stuck in a bit of an old school mentality, but to me F1 should be hard enough that Leclerc should be starting off on his hind foot at Ferrari, and that puts him as a natural number two on the team. Ie. to me the odds are that he won’t head SV, and assuming LH is still going to be his usual force to be reckoned with I think by the time CL starts getting his feet under him and is in a rhythm with his side of the garage, they won’t want to be taking points away from Seb. It won’t be a malicious handing over of positions unless absolutely necessary, like CL will never be able to head SV. If he can get there CL can also be instrumental in keeping points away from LH.

  9. jamesluke2488
    14th March 2019, 13:14

    My expectation is Ferrari will quickly realise that Charles is the better driver. This has Mclaren 2007 and Red Bull 2014 type situation, where the young driver beats the experienced driver.

    I just hope if this happens Ferrari drop Vettel and back Charles.

    1. imo 2007 is not a correct example because both Alonso and Hamilton are both very talented drivers who are very close each other based on performance. i still think alonso is a better racer than hamilton & hamilton is better on a single hot lap. what had happend back in 2007 is another story which has many side factors in it.

    2. @jamesluke2488 This is not at all a Red Bull 2014 situation. You have to appreciate that in 2014 SV was handed a car, their effort for the new hybrid chapter, with an even worse pu than they have had up to last year, and it was a car that was completely unrecognizable to Seb compared to his WDC cars that fit him like a glove for 4 years straight. Picture you’ve just come off that run and you’re trying to defend your title but now you’ve been given something that feels like a slow dog…frustrated, dejected, feeling like the rules were changed to stop their run. Then you have DR who comes in and doesn’t know from the WDC/WCC level cars that Seb had, and just feels like he is in the best car he’s ever had.

      That is the reality of 2014 for SV. He had an off year. There is no reason whatsoever to think this year is even remotely like that. Sure CL will be in the best car he’s ever had, but it is a car Seb is well accustomed to and by all accounts from testing he is likely highly stoked about.

      1. @robbie

        That is the reality of 2014 for SV.

        Vettel got annihilated all season long. Complete nonsense to pretend that this was just a motivation issue. F1 drivers don’t let themselves get beaten. Youi have got to be kidding that Ricciardo making Vettel look like a rookie would not have been enough motivation for Vettel to give it his all to outperform Ricciardo.

        Besides what kind of message is it to claim that he can just muddle around a whole season just because he doesn’t like his toy.

        It’s all just absurd.

        1. @f1osaurus I never said it was just a motivation issue, you did. It was a physical car issue as we saw plainly, and it was a mental issue too. Ask yourself how it is possible SV could go from 4 time WDC in a 4 time WCC car, and then suddenly forget how to win? What is absurd your your belittling of the situation like SV is some child. As well that suddenly somehow DR was a 4 time WDC beater, he who got beat by Kvyat in 2015.

  10. To be honest… Leclerc just went down a notch in my book. There’s no way a Verstappen would have ever played 2nd fiddle to any driver even in his rookie season. There’s a certain winner mentality and hunger required for winning WDCs, and I’ve started questioning whether Leclerc really has that fire in his belly.

    It would be a heck of a lot better for the sport if we had a young, fast and ambitious driver, who would look forward to doing the job that Vettel has failed at doing over the past few seasons.

    1. @todfod For me I have to say Leclerc hasn’t really been on my radar to follow closely, which might say for me he’s not stood out for whatever reason. He has everything to prove, and for all I know you might be right that he might not have that WDC level hunger, but I’ll assume that those in the know that have seen him to the big seat at Ferrari think he has the potential to grow into it, and I’m sure he looks forward to doing the job. We’ll just have to see. He’s yet to play at the WCC car level. If you’re right, maybe they only ever wanted a compliant number 2. Many around here seem to think he could win the WDC this year, which I truly doubt. What an absolutely historic feat that would be if he did. I think I also give SV more credit than many around here too.

    2. @todfod @robbie The trouble is that at this point, a driver that went in with the attitude you would prefer simply wouldn’t be hired, unless it was with the intention of being the team’s #1 straight away. This would be plausible in a time when there was an overlap between the strongest teams and the midfielders (as this gives the chance to midfield drivers to demonstrate they can jump straight to #1 status), but that’s not how F1 in the 2010s is.

      Verstappen only got his chance to jump straight to #1 status due to a simultaneous collapse in the previous Red Bull and Toro Rosso situations – not something that can be counted on to be repeated in the Red Bull/Toro Rosso duo, much less anywhere else on the grid. Otherwise, he would have had to have demonstrated an ability to give best to a team-mate. Even the Red Bull way expects this, however much it is willing to bend that concept for one driver. The resulting team-mate collision in Baku has likely made the other team bosses even more cautious than they were about permitting a young driver to walk straight into their #1 slot. Instead, they require newcomers to prove themselves. They’ll talk about equality, but at absolute most that means equal expectation to obey orders when given in exchange for equal opportunity to succeed. Only once a driver has shown they can repeatedly defeat their team-mate on equal terms and gain the team’s belief in their ability to carry a title bid – or this happens by semi-default when their team-mate leaves for pastures new – can a prospective champion at such a team play the big “I am”.

      Savvy prospective world champions bend with the wind until they are allowed to be a wall against the wind. That’s what you’re seeing here – with Leclerc and Verstappen alike.

      1. @alianora-la-canta

        I kind of agree with what you’re saying. Teams are being more pragmatic with their young drivers. They don’t want them jumping into the #1 slot straight away and would rather see them earn it.

        But then again.. If you have a championship winning car underneath you, how can you not want to fight tooth and nail for a championship? Championship winning opportunities are not easy to come by, and any F1 driver should be ready to pounce on them. Having to help someone else win a championship is just not the kind of mentality that gets you far in this sport.

        Just ask Rubens.

        1. @todfod To fight tooth and nail for a championship, you do whatever it takes to get the maximum from your team. That’s not always as simple as taking every point on the table at all costs, as much as sporting purists prefer to be so (and as much as more cautious people like me believe Ferrari is overstretching the priviledge to control one’s staff). In a team where taking the #1 spot has to be earned, it’s sometimes necessary to literally take one for the team to show that it should be listening to you.

  11. So Lecleck is just one out of a dozen, no champion material. Predict an early crash.

  12. Charles knows how Ferrari works and is wiling to work with this. Of course, if he ends up making Vettel look silly (or vice versa), this element is moot. However, in the more likely scenario of each being better than the other at least some of the time, it’s one less thing for everyone involved to worry about.

    Verstappen will never be a Ferrari driver, therefore will never need to understand. He only needs to understand the Red Bull way of working (since I don’t think any stronger team than it will hire him due to the current talent pipelines, and the fact that Red Bull itself is likely to be a title contender again in the next few years).

    1. @alianora-la-canta

      Verstappen will never be a Ferrari driver,

      I reckon Ferrari will dump Vettel for Verstappen in a heartbeat.

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