Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2019

Ferrari ordered Leclerc to stay behind Vettel

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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Ferrari ordered Charles Leclerc not to overtake Sebastian Vettel in the final laps of the Australian Grand Prix.

Leclerc, in his first race for the team, caught Vettel in the final laps. Vettel’s tyres were older than Leclerc and he was lapping slower than his team mate.

However when Leclerc got within striking distance of his team mate he asked the Ferrari pit wall whether he should hold his position. “Yes,” he was told. “Back off to have some margin.”

Before the season began Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said his two drivers were “free to fight” each other. However he also indicated Leclerc would be required to play a supporting role to Vettel “if there is any ambiguous situation at the start of the season”.

Speaking before the race Leclerc said: “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.”

After the race Vettel was asked whether there had been any discussion about him and Leclerc switching places. “No I mean obviously it was clear so I think everything goes normal,” he said.

“I don’t have much chance to fight anybody at that point because I was quite slow. For me it was just making sure I get to the end.”

Charles Leclerc Australian Grand Prix team radio

Leclerc: Shall I stay behind Sebastian? Yes or no.
To Leclerc: Yes. Back off to have some margin.
Leclerc: OK.
To Leclerc: Cool down the tyres.
Leclerc: Tyres are not that warm.
To Leclerc: Copy.

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31 comments on “Ferrari ordered Leclerc to stay behind Vettel”

  1. I think that with nothing to win for the team, Leclerc checking in to ask before risking it was a good move in his first race with a sometimes very emotion-driven team. I understand some people being dissappointed he didn’t just go for it, but it’s probably the sensible thing to do.

    I do wonder, having kept Leclerc behind Vettel, did they think they wouldn’t have the pace to get FLAP (1:25.x from VB in the end, right?), or were they worried about risking anything, already feeling down with their winterkings title quickly gone?

    1. ColdFly (@)
      17th March 2019, 8:54

      Not to worried about keeping him behind that Kate in the race.

      Utterly disappointed though that they did not put him to chase the FLAP. It would have been great for Leclrrc, and could have made 2 points difference for the WCC.

    2. Telling Lec to hold position behind a slow Vet, in the first race, with nothing to lose, shows they are in for a tough ride. Im not a Ferrari fan but that really ticked me off big time. I couldnt believe it. They might as well have kept Kimi. Why promote him and cut his wings off in the first race.

      Imagine if Max had a bigger off, that could have pulled Lec closer for a chance of a fight.

      Hes never gonna race Vet till end of season.

      1. Wait, wait, he just needs to outqualify vettel and don’t worry, he will stay ahead.

    3. Also don’t get why they didn’t pit him for new tyres… he had over 35s in hand over Magnussen. If they didn’t want him to fight Seb he should’ve at least try to get FL.

    4. Agree. Charles is smart to asked. He’s a bit faster but its Australia and he had harder compound tyre. He earn team sympathy now. But yes, Ferrari should pit him to try FLap on Soft.

    5. Ferrari are falling apart at the very first race. I understand wanting them to keep positions, but pitting him to chase the fastest lap a no-brainer. He had enough time over MAG for even a 10 second safe pit stop. That’s +2 in the championship over Mercedes! Unless they thought that even with fresh tyres they couldn’t get it…

      1. This might be the reason, they were afraid to embarass themselves by pitting for fresh tyres and still be unable to beat mercedes’ lap times, last year in australia race pace was like mercedes > red bull >= ferrari, this year it’s mercedes > red bull > ferrari, clearer gap.

  2. Rough, stupid and obvious. First race of the season and they aren’t willing to let the future champion show what he’s got, Vettel already showing his hand, afraid of being shown up like in 2014. I would dearly love to see Ric in the seat next to Leclerc.

    1. Tell what Vettel did wrong there… Did Charles ask Vettel is he could pass him?

  3. Why why why?

  4. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said his two drivers were “free to fight” each other. However he also indicated Leclerc would be required to play a supporting role to Vettel “if there is any ambiguous situation at the start of the season”.

    So I’m guessing the “ambiguous” situation that Binotto was talking about was both drivers “racing each other” . I don’t see how they are free to fight if the fight is called off when Vettel is going to get overtaken.

    The way I see it, If Vettel is in front and Leclerc attacking him -> Team order to hold positions. If Vettel is chasing Leclerc, then the situation is “ambiguous” and Leclerc will have to play #2 and let him by.

    Did they really need to replace Kimi with Leclerc if this is how they’re managing their drivers?

    1. I agree with you. Kimi comes at premium cost. This kid comes cheap ;)

      1. And they wanted to prevent Leclerc to be snatched away by another team…

    2. Ferrari drivers are free to fight, as long as they don’t do it.

  5. Since they took away his right to those extra points why not at least pit him to get the fastest lap point. It must be frustrating driving for that team sometimes. It is now very clear what the roles are for this year. I bet if it was reversed they would say “Seb is much quicker than you, dont hold him up!”. I bet Kimi is relieved he doesn’t have to deal with that BS anymore. Racing in the midfield battles would be alot more fun and pure than playing #2 up front.

  6. Devo for Charles, hope Ferrari bosses and Seb have bad night’s sleep

  7. Ferrari are not going to win any championships by favoring their lesser talented driver or am I missing something?

    1. To be fair, their “lesser talented driver” was faster without their MGU-K problem. What bothers me is why they chose Leclerc to drive behind a driver with a mechanical problem. It’s like if Vettel retired would they expect Leclerc to park up behind him as well?

    2. Wait, so Sebastian Vettel, the guy that won the 2008 Italian GP in a Toro Rosso and won 4 WDC’s and 3 times runner up is the lesser talented driver than Charles Leclerc, who has yet to prove himself against a decent teammate? Let’s not forget that last years Sauber wasn’t that bad at all, however his teammate was.

      I like Leclerc, I think he might be battling for the WDC in the future, but people are giving him way to much credit for last season. Ericsson just made him look a lot better then he probably was. Not saying that Leclerc had a mediocre season, not at all, but people expect him to defeat Vettel as the second coming of jesus. That’s just not gonna happen. He still needs to grow.

      Before the season even Charles got hyped up by all the praises, and he expected at least 2 victories this season. I think getting on that 3rd spot podium place might already be a big challenge, just ask Daniel Ricciardo. When you do not have the fastest car, he’s going to defeat Vettel, Verstappen and perhaps Gasly to get on that podium. Not an easy task.

      1. Gasly is nowhere performance wise and leclerc, despite mistakes in qualifying and earlier in the race, was clearly faster than vettel, good enough, leclerc vs verstappen for podiums, easier when hamilton or bottas have a bad race.

      2. yep oxnard the same guy who was thumped by danric, l think this could be Sebs last season

  8. FlashFormula
    17th March 2019, 9:17

    That might bite Ferrari later if Leclerc has a title campaign over Vettel later this year, if Vettel doesn’t pull it together. Every point counts for both drivers at the start of the season, but that’s Ferrari!

  9. Ferrari is making the same mistake they made last year by favouring Seb from the beginning. By the time it struck Arrivabene that he should unleash Kimi once there was only a slim chance that Seb could win the championship, it was late though Kimi showed his potential.

    I respect Mercedes that they let their drivers race in the initial races and then make a decision, if required.

    Leclerc is being the nice guy by asking for permission to overtake. Ferrari might be happy with the attitude but it can also be interpreted as lack of ambition and passion. That was my feeling even when he went public with being happy playing the 2nd fiddle. imagine Ferrari getting Max in 2021 and expecting Leclerc to continue in his supporting role, that’s when it will hit him hard but it would be his own fault.

    1. Papo Chicharra (@)
      18th March 2019, 3:57

      Asking for permission was his mistake. Lesson learned. Next time he should keep his mouth shut.
      He should have instead kept the pressure and try to force a mistake just like Vettel did to him at turn 1.

  10. One word ….. disgraceful.

    1. No, not really. Vettel dominated the Ferrari battle until his technical issues, Arrivabene got chewed out for not taking these decisions. They did the right thing.

      From a driver point of view, I really don’t get Charles. Who asks for a teamorder against yourself? He officially demoted himself to wingman at the very first GP.

      1. I still don’t understand team orders considering the bets placed on f1 it’s race fixing can you imagine the same in horse racing

  11. If the were going to pit and go for the FLAP, then telling him to hold his position makes perfect sense. But to tell him not to pass and not go for the FLAP is a real head scratcher. Seems like Ferrari were caught napping and didn’t consider all strategies.

  12. Some people are saying Ferrari had nothing to win by letting Leclerc pass Seb. Yes they did – they could show that they weren’t just spouting BS when they said the two were free to race. Instead, they just reinforced what everyone said. Seb is the CLEAR #1 and team orders will be used (now from the first race) to support that.

    1. Then they will never win a title again till vettel retires.

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