Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

‘It wasn’t a strong team order’: Vettel backs Ferrari’s decision to hold Leclerc back

2019 Australian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel backed Ferrari’s decision to tell Charles Leclerc not to overtake him during the Australian Grand Prix.

Leclerc was told to hold position behind his team mate during the final laps of the race while Vettel was struggling on worn tyres.

“I think from the team’s point of view it was quite clear that fourth and fifth was the best result we can get,” said Vettel when asked whether the instruction was correct.

“Obviously you never see completely what’s going on at that point in the race. We both of us have to manage quite a lot as well to make it to the chequered flag. We still had some fuel to save.

“I think it’s not the first time – obviously it depends if you’re in front or behind – but it’s not the first time that the pit wall ask to freeze the race there and make sure you bring the cars home.

“I think you can understand, I don’t think this was a strong team order. I can see that for you and people there’s quite a lot of excitement in these kind of things, maybe there is a story, but internally it was pretty straightforward.

Leclerc, who lost around 17 seconds behind Vettel, agrees the team’s decision was “understandable” and insisted there was “no frustration on my side” about the decision.

“Obviously it [was] the first race but on the team side I don’t think there was anything to gain whether I was fourth and Seb fifth or me fifth and Seb fourth it was exactly the same amount of points for the team.

“So it’s understandable they didn’t want to take the risk for us to fight each other and lose even more points. I understand the decision.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “‘It wasn’t a strong team order’: Vettel backs Ferrari’s decision to hold Leclerc back”

  1. The mustache, though.

    1. Everytime I see it, I just think 70’s porn star.

      “I haf come to fix the vashing machine” 0_o

    2. Oh dear. Is he trying to be the anti-Hamilton..! Hamilton trying to be younger, Vettel trying to be older. :)

    3. That is one awesome Mustache. Taking que from Mansel?

  2. This was a ‘soft’ team order.
    But as Vettel is now clearly in the lead in the WDC standings (20% more points), all subsequent orders will be ‘strong’ :P

  3. yes, the team gets the same amount of points regardless of who is 4th and who is 5th.
    but the drivers don’t, and i think Leclerc would have been able to overtake Vettel. The fact that Ferrari told him to stay back just go to show how much they are already investing in Vettel, and that he is definitely a number 1. Not that crap they were saying about letting them fight and only intervene in tricky situations. At least be upfront about it.

    1. Hemingway (@)
      28th March 2019, 16:53

      I believe Vettel would have been very aggressive in defence. Ferrari would have been idiots to let them race and end up crashing over 4th and 5th, giving Mercedes an even greater head start.

      As a Ferrari fan I want to see good racing between the two of them. I have a bet on leclerc to come out on top of the championship battle. Despite this it’s clear that Ferrari made the right decision.

      On top of everything else, it wouldn’t have been beneficial to see Leclerc run wide at turn 3, souring the teammates relationship at round 1.

    2. When was the last time a team kept the faster driver behind for entire season?

      Whatever happend in Australia, will be different next time if he turns out to be faster at every race.

      Team should issue team orders from race 1, if they determine their best driver for the championship. Ferrari will need this against Mercedes.

      They do have to establish very fast if Vettel is really the faster driver. That is not a given.

  4. I believe Ferrari gambled a lot on calling Vettel into the pit early. I don’t say it was a mistake, if they considered it risky, they could have called Leclerc in to experiment with. The early pit didn’t pay out, Vettel (and Hamilton) was lucky enough to keep their tyres alive until the very end, meanwhile Leclerc (and Bottas) had the more optimal strategy and thus the upper hand. It’s out of question if Leclerc could have overtaken Vettel, on much much fresher tyres, it’s obvious, and if P3 would have been in reach for Leclerc, I have no doubt Ferrari would have swapped the drivers without a fight and sent forward the Monegasque to hunt down Verstappen, but the gap was too big and the pace wasn’t there. And another factor, Leclerc made a couple of mistakes that cost him time, however Vettel made no mistakes, only suffered from the early pit stop, so on the same strategy they never could have end up so close to each other.
    I’m usually very critical about Vettel and the direct and indirect team orders coming from the Ferrari pit wall benefitting the German while sacrificing his teammate, but this time I have to agree, that it was logical and reasonable and not much to explain.

    1. Can no one bring themselves to say that it would have been wrong and unfair to allow Leclerc to pass given the fact that they screwed up Vettel’s strategy? Did Leclerc get that close beause he was faster (in which case he would have deserved to pass) or because he was just lucky enough to have the fresher tire? Were people not infuriated when Red Bull played those games favouring Verstappen on strategy against Richardo? It was just simply unfair to let Leclerc pass. End of story.

      1. Second that, but if Verstappen would have been reachable, I believe Ferrari should have let Leclerc past Vettel to try to get on the podium, regardless of mistakes on Leclercs’ or the teams’ side. But as the Dutchman was out of reach, keeping positions was the correct solution.

  5. Melbourne is not China or Azerbaiyan where you can pass easily. Ferrari didn’t want a crash in the opening race. Quite understandable.

  6. We can’t know for sure now, but knowing how Ferrari have operated in the past I think this is one that would have played out slightly differently had the drivers’ positions been reversed at the time. In that sense it just so happened that the soft order was all that was needed.

  7. Charles is going to start making stronger and stronger races. With time Seb will loose that smile, and hopefully that moustache too

  8. From team management perspective there was no harmless way.

    Telling Seb to let Charles pass definitely wouldn’t be a way of starting the season after last campaign. He must start fresh, without stains to his spirit. Having a teammate who spent the whole weekend behind finishing ahead because the pitwall made him drag himself with done tires definitely would cause a bigger impact than the actual order.

    Telling Charles to hold position had it’s implications: the most obvious one, it let him shy of the possibility of 1 extra point and also, the chitchat about burying Charles so soon, pressure over drivers and their roles.

    But the truth is that pressure is way easier to hold from outside than from the inside out. Mattia set it straight from day 1: Seb is the preferred driver as long as he is ahead, so it was a no brainer situation. Therefore, there was no wrong doing over Charles. Plus, it was not like Charles was told to back off from a race win possibility.

    Let’s hold the horses for a fit situation that most probably will come.

  9. In the battle of team mates this is a point to Vettel because he finished ahead. The fact Leclerc could have overtaken him will be ignored.

    1. Correct. That’s why stats are lies.

  10. “Multi 21 Seb'”. Some of us remember. lol

    1. Pointing out Seb’s inconsistency (the fact that he didn’t obey orders when he was behind, but favors orders this time around when he was ahead) might seem correct.. However, some of us also remember the fact that Seb was responding to Webber’s behaviour in Brasil the previous season. Also, is it not also inconsistent that fans who criticized Seb for not holding station back then want Charles to overtake this time around?

  11. Yea I know it’s cheap shot but I just couldn’t resist. Irresistible. Let the rain pour. Strike me down with all of your anger. :-)

  12. I’m sure had LeClerc ignored this “not a strong team order” that everyone at Ferrari would have been perfectly happy about it.

    1. I’m sure Seb’ would of been perfectly happy too but I am sure with all due respect that that was your under lying point. Well played. Well played.

  13. Vettel has been in Italy too long. He’s starting to look like a Mario Brother.

  14. I think the mo suits him… I hope he keeps it.

    Ferrari said they would review he decision not to go for the fastest lap. I’m more interested to know if after the review would they have done things differently there, rather than switching driver positions.

  15. It’s a me, Vettel! :D

  16. BS! Ferrari know too well the ignomy of CL beating SeeBashem in his first outing would have smashed his ego to smithereens.

  17. Seb , Lecler is faster than you but mommy will make it not so

Comments are closed.