Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

‘I didn’t see myself staying behind’: Leclerc explains decision to pass Vettel

2019 F1 season

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Charles Leclerc says he chose to overtake Sebastian Vettel in the Bahrain Grand Prix despite Ferrari telling him to stay behind his team mate because he had a “big pace advantage”.

Ferrari instructed Leclerc to hold position behind Vettel for two laps, but less than a lap later he overtook his team mate. Leclerc had also been told to stay behind Vettel in Australia, which he did.

“As I’ve shown in Australia the interest of the team is extremely important,” said Leclerc. “But in this particular situation I think I had quite a big pace advantage at this moment of the race and I had the opportunity in the straight and I just didn’t see myself lifting and staying behind.

“So I just went for the opportunity. It was a safe pass and I went for it.”

Leclerc was quicker than Vettel throughout the race weekend in Bahrain. he said he wasn’t surprised to find he had the pace to overtake his team mate.

“I think we had good pace all weekend long,” he said. “I was very confident with the car, very at ease with the car during all the weekend. Seb was a little bit less. So I just focused on my race. I had the opportunity on lap six and I went for it.”

He lost his chance to win when a power unit struck in the final quarter of the race. However Leclerc played down suggestions his Bahrain performance showed he could win the championship in his second season.

“After the first race nobody sees me as a title contender,” he said. “After the second race everyone sees me as a title contender. So things can go very quick in Formula 1.

“I need to focus on what I’m doing in the car, try to work as hard as possible and trying to do the best job in the car and outside the car and then I’m pretty sure the results will come.

“Then we’ll see. We are only at the third race in the season, it’s very early on. We’ll see how we get on in the next few races. But hopefully we keep the momentum from Bahrain going.”

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2019 F1 season

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Author information

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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9 comments on “‘I didn’t see myself staying behind’: Leclerc explains decision to pass Vettel”

  1. Did he need to explain why? He was quicker, so he overtook.

    1. @hugh11 Indeed. I agree that it didn’t really need an explanation in the end.

      1. @hugh11 @jerejj If this was an ordinary overtaking move, of course not. But seven corners before he went past, his team had told him to stay behind his team mate. That’s why it invites a question.

        After all if his team tell him not to do something and then he does do it (or vice-versa) it begs the question why bother giving him the instruction in the first place.

        1. The team tried to control a situation that did not need controlling. Possibly because of their experiences last year where they failed to set out a clear procedure for these situations.

          They did not tell Leclerc to stay behind period but just “for two laps”. I guess they wanted to see where Vettel was pacewise and avoid their two drivers ruining their tyres in a senseless duel which had happened last year.

          Leclerc was much faster than Vettel, Vettel recognized that and didn’t make a fuss about it.
          Done. These two will we fun to watch because they seem to respect each other.

    2. Well you know the press keeps badgering him for answers trying to find a juicy conflict. He’s made it quite clear he is just going to focus on himself and doing his job. Let him be.

    3. GtisBetter (@)
      11th April 2019, 16:41

      Well, I can imagine someone at Ferrari going:”we told you to stay put, why did you pass Vettel?” So he probably did had some explaining to do.

  2. Hey, with any luck, he’ll see himself as a world champion and that will happen too!

  3. Although this is his first year with Ferrari
    Although he did less testing than Vettel

    He is faster and even more importantly he is more reassuring than Vettel.

  4. So he should. Ferrari wont fire him because he is quicker than Vettel. It will only become a problem if Vettel starts turning in on Leclerc.
    Having seen the netflix episode about him, with the motivation he has, assuming he has the real speed too, Vettel is finished.

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