Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2019

Beat Hamilton? Vettel hasn’t proved he can beat Leclerc yet

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Three races into the 2019 F1 season, Ferrari have used team orders in all three rounds to aid Sebastian Vettel at the expense of his team mate.

Team orders is an emotive subject and Ferrari’s decision to use them has prompted much debate, not least here on RaceFans.

Was the call to move Charles Leclerc aside for Vettel fair on their younger driver? Did it help or hinder the team’s overall progress in the race? And should such orders be used at all so early in the championship? Even ex-Ferrari drivers such as Gerhard Berger have weighed in on the debate.

But Ferrari’s policy doesn’t just raise questions about the team. It also reflects on Vettel in a way which is troubling for the four-times world champion, for the following reason:

Had it not been for Ferrari’s team orders in all three races this season, it is highly doubtful Vettel would have led Leclerc home in any of them.

At the last round in China Leclerc got ahead of Vettel at the start and, had the race run its course without Ferrari’s interference, it’s likely he would have stayed there. As the lead driver on track, Leclerc would have enjoyed the right to pit first, preventing Vettel from wielding the ‘undercut’ to his advantage.

Leclerc was indisputably quicker than his team mate two weeks earlier in Bahrain. He cruised up behind Vettel and was told by Ferrari to wait behind him for two laps. Leclerc thought better of that, and slipped past less than a lap later. Had it not been for a short circuit in his power unit which later demoted him to third, Leclerc would have won, while Vettel spun his way down to fifth place.

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At the season-opening race in Australia, Leclerc’s debut for Ferrari, he understandably showed more regard for the team’s instruction to stay behind Vettel, when the pair met on-track around 10 laps from home. But you only have to look at the pace difference between them to see how easily Leclerc might have passed. Having dropped back from his team mate, Leclerc let rip on the final lap, scorching around Albert Park almost four seconds faster than Vettel, leaving no one in any doubt the reason he finished behind his team mate wasn’t because he couldn’t overtake him.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2019
Leclerc dutifully follow Vettel home on his debut
The effect Ferrari’s Vettel-first policy has had on Leclerc’s season is easy to quantify. He finished fifth instead of fourth in Australia and fifth instead of third in China.

Leclerc should be third in the championship, immediately behind the two Mercedes drivers. If Ferrari hadn’t decided to favour his team mate in every race this year, he would be. Instead the closest threat to Mercedes is not a Ferrari, but Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Ferrari’s rationale for backing Vettel has some logic to it. As team principal Mattia Binotto said in the build-up to the Chinese Grand Prix, “he won four championships” already and “he is the driver who has got the most probability to challenge for the title”.

That may have been true in bald statistical terms on the eve of the new season. But Leclerc has patently been the superior driver so far. This has made Ferrari’s decision to favour Vettel because he is more competitive a self-fulfilling prophesy: He is only ahead of Leclerc in the championship because Ferrari believe he should be.

“I think I can do Hamilton’s pace” said Vettel more than once in China while waiting for Ferrari to move Leclerc aside. Once they were swapped, Vettel dropped back from the Mercedes at a faster rate than his team mate had.

Before he is to have any hope of beating Lewis Hamilton to this year’s world championship, Vettel must prove he can beat Leclerc first. He hasn’t done that yet.

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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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147 comments on “Beat Hamilton? Vettel hasn’t proved he can beat Leclerc yet”

  1. When Ferrari put Leclerc into Kimis seat I was convinced it was because they had decided it was time to prepare a young keen driver to replace an ageing and (let’s be honest) fading star.
    It is very nice and loyal of them to support Seb over the new kid but holding Leclerc back just wastes him and makes the entire team look stupid.

    Bite the bullet Ferrari, let them race.

    1. This.

      Ferrari need someone that, in a few years time after Seb and Lewis have retired, can fight the likes of Max, Ocon, Norris etc, as well as the next round of “old guard” like Ricdiardo, Hulk, Perez and Grosjean.

      Putting him straight in as a scapegoat/wingman for Seb is only going to make him look at other seats/teams…

      1. Agreed to you and Nulla. Seb doesn’t need to prove anything to me though. He has proven enough already. He just needs to have the hunger he had in the redbull days.

    2. @nullapax

      I don’t think Ferrari was completely sure about how to play Leclerc in the driver line up.

      If they got rid of Kimi because he was an underperforming #2 driver, and they wanted a better #2 driver, then they just picked the wrong driver for the role. Firstly, Kimi wasn’t that bad a number 2 driver. He outscored Vettel for the entire second half of the 2016 season and the 2018 season. If Vettel wasn’t given preferential treatment at Ferrari, and they both raced on equal terms, it’s highly likely that Kimi would have been a much closer match for Seb. Anyone faster than Kimi would be challenging or even beating Seb on a more regular basis. So, why hire Leclerc for a #2 role?

      If they picked Leclerc for his future champion potential, and adopted a Massa-Schumacher type of dynamic within the team, then they got it wrong as well. Leclerc has already developed at a much more rapid rate than Massa had. He’s pretty much been on it from the start. Additionally, Vettel is nowhere close to as fast and consistent Schumacher was. If they were planning to have a master-understudy relationship between their drivers, they picked a terrible master for Leclerc to learn from.

      The way I see it, they should be looking at a replacement for Seb asap. If he’s expecting preferential treatment and he still can’t get the job done, that’s when you need to hire a better #1 driver. If you want your drivers to race each other and see who comes out on top, or who to eventually earns the team support, then let them race. But giving preferential treatment to the inferior driver makes no sense from any angle.

      1. @todfod I agree. Basically Ferrari made the error of looking for a new number 2 driver when they already had one – Vettel. And they then compounded their problem by hiring a number 1 driver as number 2! It’s easy to resolve, though. Just let them race, as @nullapax says.

        1. @david-br

          Realistically, Vettel would never play the #2 role, and I wouldn’t expect Ferrari to put him in that role either.

          I thought that Ferrari were going to adopt the approach that they did in the Kimi-Massa era, where they let them both race up until a certain point in the season, and then throw their weight behind the driver ahead on points. It ended up pretty well for them considering Kimi won the 2007 driver’s title and they won the WCC in 2008. Their car has been relatively competitive to Mercedes over the past 2 seasons, as was their competitive levels in 2007 and 2008 compared to Mclaren.

          1. @todfod You’re right, but that’s actually what I meant: let them race equally, Vettel would probably end up supporting Leclerc’s title bid by 2/3 through the season. 2007-08 were excellent for them with Massa and Raikkonen assisting each other.

          2. @todfod @david-br If they let them race and Vettel is behind, then Vettel cannot complain about not being given preferential treatment. If he’s ahead then he’s earned it.

            Indeed the Kimi-Massa approach would be far better.

            The message that is sent when Vettel needs support at the expense of his teammate from race 1 is certainly far from flattering

          3. @3dom As to your last paragraph…so what of MS and his whole career then who needed his teammates to literally be under contract to be subservient? He’s consider the goat by many.

          4. @robbie

            No one ever questioned who was the better driver when Schumacher was paired up against Barrichello or Irvine. While I’m not a fan of subservient #2 driver contracts, you can completely understand the team’s logic in focusing all their efforts on a driver who is capable of delivering the goods. Similarly with Alonso, every driver in that second seat was smashed to bits. No team principal in their right mind would pick a Massa or Raikonnen as a contender over Alonso.

            Neither Schumacher, nor Alonso, needed help from race 1 .. and then in race 2 .. followed by additional help in race 3. The driver has to be worthy of preferential treatment… and Vettel is far off being worthy. He’s nowhere close to an Alonso or Schumacher in terms of performance.

        2. Great points there @todfod

          @robbie nice bit of devil’s advocate there 😉. Vettel, like any other driver, wants to win as many titles as he can, any way he can. There’s been a decision somewhere at Ferrari to do absolutely everything, and they probably reflected on last year and said if he’d had support from the very start of the season, things may have turned out differently. Vettel obviously knows that adding extra titles to his tally, regardless of how he earns them, will generally make him look better, but like Schumacher, having a subservient teammate will tarnish it somewhat. His wheel to wheel skills are certainly tarnishing his reputation right now.

      2. José Lopes da Silva
        19th April 2019, 15:53

        “If Vettel wasn’t given preferential treatment at Ferrari, and they both raced on equal terms” – you remember that Vettel’s race in Monza was ruined because he did not have the preferential treatment Hamilton received in Germany, right?

        1. You’ve mentioned the one time Hamilton battled from P14 to P1 and Bottas was told to hold position to avoid any contact with his teammate in tricky conditions.

          I’m not saying Mercedes hasn’t used Bottas as a wingman.. But at least Lewis is capable of using that advantage to get the job done. Vettels been floundering around since 2014

        2. In addition to @todfod ‘s comment, at that point, they were on race 11 of 21 (halfway through the season) and an underperforming Bottas was 67pts adrift of Vettel and 59 behind Hamilton. Hamilton had fought back to lead the race and the WDC standings. I can understand a team order at that point.

          As opposed to each of the first 3 races telling the faster teammate to wait behind the slower teammate or give up the position. Not the same thing.

        3. José Lopes da Silva, I presume you are referring to qualifying, rather than the race itself – the thing is, on their first timed laps Vettel was already behind Kimi, and it has to be said that he perhaps did cost himself a small amount of time through the middle sector by going a fraction wide in the second Lesmo corner.

          I do also wonder whether Kimi really did get that much of a slipstream effect, because Vettel was a long way ahead of Kimi on the track – from the onboards, it looks like Kimi was about 300m away on the back straight (a very rough estimate, as it looks like the two drivers were roughly the same distance apart as the two footbridges over the circuit on the back straight, which are roughly 300m apart).

          Now, if I recall well, there were a set of simulations – admittedly undertaken back in the 1990’s – that reckoned the turbulent wake of the cars basically petered out about 30 car lengths back. That would suggest that Kimi might well have been too far back for any slipstream to have played any significant advantage on the final qualifying runs – so, even if Ferrari had switched the two drivers around, I question whether it would have actually made much of a difference as it looked like Kimi was fractionally too far back to benefit anyway, so Vettel probably would have been in a similar situation if Ferrari released both cars a similar distance apart.

        4. José Lopes da Silva

          Did you see the start of the race in Russia? How was that start and the strong defense of Bottas any different from what Raikkonen did to Vettel in Monza.

          The difference is clear though, Hamilton kept his head together, didn’t crash into anyone and made it possible for the team to help him win that race (even though in hindsight he actually didn’t need it). Vettel on the other hand had another case of his “red mist” episodes, crashed and burned and came in last of the top cars instead of winning the race like he could have done. Losing himself 13 points and donating at least 7 points to Hamilton and potentially more seeing how two Ferrari’s could have made it much more difficult for Hamilton.

      3. @todfod – Great points, all. But:

        Anyone faster than Kimi would be challenging or even beating Seb on a more regular basis. So, why hire Leclerc for a #2 role?

        While I agree with your premise, I don’t think Ferrari see it that way. I’m not sure they understand that the results were as spread between VET and RAI as they were because of the team’s interference. I think they assumed VET would dominate RAI and they were just keeping it clean.

      4. Agreed, and I think there are a lot of factors to consider but in Ferrari’s defense, they have to look to the future and promote the talent in their own programs or risk losing good drivers to rival teams (this happens all the time). Also, I imagine that Leclerc has probably been quick sooner than was expected.

        As for Kimi, he had the #2 role since 2015. Ferrari frequently devised his race strategies to help Vettel’s race more than his own, so I think it’s very unfair to say Kimi hasn’t performed well these last few years.

        I can see that Ferrari feel that perhaps he’s not as quick as he used to be and are looking for an improvement in their #2 driver… but they do still want the 1-2 dynamic (they almost always prefer it). But at least so far this season, Charles has outperformed Seb. It will be a difficult act to balance going forward.

    3. @nullapax

      My thoughts also. They might have keep Kimi if he had a better #1 to support.

      They are already way behind. They better fix this before the WDC is completely out of reach.

    4. Agreed, you’ve said it all.

    5. @nullapax @joeypropane @todfod @phylyp

      It’s very early guys, 3 races… Sure Vettel has made a few mistakes but I don’t think it’s time to be so adamant about being past his use by. It’s not uncommon for Vettel to have a slump as there were periods when Webber beat him on pace so it’s not as if he’s always been the fastest. On his good days, which is more often than not, Vettel is unbeatable. He’s a better racer than most of the field more often than not.

      I think it’s right for Ferrari to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s worked hard without the winning machinery the last few years and if anyone deserves the best chance at the championship with them, it’s him.

      1. @skipgamer

        He’s been awfully slumpy his entire career though … hasn’t he? He was slumpy in parts of 2010. He slumped in the first half of 2012. He slumped for the entire season of 2014. He slumped for most of the season in 2016. He’s slumped (and dumped on his championship) for most of 2018. He’s started off in a slump in 2019.

        Vettel’s ‘good days’ have never been consistent enough. Compare it to the likes on Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher etc who had good days around 90% of the time, it seems that Vettel has good days only 50% of the time. And let’s face it, he is beatable even on his good days, maybe he isn’t beatable by Kimi and Webber, but Lewis could eat him for breakfast even on a good day.

        I get your point about just being 3 races in to this season and jumping to conclusions etc. But he’s been slowly fading over the past 6 seasons anyways… and honestly, I’m more inclined to believe his dominant performances of the past were more down to a genius car designer, the exhaust blown diffuser and a washed up Mark Webber.

        I think it’s right for Ferrari to give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s worked hard without the winning machinery the last few years and if anyone deserves the best chance at the championship with them, it’s him.

        Ferrari can either reward him for driving a non-championship winning car in 2015 and 2016… or give him a reality check for throwing away the 2018 championship. From Ferrari’s point of view, I think a reality check might help him.

      2. @skipgamer – it’s not 3 races, though, is it? Yes, it is 3 races this season, but this slump started since Germany last year. He’s been in a funk since then, and really hasn’t shaken off that crash, or whatever has been troubling him since then.

        I’ve supported him for over a decade, but he’s been misfiring more than ever – not just racing, but temperamentally (Baku, Mexico, etc. in recent years).

        I get it, he’s older, ambitions change and fires dull. But as long as he is enabling Ferrari to make counter-productive calls like in these 3 races, that’s bad on him.

        1. @phylyp Why start his “slump” at Germany? Why not Baku/Mexico/Singapore 2017 then? He blundered three races away before before Germany 2018 (in Baku, France and Austria) and three after Germany as well (Monza, Japan and USA).

          Or go back to 2014 when he got destroyed by Ricciardo. If anything that really seems to have knocked him down.

          Although as @todfod explains above, it actually started even earlier than that. You can even go back to 2009 where he also wasted 3 races by crashing out.

      3. @skipgamer I’ve had limited time to jump in but have formulated several points I could make, but you have summed it up for me. I think it is understandable that they have done as they have with Vettel so far, and the anti-SV rhetoric is overkill as far as I’m concerned. I sure don’t believe their orders ‘toward’ SV and ‘against’ CL have been anything more than racing decisions and haven’t been malicious, nor taken lightly. SV is the proven 4 time WDC and that has earned him to not be ordered against for now. CL is the newbie and has also not shown that he can beat LH. Let’s just see how it plays out. For now, Ferrari are doing as they said they would…in 50/50 situations the nod is going to go to SV.

        1. SV is the proven 4 time WDC and that has earned him to not be ordered against for now. CL is the newbie and has also not shown that he can beat LH

          @robbie My problem with this is that CL hasn’t been given the chance. He took a few races to find his feet in F1 last season and then went from strength to strength, his words were that he “found something”. He showed he has the class and ability to fight at the top in his second race for Ferrari. What if he again “finds something”, and this means that Vettel can’t touch him for the rest of the season. but ultimately CL loses the WDC by a handful of points because they backed the wrong horse early in the season (possible, he’s already around Vettel’s level, despite Vettel having more experience with the team)? Teams just have to let them race at the early part of the season, especially with a talent like Leclerc. Just tell them that colliding with your teammate is completely unacceptable and let the fastest man take the spoils, then back whoever that turns out to be. Ferrari favouring Vettel so early into the season purely because he won 6-9 years ago, and despite him cracking under the pressure the last couple of years just seems so premature, it’s far too early

          1. @3dom But I find that an inaccurate statement, to say he hasn’t been given the chance. In Bahrain he got pole but blew his start. SV took the lead. But in fairly short order CL hauled SV back and sure he got ordered…he had blown his start and they didn’t want the drivers clashing and taking each other out just for the sake of the swap. But CL ignored the order as he just had too much pace. Fair enough. By SV he went, and never looked back except for his unfortunate technical issue. My point being, it is not like there was outrage at his ignoring the order, not even from SV. That to me does not ring through as some hard nosed political tactic to favour SV over CL. Some big disfavouring of CL. They just thought they might as well stick with the running order they had and not risk anything. CL took matters into his own hands and everyone was crushed for him missing that win, not ticked at him for ignoring an order.

            Now as to this talk of this behaviour already risking CL losing the WDC by a few points. There’s something CL has surely not proved yet. How well can he fight, and I mean truly fight not just run away from the field with the likes of an LH who is at one with the WCC car? This is something that many here seem to forget. Pace is one thing. Pace over SV is one thing. What about when he has to go hand to hand with LH, or VB even? They have the best car on the grid right now and have for years. Before we hand CL the trophy and sweep SV under the carpet, let’s consider what Ferrari has to consider in all this wrt Mercedes and their apparent domination still.

            I don’t consider that CL has been under any real pressure yet. Let’s see how he does if he truly gets into a WDC duel with LH for example, with a handful of races to go in the season. For now he can do no wrong. Do less than SV and it’s no real shock. Do better than him and it’s gravy. Let’s see him under real pressure when much more will be weighing on his psyche.

  2. This is all circumstantial.

    Vettel outpaced Leclerc all weekend long in Australia and in the first stint of the race he was way faster than Leclerc and the only reason he was slower than him in the 2nd stint was he was placed on a bad strategy forced to run 10 lap older medium tyres compared to Leclerc’s 10 lap younger hard tyres.

    Now Bahrain that’s fair. Vettel struggled with balance all weekend long, but fair.

    China he was quicker in qualifying even after he was met with a massive headwind in his final Q3 lap hence his complaint over the team radio after saying “we had it but we know why” afterwards. Plus, in the race Vettel was compromised in the start due to Bottas’s bad getaway. And the fact is he was marginally quicker than Leclerc in the race, even Leclerc admitted so after the race but because he was in his dirty air for over 10 laps his tyres were damaged enough so that he couldn’t make any headway even in clean air… in fact there’s an argument among the paddock apparently that Ferrari should have let him through much earlier.

    So far it’s 2/3 in Vettel’s favor in terms of qualifying, as that is where the real teammate battle really is. Essentially his start to the season has been a result of bad circumstance not necessarily based off of pure performance.

      1. Agreed, pure clickbait…

    1. Vettel outpaced Leclerc all weekend long in Australia

      Apart from the race

      Besides, who cares if Vettel was a few milliseconds faster in Q3? The reality is that, without team orders, Vettel would have finished behind Leclerc in all three races.

  3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    19th April 2019, 12:29

    The most telling fact of all are the points – 3 races into the season Vettel is only 1 point ahead of Leclerc. Had Leclerc won at Bahrain, he would have had more points than Vettel. Without team orders, most likely Leclerc would have passed Vettel in Australia and stayed ahead in China.

    Had Leclerc not obeyed orders, he could have had a maximum of 54 points and Lewis would have been leading with 61. That’s assuming the 2 Ferraris didn’t collide on track which they might have without orders.

    Vettel has to get on with the program.

    1. @freelittlebirds
      Agree completely…
      If they were allowed to race, Leclerc would have finished 4th in Australia -> 2pts ahead of his teammate.
      If he didn’t have the engine issue in Bahrain, he would have won and got the fastest lap -> a total of 18 points ahead of his teammate.
      If they let them race in China, he would have had a 3rd place finish -> a total of 21 points ahead of his teammate.
      The tally would have been – Leclerc on 53 and Vettel on 32.

  4. Last year Lec finished a strong P6 in Baku with a mid field car so Baku is a strong track for him. And Baku is great for overtaking. Would be interesting to see what Ferrari does if Lec and Vet find themselves close on track. 4th straight team order in 4 races?
    The envoirnment and philosophy at Ferrari is very tough on a new driver but very favorable for their chosen Number 1 driver. A stark contrast to what ‘normally’ happens at Mclaren, Redbull and Mercedes where the new driver is given equal chances to shine.

    Hamilton vs Alonso in 2007, Ric vs Vet in 2014, Max vs Ric are some examples of equal treatment. Even when Hamilton was new at Mercedes for season 2010 and Rosberg was already with the team for 3 years yet they gave both of them equal chances. Happened again in 2016 when Rosberg was given equal chances for the title against their Reigning World Champion Hamilton.
    Ferrari though is very different and rarely treat both drivers equally. Most of the time using even sacrificing the second driver for the first driver to get a favorable result.
    Alonso vs Massa, Vet vs Kimi, MSC vs any other in the second car and now Lec getting 3 team orders in as many races to either remain behind the team leader or give way when he is ahead.

    1. @amg44

      Hamilton vs Alonso in 2007, Ric vs Vet in 2014, Max vs Ric are some examples of equal treatment

      Hamilton and Alonso in 2007 wasn’t a great example of equal treatment especially in the second half of the season when you have Ron Dennis saying “We are basically racing Fernando” and an independent FIA observer in the McLaren garage in Brazil to ensure Fernando’s tyre pressures are correct.

      1. well that was a response reaction to Alonso’s behaviour (he blackmailed Ron Dennis to throw them under the bus on the spygate if they didn’t give him clear No.1 status in the team). He was the designated No.1 given his curriculum, however the team ensured the rookie getting equal chances. So that IS a perfect example. Then what happened after was a completely different scenario, with a driver that declared war to his own team (and who never won a WDC ever again, I guess it’s karma)

      2. well that was a response reaction to Alonso’s behaviour (he blackmailed Ron Dennis to throw them under the bus on the spygate if they didn’t give him clear No.1 status in the team). He was the designated No.1 given his curriculum, however the team ensured the rookie was getting equal chances. So that IS a perfect example. Then what happened after was a completely different scenario, with a driver that declared war to his own team (and who never won a WDC ever again, I guess it’s karma)

          1. @liongalahad

            Blackmail takes a lot longer than a 30 minute red-mist argument with Martin Whitmarsh for which Alonso later apologised.
            Taking the ‘blacmail’ stance, shows pretty much where you are in the head with your blatent bias. (the FIA court transcript with the facts is available online if you need some wounds healing)
            From 2008 onwards Alonso beat Lewis regularly in inferior cars. So something wasn’t right in 2007. Being told to “be nice to Lewis” would have rubbed any driver up the wrong way.

      3. @tifoso1989 McLaren were really helping Alonso (at least until he started black mailing the team to get even more preferential treatment). It got so bad that McLaren were investigated for illegal team orders in Monaco after they gave Alonso the win there.

        They were fueling Hamilton for 3 to 4 laps extra for every stint and then they would not allow him to use that extra fuel. In essence that simply made him up to half a second a lap slower. And even then they had to tell Hamilton to stay behind Alonso.

        1. @f1osaurus

          Another one whose wounds need healing by reading the FIA court transcript over ‘spygate’
          Alonso only mentioned it once as a threat in a breif argument. No blackmailing took place. In fact Alonso is deemd to be a whilstle blower by the che@ts at Mercedes

          1. Big Joe Perhaps you are unaware of this (blackmail has different definitions depending on the country, if I recall correctly), but in UK law, blackmail only needs a single incident and a single threat. The apology is likely part of the reason no prosecution was ever attempted, as was the fact it was strictly verbal, in a context where (as far as I know) no written notes were taken (because I don’t think it happened during a formal meeting or anything like that). In short, difficulty of proof and evidence of remorse, rather than dispute about whether the incident happened, are the reasons no case was brought.

            It would not be for Mercedes to declare someone a whistleblower, but the FIA (though as it happens, the FIA granted immunity to Fernando because of his whistleblowing).

            As for the FIA transcript, that case was deemed of sufficiently poor quality by McLaren that it nearly sent the FIA to court about it, something that took the FIA threatening to remove its right to compete in 2008 (a threat that McLaren could legally have interpreted as blackmail, and this time with written proof helpful to the prosecution of the case) if it did so. I remember attempting to parse it for errors at the time and barely getting 1/8 of the way through it before wanting to throw a brick at the screen in frustration at the FIA’s procedural and factual errors. There’s a reason few people in the paddock took it seriously at the time, or indeed now. Even Max Mosley admitted later that all but $5 m of the fine was because he didn’t like Ron Dennis’ attitude (which is not a basis on which the FIA is permitted to essay fines, unless it can show evidence this meant the offence was likely to be committed again if only the standard penalty was issued, something the transcripts failed to do in this case).

        2. Every 10kg of fuel being 0.1sec, would mean 50kg to make him 0.5sec slower. Which wouldn’t fit in the fuel tank..

          Fake news..

          1. Fuel penalty varies from track to track, but 0.3 seconds per 10 kg is a statistic I’ve heard quite often. It’s why, prior to this year, drivers in the 2010s cared so much about every last kilogram.

        3. No. In Monaco 2007, McLaren were right to tell both drivers to hold station: Alonso had secured the pole in qualifying and controlled the race since the start (he was taking it easy during the latter half of the race to bring the car home and, per Marc Priestly, nurse his gearbox); in contrast Hamilton was slightly faster during that point, but was bouncing/brushing against the barriers in his efforts to catch-up and overtake his team-mate (therefore putting a McLaren 1-2 in jeopardy). In fact, it was the Hamilton family’s meltdown and Ron Dennis’ snide remark to Fernando that kick-started the breakdown of the Alonso-Hamilton-McLaren relationship (Ron Dennis allegedly told Alonso to be “nice” to Lewis for backing off; to which Alonso shot back that he was taking it easy all that time, hence the pace difference).

          In my opinion, the way Ferrari are handling the situation now is exactly how McLaren/Ron Dennis should have handled Alonso/Hamilton back in 2007. Leclerc may have been faster in Melbourne, but Vettel had the trump card of track position; and the circuit layout made overtaking risky/near impossible. In Bahrain Leclerc was absolutely right to blast past Vettel; but China was 50-50, since neither driver was significantly faster than the other on a consistent basis.

          In order to justify his position, Vettel needs to be at least level-pegging with Leclerc on race pace — if not altogether outpace him (similar to Alonso agains t Hamilton in ’07, even if the Englishman slightly edged it in qualifying). In those tight situations, that’s when his credentials as 50+ times GP winner and 4x WDC can work in his favor to swing the team’s dynamics towards his side of the garage (similar to the times pre-Austria 2002, when Barrichello was made to move over/hold station behind Michael Schumacher whenever they were a match on pace, since the Brazilian’s consistency from race-to-race was up and down).

          1. @rafael-o This is not about holding station. The point is that McLaren were making Hamilton 0.6 seconds a lap slower by giving him more fuel. Yet instead of letting him actually use that fuel to overtake Alonso, they would call in Hamilton right away.

            In effect they let Alonso win by simply making Hamilton’s car 0.6 s slower per lap for all but the last stint.

          2. @f1osaurus, in Monaco 2007 Hamilton (despite being in a heavier fuel load) was set to outqualify Alonso and put it on pole. In their respective runs, both drivers were threatened by traffic, but it was Hamilton who lost time (to Mark Webber, I think).

            (As early as 2007, Hamilton was already establishing himself as a qualifying (one-lap) ace. Something Alonso (for all his talents) was never able to fully master)

            In the race though, Alonso was on point and had Hamilton covered (despite the then rookie having a more favorable fuel strategy).
            (https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/46225204)

            Alonso had led from the start and had built an eight-second lead within 17 laps, as Hamilton suffered more badly with tyre graining – where the surface tears and causes a loss of grip.

            Alonso then lost time lapping backmarkers but was just over four seconds in front by the time of his first pit stop on lap 26.

            These were the days of refuelling. Hamilton believed he was stopping five laps after Alonso, but was brought in after only three. Alonso said he had saved enough fuel in his opening stint to make his stop two laps later than planned.

            But the idea that Hamilton could have gained enough time on empty tanks before his stop to pass Alonso had he stayed out longer was undermined when Alonso returned to the track, 15 seconds behind his team-mate.

            At this point, on empty tanks and with durable Bridgestone tyres with negligible performance drop-off, Hamilton’s car should have been quicker than Alonso’s after a stop for fuel. But Alonso first flying lap with a full fuel load and fresh tyres was within 0.1secs of Hamilton’s time on empty tanks.

            In other words, even if Hamilton had stayed out for another couple of laps, he would not have taken the lead.

          3. @rafael-o How did Hamilton have the more favorable fuel strategy? He was carrying two to three more laps of fuel and he was NEVER allowed to use those laps.

            Hamilton was effectively penalized with 5 to 6 tenths of weight penalty in the last qualifying session and all but the last stint of the race.

            Hamilton was faster in Q1 and Q2 because he wasn’t carrying the extra weight then! In Q3 McLaren gave him the 5 to 6 tenths weight penalty. That cost him more than Webber being slightly in the way.

            Why are you even discussing this? It’s all factually written down. Just look up the FIA investigation on illegal team orders. These details are all well explained in their report.

            McLaren clearly helped Alonso win that race and even then he almost lost it.

          4. @f1osaurus, this is what Hamilton had to say after qualifying in Monaco 2007:

            “Alonso’s young team mate made a strong showing, but had his own challenges: “I was three-tenths up on my previous best and I was held up by Webber. I don’t know if he saw me. I lost half a second behind him but I managed to pull it back to within a tenth but after that the tyres were gone. The car felt great. It was exactly the same time I did on heavy fuel. So we did a good job and I am happy with that. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. We want to finish the race in the points and continue as we have been going this season.” (http://www.grandprix.com/races/monaco-gp-2007-qualifying-report-alonso-tops-the-timesheets.html)

            He attributed the time he lost during his flyer squarely on Webber, not the higher fuel load he was supposedly carrying (+5 laps). In fact, he was saying that he was on point until that moment. Plus he should have been light enough during the end of Q3 than he was at the beginning of it, since most of his extra fuel were consumed (i.e. “credited”) during the fuel burn phase.

            As Andrew Benson said in the BBC article I shared: Hamilton did stop 3 laps later than Alonso (instead of 5) — whether this was McLaren calling him in early or Alonso extending his own fuel stop by 2 laps, is up for debte. What is factual is that in the 3 laps he was in front, Hamilton could not extend his lead beyond 15 or so seconds. So there was no way Lewis was ever going to come out ahead after making his own pit-stop (you probably needed to be ~23 seconds ahead, to come out in front during those days). (https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/46225204 or https://www.racefans.net/2007/05/27/monaco-grand-prix-2007-review-one-and-two-finish-one-two/)

            The investigation on McLaren issuing (allegedly) “illegal” team orders came about because they told both drivers to hold station towards the end. That was a logical decision, since Alonso was taking it easy and nursing his car home, having controlled the race since the start he was never really pushing by that stage; whereas Hamilton was on the ragged edge trying to stay in touch and get past. The track was Monaco unfortunately, where it’s one thing to catch up but overtaking was a totally different story (see Senna vs Mansell in 1992). In attempting to race and overtake his team-mate, Lewis risked throwing away a guaranteed McLaren 1-2 — much to the horror of Ron Dennis, hence the instruction to maintain order.

            To bring more facts to it, here’s what the FIA had to say on the exact matter:

            “It is standard procedure for a team to tell its drivers to slow down when they have a substantial lead. This is in order to minimise the risk of technical or other problems. It is also standard practice and entirely reasonable to ask the drivers not to put each other at risk.

            They did nothing which could be described as interfering with the race result.”
            (https://www.racefans.net/2007/05/30/mclaren-cleared-by-fia-over-monaco-team-orders/)

            Translation: the only thing McLaren’s team orders did that day was secure Alonso’s already inveitable victory. As I said, he had the trump card of track position in a circuit where it’s near impossible to overtake — the win was his to lose, not to claim.

            You have a point when you say Hamilton was faster in Q1 and Q2 (and the better part of Q3), and had a fuel “advantage” to use during the race. But Alonso was ultimately in-front and faster when it mattered (Q3 flying lap and the stints after the pit-stops) and that’s what won him the race.

          5. @rafael-o That says nothing at all. What is wrong with you?

            1) Hamilton was slowed down by McLaren for 5 to 6 tenths a lap compared to Alonso
            2) Hamilton did not know this
            3) Hamilton only ended up 2 tenths behind Alonso’s pole time.
            4) 2 tenths behind minus 5 tenths is 3 tenths in front

            So Hamilton would have been on pole if McLaren hadn’t done that. McLaren gifted Alonso the pole.

            Also how on earth is carrying 3 laps more fuel and not being allowed to use it a “fuel advantage”.

            Hamilton could indeed have used those extra laps and then he WOULD also have beaten Alosno, but McLaren didn’t let him. They simply used the fuel as ballast.

            The FIA didn’t penalize McLaren no, but the details how they did ballast Hamilton in order for Alonso to win the race is 100% clear from their findings.

          6. @f1osaurus, what’s wrong with you? You’re not giving out/sourcing from any facts/credible articles or analyses from/of that time; rather you’re just saying things purely based on how YOU believe events played out.

            Correction, btw. Alonso was faster in both Q2 and Q3 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Monaco_Grand_Prix).

            Get this: prior to starting their final flying laps of Q3, Hamilton was on provisional pole (despite having “credited” more fuel) nailing down a 1.15.905 (eventually it remained his best lap of the session). On his final hot lap (on a light car, having burned/credited his race fuel for the better part of Q3), he admitted that he was ~0.3 seconds faster during the first sector; on that train of thought, and assuming he had not lost ~0.5 secs behind Webber in sector 2, his theoretical best laptime would have been ~1.15.605 (that last lap ended up being +0.068 slower, having superbly clawed back the ~0.5 seconds he lost). Alonso’s pole lap was only 1.15.726 (having allegedly lost some time behind Nico Rosberg, as well). Too bad for Hamilton, he lost his best run to traffic (as he himself admitted).
            (Go to the 5.55 mark and see for yourself about the +0.68 seconds, https://youtu.be/MhBlrQ0Vt8A)

            During the race, Hamilton was allowed to and DID use the extra fuel load he credited on Saturday — McLaren called him into the pits 3 laps after Alonso made his stop. And yes, Hamilton was aware of his heavier load; which is why he questioned McLaren for calling him in AFTER only 3 laps, rather than 5 as originally planned. Again different stories, depending on who you asked: McLaren said it was to protect him from the risk of a safety car (since that time refuelling under the SC was banned), while Alonso claims he saved an extra 2 laps of fuel to prolong his own first stint.

            The fact is, despite staying out 3 laps longer and having a lighter car than a freshly fuelled Alonso (tire wear was not much of a factor during those days), Lewis was never able to extend his lead beyond ~15 secs; so was always going to come out behind (2 extra laps would have unlikely made any difference, since he needed an advantage of ~23 seconds. At the rate things were going, finding an additional 8 seconds to Alonso in a window of 2 laps was near impossible). (re-sharing https://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/46225204)

            As for what the FIA said, I quoted directly from the article on this website 12 years ago. Bottom line: the governing body did not find anything wrong with what McLaren’s actions during the race, having evaluated the context of the situation and looked at the facts (here’s another: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2007/may/31/motorsports.sport).

            I’ve based my opinions on facts and entries written by people who have spent years following the sport, and/or have had access to relevant data/information. I’ll leave it at that.

          7. @rafael-o What’s wrong with YOU? It’s clear from the stewards reading that that Hamilton was given two to three extra laps of fuel which he was not allowed to use.

            So McLaren was ballasting Hamilton’s car with extra fuel which makes his car slower

            How hard is that to comprehend? You can post whatever else you want, but the fact remains that:
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.
            They made Hamilton’s car 5 to 6 tenths slower than Alonso’s.

            The fact that McLaren did not get penalized or that Hamilton still almost beat Alonso in a car that was at least half a second slower is completely irrelevant.

    2. @amg44 Hamilton joined Mercedes for 2013, not 2010.

      1. @jerejj yup thats typing error, what i meant is Hamilton joined in 2013 and Rosberg 3 years before him yet both were given equal status by Mercedes.

    3. 2010 – second or third race into the season Rosberg was told to hold station behind Ham – check your facts

      1. Cronies That was when he was up against Schumacher, back when Mercedes thought they might have got the Ferrari-era Michael that was just taking a while to get used to the new decade’s machinery, rather than the good-but-now-similar-to-Rosberg driver they actually had. There are parallels to Ferrari’s current situation, but the fact Mercedes knew they weren’t in the workd title fight took a few degrees off the pressure temperature.

        1. It was 2013 Malaysia 1st time ROS was ordered to stay behind HAM at Merc.

  5. This may be the headline of the year – brilliant

  6. This is Vets last season at Ferrari, maybe even F1.

    1. How long is RIC’s contract at Renault…? Is it up for sale…? ;-)

  7. If Ferrari continue with this policy, they will not win the championship. Vettel has to take the fight to Mercedes on his own terms, and lead the team the way Michael Schumacher used to. He needs big performances, he needs to flex his muscles. It simply isn’t good enough for a driver of
    Sebastien Vettel’s stature.
    Leclerc is the future, and will no doubt be driving long after Vettel and Hamilton have retired.
    He needs to be given a realistic chance by Ferrari, not just the chance to win grands prix,
    but a chance to win championships. The irony is, the more mistakes Vettel makes, the better it makes Charles Leclerc look. Also, it makes this situation harder for Ferrari to ignore.

  8. Vettel has won 4 championships, yes. But he’s lost the last two, in large part due to his own errors. And that today is surely more significant. Bahrain showed that whatever is causing him to spin and drop a ton of places in various races last year has not vanished from his racing. This time he was touched only by the wind. Before this season started I thought Leclerc had to show he can match and sometimes beat Vettel in qualifying – i.e. be on Vettel’s undoubted 1-lap pace – to really make a challenge and cause Vettel (and Ferrari) problems. Three races in and he has already achieved that level. And you can’t look at Vettel’s performance and say it’s under par, or Leclerc’s performance and say it is exceptional or even especially pushing himself. He just looks a faster and definitely more secure driver.

    Personally, not being a Ferrari fan, I’m not too bothered if Ferrari mess up this year backing Vettel. Their problem. Team orders every race doesn’t do anyone any favours though. I’d much rather see them battle it out on track.

  9. @amg44

    Hamilton vs Alonso in 2007, Ric vs Vet in 2014, Max vs Ric are some examples of equal treatment. Even when Hamilton was new at Mercedes for season 2010 and Rosberg was already with the team for 3 years yet they gave both of them equal chances.

    Maybe the Ham vs Alonso didn’t pan out great for the team, but the rest of the examples of letting drivers race got strong results for the team and added kept both the drivers motivated.

    Would be interesting to see what Ferrari does if Lec and Vet find themselves close on track. 4th straight team order in 4 races?

    I’m really hoping for Leclerc to come back motivated and smash Vettel throughout the weekend. As you mentioned, this seems like a strong track for him, so let’s see what happens. I wouldn’t be surprised with more Ferrari team orders this weekend though… you got to wonder at what point in time will Vettel start feeling embarrassed and just tell Ferrari to let them race instead.

    1. at what point in time will Vettel start feeling embarrassed

      This has to happen sooner rather than later. Best for all concerned in my opinion and no reflection on Sebs career.

      1. @nullapax @todfod

        Never. That would require honest self-reflection.

        1. you guys really don’t get vettel at all, do you?

          and i really don’t think the team orders in the first three races had, as a primary root, the idea to benefit him. i expanded on this in the post at the end of the comments.

          1. @magon4

            and i really don’t think the team orders in the first three races had, as a primary root, the idea to benefit him.

            Surely you’re joking. Ask yourself this… if Leclerc was in Vettel’s position for the past three races, do you still see Ferrari issuing the same team orders?

          2. @todfod yes, maybe not and yes.

          3. You really don’t get ‘delusional’ at all, do you…? ;-)

      2. @nullapax I don’t see Vettel asking Ferrari to “let them race” – simply because Ferrari doesn’t really do “let them race”. Even the situations that resemble this, like the Massa-Raikkonen situation, seem to need eleventy million rules of engagement to cover every possible scenario. And I would argue it is this tendency in general, rather than the team orders in particular, that’s sinking Ferrari.

        Unfortunately that’s not something Vettel, or any other single person (I include Binotto in this) can change by asking for it – no matter how the request is done – and I believe Sebastian knows his team better than to try. Ferrari is far more inclined to reverse a rule of engagement than cancel it. All he can do is see if there’s anything he can do to turn the tide before the orders start inverting… …and being a racer who doesn’t give up, that is what he will try to do.

  10. Love this site, but this kind of article typifies this pathetic blame and overtly criticle culture that is creeping into Formula 1. It’s just like David Croft’s commentary, instead of accepting it’s a sport where drivers racing 1000bhp race cars under huge pressure and mistakes will happen from time to time, the media seems so quick to judge and put labels on people. This media influence in F1 is part of the reason why I prefer watching other forms of motorsport such as WEC, IndyCar and even Formula E since the new cars have made it more interesting. The whole vibe of these series is so much brighter and glass half full rather than half empty even if the cars are less spectacular to watch. I really don’t see why we can’t focus on the positive things more, Albon’s drive from pit lane to points, Perez dragging the Racing Point to just behind the works Renault of Ricciardo. And why can’t we just appreciate a legend like Vettel instead of constantly lambasting him? He undoubtedly struggled in Bahrain (albeit I think these 2019 Pirellis’ narrow operating window can go some way to explaining that) yet he’s still out qualified the undoubtedly super talented LeClerc 2-1 and was much faster in the first stint in Australia on the same tyres and although marginally, I do believe he was faster in China. In the second half of last year he made mistakes no doubt, but does it never occur to anyone that he’s the only person that has held a candle to Hamilton and Mercedes during this era of Mercedes dominance ? Can’t people appreciate that his mistakes last year, Germany aside, might partly be down to him trying to keep the pace and keep fighting with Mercedes once Ferrari had taken the wrong path in developing the car and actually made it slower ? I don’t see how Vettel gets all this flak when a brilliant driver like Kimi, with the same machinery never even put himself in contention in the first place ! Hopefully things change for the better, but with Liberty in charge I highly doubt it. As Vettel himself says, F1 is becoming more of a show, more of a Netflix drama than a sport, which is very sad indeed.

    1. fully agree. and now kimi is fast again? ferrari didn’t let him drive?

      1. @magon4

        No they designed the car around Alonso didn’t ya know?

    2. “this kind of article typifies this pathetic blame and overtly criticle culture that is creeping into Formula 1.”
      . . . or is it that you’re just a VETstapo…?
      Criticism has always been a part of life. To be able to deal with it is what mostly distinguishes adulthood from childhood… ;-)

    3. If it was based on three races, your criticism would be valid. But it isn’t. It’s a long-term question. There are two issues with Vettel’s driving, his mistakes and his true pace. The past two seasons have seen a series of title-losing mistakes and incidents that have been shown up by the lack of such self-induced problems from his main title challenger, Hamilton. Bahrain this year saw another example of a mistake under pressure. In terms of pace, Vettel left Red Bull, after various years alongside Webber, apparently having been soundly beaten by Ricciardo. There may have been some extenuating circumstances. But since then the only real benchmark has been another driver past his prime, Raikkonen. Now with Leclerc it’s entirely reasonable for people to be evaluating his real speed again. Personally I think Vettel is a fast and courageous driver, but prone to losing his cool under stress and maybe now hampered by a distrust of his own instincts. All these elements have always been a part of any sport. It seems like you just don’t like the target of the criticism being Vettel.

  11. Wes (@flashofsilver)
    19th April 2019, 15:45

    This inter-team fight has received a lot of attention and I believe actually allowed Mattia Binotto to avoid additional scrutiny over the teams/cars performance. How long before people start asking if Arrivabene would have had the team in a better place? Or will the conflict between Vettel and Leclerc continue to keep eyes off the team principal?

  12. Don’t listen to these radicals, Ferrari. Do what you think do best, forming yourselves into tight cliques into which no criticism can penetrate. Then force Charles to bend the knee to your dusty dictatorial “leadership” while Seb is free to lose week after week without the youngster nearby to make him look bad. Team orders, punitive pit stops, stupid strategies, the works…

    Then Leclerc can go over to replace Hamilton in the NASA team, and you won’t see the WCC trophy for two more decades.

    It’s all right, though, since you get paid 100 M just for showing up.

    1. That’s a really naughty way of looking at it Dave. Love it!

  13. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    19th April 2019, 16:30

    Ferrari should at least let them race, or even prioritise Leclerc. He proves he can keep up with or outpace a 4 time WC in his 2nd season in F1. He continues to devellop fastly, and is the driver Ferrari will need for the future. Vettel should/could still be at his prime, but looking at him, he appears to be well past it.

  14. I’m evidently in the minority but I don’t see an issue with prioritising Vettel, nor do I think Ferrari have prioritised him enormously or unfairly over Leclerc. Tbh I don’t think it matters who Ferrari favour, they’re still incapable of winning the championship as Mercedes have them comfortably beat both strategically and operationally. Three races in and they’re already hoping for luck to help them out.

    1. Becuse throwing away team points and ruining Leclerc’s races makes sense in your eyes?

      They favor the inferior driver and hinder the faster one, probably because they pay a lot more to Vettel, and they have to intellectualize that. It’s filthy politics and pathetic as well.

      1. If Ferrari doesn’t care about the drivers championship, only the constructors… what makes you think they see it as “Leclercs race”?

        It’s not leclercs race, but Ferrari’s race.
        I do respect that mentality….

        1. “If Ferrari doesn’t care about the drivers championship, only the constructors…”
          Did anybody here say this…?
          Even so, without these team-orders Ferrari would be closer to Mercedes – which way round do you want to argue it…? ;-)

        2. I doubt that there was ever a team who preferred the constructor’s championship above the driver’s championship. Certainly not Ferrari.

    2. @rocketpanda the regulation changes to this year are significant ones. There still could be a lot of performance to gain on these cars so predicting what could happen later this season is still pure speculation. Ferrari aren’t that far away, a great concept hits the car and they could easily jump ahead. Hindering one of your drivers from race 1 just limits their odds of winning overall

      1. “Ferrari aren’t that far away, a great concept hits the car and they could easily jump ahead.”
        Naive, or what…? ;-)

  15. Ferrari are in a difficult situation. If you let them race they will probably be more evenly matched than most people think, and then take points off each other, while Hamilton dominates Bottas and takes all the points. If you make Vettel clear number one you risk him folding under pressure against Hamilton. The problems of having two roosters.

    1. The solution is simple, favor the one who drives better.
      Based on what happened so far, Vettel won’t be able to do more than tail Leclerc until he ruins his tires, or fall back far in the distance.

      1. @mzso you seem to be way too fast in your judgment (not alone here, by the way) and also way to one minded about evaluating pace or pace advantage.

        Overall, Vettel has been slightly faster than Leclerc in Australia and China. Leclerc blew Vettel away in Bahrain. So at least up to now, no clear better driver yet. The rest are specific race situations that have gone against Vettel (in Australia, bad strategy) and Leclerc (Max Verstappen forcing Ferrari to favor the lead driver at the time). But it is not (yet) as uneven as you and many others seem to assume.

        1. You seem to be way too naive in your judgment… and apparently a VETstapo… lol.

        2. So at least up to now, no clear better driver yet

          @magon4 the perfect reason to let them race at this stage of the season instead of favouring 1 driver from race number 1

          1. agreed. but i repeat, i don’t think decisions have been made necessarily because of any number one status. might sound ridiculous, but i haven’t seen that clear evidence yet.

        3. Vettel already fumbled two championships and written himself off.
          He wasn’t at all faster neither in Australia nor China. He may have been on par with him in the latter. In the former he was nowhere, only team orders kept Leclerc behind. Didn’t you see the race?

          (How do I get proper e-mail notifications on this website is someone replies? So far I didn’t get anything.
          And even the within website notification only appeared because you mentioned me.)

  16. José Lopes da Silva
    19th April 2019, 17:44

    People are being too harsh on Vettel. In Australia he was given a crappy strategy to try something to beat Hamilton, which ruined his tyres and allowed Leclerc to get near. He was ahead Leclerc the whole weekend.
    In China, Leclerc was losing ground to the Mercedes and blocking Vettel. Unlike Bahrain, where passing is easy with modern aero cars (and so Leclerc did the right and obvious thing), in China it’s impossible.

    Moreover, last year Vettel got his Italy race ruined by Kimi, unlike Hamilton which was backed in Germany and in Russia, not to mention the bad luck of Bottas in China and Azerbaijan. If we’re against team orders, we must check Mercedes. This is not 2014-2016, nor McLaren 2007.

    1. how many points did bottas have relative to hamilton in germany. which of these 2 was the one fighting vettel for the championship. i understood why mercedes did what they did in russia even though i think it was harsh on bottas.

    2. In China, Leclerc was losing ground to the Mercedes and blocking Vettel.

      Except he wasn’t holding up Vettel. Vettel was losing ground even faster after the swap, as this article notes.

      1. of course he was holding him up. how long have you been watching f1? when two team mates run that close, the one in the back tends to be the faster one in that race situation. and leclerc didn’t do much later in the race to prove he was the quicker driver on the day.

        that seb messed it up after he passed leclerc was partly his fault, and partly the problem with being so close to leclerc for so many laps, damaging his tires.

        1. I know it is fashionable to be seen to be encouraging young fans into the sport but if they hope to contribute in a worthwhile manner in online ‘discussions’ like here they need to come up with more mature comments than the childish, “how long have you been watching f1?”

          1. agreed. my bad.

    3. last year Vettel got his Italy race ruined by Kimi,

      You have got to be kidding us!

      Vettel ruined his own race with his red mist episode on the first lap!

      Vettel always gets it in his had that he HAS to get past. It HAS to happen that exact instance because otherwise the whole race is done. And then almost without exception he completely messes it all up and ruins his own race and sometimes other’s too.

      Also again, watch the start of the race in Russia. How is Bottas’ behavior there any different from Raikkonen’s?

      The only true difference is that Hamilton keeps it together and finishes the race. The team then actually has the option of giving him the few extra points. While Vettel spun off and basically gifted Hamilton the win.

      1. almost without excpetion? oh, come on!

        1. @magon4 Well we have AZE, FRA, GER, ITA, JPN and USA where he messed it up. Give me a list of examples where it all went fine? Where he came up behind another car and immediately got past without any problem?

          The only way Vettel gets passed without incident is if the car ahead is so much slower there is no way it can defend it’s position. Like how Vettel was stuk for lap after lap behind Bottas until Bottas ran out of tyre and then indeed Vettel simply drove past (although he still made it look like an incredibly difficut overtake because he’s so clumsy). But that’s obviously not the type of situation I’m referring to.

          1. he has passed Lewis a few times in the last races and even years, not because of his superior machinery. and i also would argue that some of the incidents weren’t entirely or even 50% his own making.
            and he has had a long career where there were quite some impressive passes made. i guess it is an eternal problem for him to have driven that great red bull car and people questioning his race craft based on the fact that he didn’t really need it all to often back then.
            what i feel is pretty unfair is that lewis has had a lot of incidents in the past, too (and hasn’t in recent years, which is one of the reasons he is a step above seb right now), but the evaluation has always been different. and he did have even more of an advantage to other cars in his Mercedes for at least three seasons; i guess what i am saying is that both drivers are not treated equally by some pundits and fans, and that the huge difference between them seen by some of the people commenting is simply overstated.

            i really encourage everyone to take a second look at monza. hamilton’s move is opportunistic to say the least, he does not leave enough space and aims at the apex quite agressively, fair game though; but then to call the vettel spin a driver error, as frustrating as it looked, would seem a little too much.

            even with all the controversy involving multi 21, that was a great pass; and one on jenson button in a great mclaren car at abu dhabi (must have been 2012) was also a great pass.

            no doubt lewis is the better racer, don’t get me wrong. but the negativity and negative assumptions that are made about Seb are overblown, and his achievements (even in his Ferrari years) forgotten. For some people to say that he has been weak since 2014 is a bad joke, and shows that they weren’t impressed by him in the years before that, either – which would be pretty unfair on him.

          2. he has passed Lewis a few times in the last races and even years

            Yes when Hamilton had his tyres run out.

            So there might indeed be 2 or 3 cases over his whoel career where Vettel actually overtook against another car on merit and within one lap. Balance thet against the dozens of cases where he ran into someone or spun off?

        2. “oh, come on!” yourself – try adding something more mature or intellectual to the ‘debate’… ;-)

      2. José Lopes da Silva
        20th April 2019, 1:42

        You should check the footage of the start of the race, prior to Vettel’s red mist episode.

        1. José Lopes da Silva, To see that it’s exactly the same as Hamilton getting blocked in Russia? I did already.

    4. If we’re against team orders, we must check Mercedes.

      LMAO I will hand it to the tifosi, they do grasp straws in the most adorably blind way.

  17. “Before he is to have any hope of beating Lewis Hamilton to this year’s world championship, Vettel must prove he can beat Leclerc first. He hasn’t done that yet.” Apparently not.

  18. Another Vetel/Leclerc article? Really? Is there really nothing else to mention? Leclerc still has to prove himself. Vettel with 4 title, not so sure. But the fact that almost all English languaged sites is repeating this story over and over and over tells me, F1 with LeHam at the front is way too boring.

    1. What stories would you cover?
      Which stories DID you cover instead?

      It’s a slow news day, at least they shut up about Alonso for a bit.

    2. Please enlighten us as to what all the NON-English sites are writing about.
      All that this seems to tell you, if you could but see it, is that your own bias is in danger of being revealed… lmao.

  19. Ferrari are going to mess it up with Leclerc… I’m going to call it now and say by the 2022 season it will be Leclerc and Russell driving for Mercedes

    1. I’m fairly convinced that Verstappen will be driving for Mercedes from 2021 or 2022.

      1. Or for Ferrari for 2020

  20. I think many of the things we are reading, including the article and quite a few of the comments, are a little to earl

    Having said that, one could easily argue that Ferrari acted fairly and in the interest of the team in all occasions, viewed in isolation. In the first one, Vettel enjoyed a better weekend overall and only a better strategy helped Leclerc catch up to his struggling team mate. Fair game for Ferrari not to swap places in that situation, and understandable not to let them race in a circuit as difficult to overtake as the one in Melbourne. So I think the way Ferrari acted here was fair.

    In the second instance, one could argue that Leclerc was asked to wait two laps (and wasn’t said he couldn’t pass at all, which is quite a change from past occasions), possibly to give the team a chance to evaluate Seb’s pace by asking him to go fast and then telling him to pull over if he wasn’t able to create a gap to Charles. I am pretty sure that is what they had in mind; to find out who was faster and to have a low risk position swap. Kudos to Charles for passing, but if the move had gone wrong, it would have been pretty bad indeed, since both drivers were topping the standings at that point. Here to, fair play for Ferrari to give Seb an opportunity to show pace (which he wouldn’t have been able to produce, truth be said).

    Race 3, to anyone who was watching the race, it seemed that Seb was faster. And it was logical to think as much, since he had been faster than Charles most of the weekend. So to let him past was the right decision (compare race 2), after Charles was given the chance to show his pace. That Seb then didn’t produce the lap times he imagined had to do with him and with the condition if his tires, surely. One could then argue that Charles should have been given the place back; but, first, Seb did end up opening a little bit of a gap (greater than the one Charles had enjoyed), and second, Max came in, which forced Ferraris hand. That they then called Seb in is not preferential treatment, but strategic logic. If they had let Charles come in first, both of them would have lost out to Max. This way, at least one stayed in front of him. Very unfortunate for Charles, but from a team point of view, there was no better call to make. Trying to let him go longer to get an advantage back was, at the time, understandable, although the pace was lacking quite a lot. Only the second stop delay was clearly designed to help the lead driver, with a bad effect on Leclerc. But that is also done in other top teams in certain race situations.

    Seb has been slightly faster than Charles in two out of three races (and was blown away by him in the other one), but I don’t think one can conclude the calls have been made with the main purpose to benefit him over his new team mate. Let’s see how this story continues.

    1. @magon4
      Is there a need to use team orders so early in the season? Let them race. Let them establish points lead or deficit and around mid season whoever is in front Ferrari can start supporting that driver more. The criticism is that Ferrari has started using team orders from Race 1 and not really giving their new driver Leclerc a fair chance.

      1. i think the use orders to avoid accidents not to put down Charles.

        1. @magon4 I like this balanced analysis above, it does make sense but these drivers should be able to race without causing accidents with each other. Ferrari have to have more faith in them. If you can’t race your teammate without an accident, then how are you going to avoid accidents when racing rivals from other teams? If you can’t race rivals from other teams then how can you win a world championship?

          1. It`s not just about avoiding incidents, @3dom, it is also about losing less time. If it’s your team mate, you shouldn’t have to race him, compromising time and tires. That’s my view.

    2. Having checked so many of your previous NAIVE comments on this thread I was happily able to save myself from wading through them all over again, here… Thanks… ;-)

    3. @magon4

      Seb has been slightly faster than Charles in two out of three races

      Reality is that he would have finished behind Leclerc in all three races if Ferrari didn’t tell him to stay/go behind Vettel. So who cares if Vettel was potentially “slightly faster” if he had been running alone on an empty track.

      Besides, claiming that Vettel was (slightly) faster in Australia is beyond ludicrous. Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc were all doing sort of the same lap times over the last stint. Simply holding station. While Vettel lost almost 40 seconds over the last 30 laps (using the same strategy which Hamilton was using). He backed up Leclerc by almost 20 seconds!

    4. Except:
      Scenario 1 (Bahrain): Leclerc gets past Vettel easily, despite team orders to stay put for 2 laps, and then proceeds to lead the race, which he would have won had it not been for his mystery engine failure.
      Scenario 2 (China): Vettel gets past Leclerc after calling up emergency services to be allowed past, and then proceeds to slow them both down.

  21. The issue is about what Ferrari can control. It is difficult to control a faster car up ahead, especially when that car is pulling away, as the Mercedes cars were. It is much easier to control the cars behind them. Rightly or wrongly, there were two Red Bull – Honda cars behind the Ferrari cars at the start of the race. Whether or not that car is faster than the Ferrari is beside the point, although the way the Qualifying 3 played out suggests Ferrari believe the Red Bull – Honda car is faster. Anyway, they were behind them, so Ferrari should have been making sure they stayed there, and one really easy way to do that is to do what Mercedes were doing to them, which was to go faster, or at least as fast as they could, and if one or both Red Bull – Honda cars were in fact faster then Ferrari should have tried to control that situation by making it as difficult as possible for them to pass, which would have required some sort of teamwork.
    Ferrari should have known the only reason Sebastian was “going faster” than Charles was because he had DRS, and that if he overtook Charles both cars would be slower. However, it seems they didn’t notice this important fact, so they swapped places, went slower, and ultimately let one of the possibly faster Red Bull – Honda cars split their cars.
    Now Red Bull will go into the next race believing both their drivers can take the race to Ferrari.

  22. Personally, I’d love to read the relevant clauses and conditions in Vettel’s contract. Did he have influence or veto over the selection of his team mate? Does he have absolute #1 status in the team, including priority with upgrades and pitting strategy? Is it stipulated that his team mate is contractually obliged to move over for him?

    1. @nickwyatt

      Did he have influence or veto over the selection of his team mate?

      Even Ferrari’s CEO doesn’t have that kind of power, drivers line up was exclusively Marchionne’s (RIP) business which is now inherited by the new President John Elkann. Last year Camilieri and Arrivabene both personal friends of Kimi were keen to retain him but John Elkann insisted to follow Marchionne’s will and sign Leclerc instead.

      Does he have absolute #1 status in the team, including priority with upgrades and pitting strategy?

      Ferrari were clear about Vettel’s preferential treatment with regard to strategy especially at the beginning of the season mostly because they underestimated how much fast Leclerc will be compared to Vettel. However they have never mentioned anything with regard to the upgrades. In my opinion they probably won’t face that kind of scenario during the season for the simple fact that their new facility (Gestione Sportiva) and resources will enable them to develop both cars at a similar rate.

  23. I think the sole concern of Ferrari as of this moment should be the car. That is what is holding the best of its drivers.

    As for them, Ferrari may back Vettel as they please. If Leclerc remains faster, he’ll eventually make his way past. He’s no wingman.

    And actually, I’d prefer both free to fight. Maybe that’s what it takes to wake or bury Seb for good.

  24. Sergey Martyn
    20th April 2019, 5:06

    All Ferrari have to do now is to use Red Bull strategy but vice versa – to demote a better one to Alfa and return Kimi.

  25. Great read. I’m gonna say Vettel specified in his contract that he can implement a team order. And they actually let him.

  26. Bones Gambino
    20th April 2019, 14:06

    It was Marchionne’s grand plan to get Kimi out and Charles in, as he felt Seb had not delivered in 2017 and I believe it was well documented at the time. We’ll (sadly) never know if part of that plan was for better back up for Seb or for him to be given the hurry up by putting a hungry and fast driver alongside him.
    Either way, Ferrari don’t seem to be handling it well one way or another.

  27. All the criticisms aimed at Ferrari and hate towards Vettel seemingly from Hamilton fans. Yet Vettel is paired with a better team mate than Lewis has in all of his WCs.
    Vettel has nothing to prove. He was 4-1 up on Lewis, with Lewis leaving it to Alonso in an inferior car to put up the main challenge to Vettel at Red Bull.

    1. He’s paired with a better teammate now, not when he won his 4 titles.

      The criticism is coming from the media, the same media that has criticised Hamilton.

    2. @bigjoe I have no hate towards Vettel. My only problem is with the team orders neutralising the racing so early on the season. I can understand it later in the season, I just dislike it so early in the season

    3. This is an article about Vettel Big Joe, I really do think you have a secret mancrush on Lewis the way you cry about him in every single article ever.

  28. Ok, Ferrari made a mistake in China for some reasons that might be known later on, but on the other two occasions I think they did the right call and the drivers also reacted well.
    In Bahrain Charles just cruised past Vettel due to the big speed delta, even Seb left the door open as defending were meaningless.
    In Australia Vettel was faster that Charles all the weekend, Leclerc just caught Seb because of the aggressive race strategy that kept him on the back foot managing the tyres for so long after the very early pit-stop.
    It’s just the third race of the season and anyway Mercedes are winning due to their superior pace and reliability not the poor Ferrari tactics.

  29. [b]Warning! Long comment alert![/b]

    It is hard for either driver to prove absolutely they can beat the other when both keep getting weird decisions handed to them. Decisions that seem to have their roots in Ferrari attempting to specify absolutely everything, and getting themselves ravelled up because they are overfitting to hypothetical scenarios.

    Overfitting is when using too many factors lead to theories and algorithms that for the data used to create the theories and algorithms… …but not the data generated by the future (for which the theories and algorithms were created). It’s fairly common in computing because there is a huge amount of data and it’s not always easy to figure out which factors are relevant when. So there is a temptation to decide many the factors relevant, even if some of them are only really adding noise to the pattern. It’s worse when the “data” used to create the theories doesn’t actually exist but is model data coming from background assumptions (rarer in computing due to the ease with which computers can be supplied with data… …but common when humans overfit their own situations, which is more relevant to Ferrari).

    Team orders are a good example because if you believe their press releases, they’ve had four different positions over the course of the last three races (even though they’re probably all attempts to express the same nuanced policy in decidedly non-nuanced contexts), each seems to be designed to cover a set of scenarios Ferrari proceeds to not face, and they result in inadvertently helping Verstappen more than they have either Ferrari driver.

    What worries me is that team orders are probably only an example.

    That’s not something that can be changed overnight. I can’t blame those involved for not noticing it earlier, even though, thinking back, it’s been bugging Ferrari for several years. I only just worked it out tonight reading through this thread, and I’ve trained in information management. I’m not sure how many of the non-computing specialists in Ferrari would even have encountered the concept of overfitting, let alone been in a position to apply it to something as abstract as their race operations or rules of engagement. I am also unsure of how easy it will be to persuade everyone involved to relax a bit (in the computing sense of the term “relax” – I’m not suggesting they all go on holiday, rather that they aim for simpler hypotheses where fewer factors give a good fit, rather than worrying about getting every last outlier scenario wrapped up in a pretty theory addressed by a single set of actions) and be prepared to act on their feet a little more.

    I’ve joked that Ferrari should hand its strategy to its drivers. Now I start to wonder if this is not a decent serious notion. Racing drivers are not known for having the opportunity to overfit theories, because the concrete world of piloting a car (not to mention the absence of a decent laptop in F1 cars) means they simply don’t have enough spare capacity to waste energy on things that aren’t relevant. Granted, sometimes drivers will come up with theories that are too simple, are based on the wrong factors or clash with each other. Usually that would be good and sufficient reason to hand the matter over to professionals (as Ferrari and every other F1 team does). However, if the strategists are overfitting, then giving the strategy back to the drivers does a few things:

    – It clears away a lot of assumptions because different people are doing it

    – It forces simplification of the strategies because whatever strategy is decided must be something the driver can carry out (and something the driver can adapt based on what he can see and can have conveyed to him by the pitwall)

    – It forces the drivers to work together a bit more closely, which would hopefully lead to better understanding of how and why specific strategies and orders are applied. Leclerc’s said he’s been a little confused by this at least once, and I imagine Vettel’s at least thought it at some point this year… (Bonus: they’ll also be able to explain the situations a bit easier, which given Vettel seems to be starting to dread trying to get the press to understand what is going on, would help some).

    – The professional strategists get to take a different angle on how they can correct their overfitting, which is probably more helpful than simply packing the lot of them to a class teaching the concept (I’m assuming they would eventually resume their usual job and this is not a prelude to making the entire role redundant).

    But the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this sort of thing is what Ferrari needs to do – among other things, so that Vettel and Leclerc get the chance to prove who actually deserves ascendancy over the other. Note that there is only one point between them, which is considerably more than the number of points that I suspect have been lost through various forms of overfitting.

    1. One day I will remember that this is not a BBCode-based blog, but a HTML-based one…

    2. @alianora-la-canta I enjoyed reading your comment, ‘overfitting’ is an interesting concept and it probably does apply to Ferrari to some extent. However it’s important to factor in what Ferrari’s actual goals are. I’m not sure they really want to find out who deserves ascendancy. I think their primary goal is for Vettel to win the championship. Leclerc driving more quickly is thus an awkward interference. It’s only 3 race weekends but the situation is heavily reminscent of Hamilton and Alonso in 2007. Leclerc was supposed to come in and learn from Vettel, multiple champion, and help the latter win the title. Being faster wasn’t part of the plan. Given that he has been, that generates another problem. It’s difficult for the team to leave race strategy to the drivers if they’re competing intensely and closely – which they effectively are. In that situation, they’re likely to use race strategy (when they pit, tyre choices etc.) to beat the other driver rather than optimize strategy for them both relative to the other teams and drivers. For example, you can imagine a situation where each wants to pit first to benefit from the undercut – second guessing and coming in earlier would mean losing overall race pace compared to other teams who pitted on optimal laps.

      In terms of actual team decision making, the three team orders Ferrari have given so far this year were all questionable but in different ways. In Australia, the excuse for holding Leclerc back at the end of the race was to avoid any collision between their drivers, but clearly the real reason was to maximize Vettel’s points tally under the assumption that this year will be Hamilton v. Vettel again (it still might be). I don’t think it was perceived even by Leclerc as a major issue, but it was a sign that the team would step in to favour Vettel, even for a couple of points in the first race of the season. Then in Bahrain the team order was rendered irrelevant by Leclerc ignoring the strange instruction to ‘hold station’ for 2 laps (why 2?). Again a sign but with no significant impact on their races. But in China the order had a larger effect, detrimental to Leclerc, and was dubious from a technical point of view. Did Ferrari really think Vettel was faster than Leclerc? Not just benefitting from DRS etc? It’s a crucial question for them because it seems like their actual race analysis is faulty. As well as losing time with the swap, Vettel actually slowed them both down relative to the Mercedes. Couldn’t Ferrari have predicted that would happen? Or maybe they did, but wanted them swapped anyhow. Leclerc was clearly annoyed this time. Like I said, the pattern is McLaren 2007, albeit with Vettel clearly a less aggressively ‘political’ and potentially explosive senior driver than Alonso.

  30. I think vettel needs some kind of wake up call. If ferrari allows leclerc to race vettel hard it could even light some fire under seb to improve. The main issue and mistake for ferrari is that they made the decision to support vettel over leclerc before they had even seen leclerc drive the ferrari.

    Some drivers break down under pressure and they need a stable environment with the number 1 driver status to be quick. They need to know their car is the quicker one and need to be treated as number 1. Some drivers excel under pressure but sort of fade away when there is not enough high stakes on the table. I think vettel (and kimi and webber) is one of those whose driving skills improve in high pressure situations and ferrari on the other hand is trying to give him a trouble-free low pressure job. Ferrari should put more pressure on vettel to get seb to perform. He is ferrari’s number one driver and as such it is vettel’s job to be ahead of leclerc. Team orders should only be for exceptions. If you need team orders in every race you are betting on the wrong horse.

  31. I ate half a cake and drank a pot of tea reading all that, and my 2 cents worth is Fred didn’t win a WDC in a Ferrari, so how will SebVett ?

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