Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Ferrari denies it pitted Leclerc early to get him ahead of Vettel

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Ferrari denied Charles Leclerc’s pit stop was timed to move him ahead of his team mate, who had ignored an instruction to let him through earlier in the race.

Sebastian Vettel took the lead from his team mate at the start but was told shortly afterwards to let Leclerc by. He refused, and Leclerc was told the team would swap the positions later in the race.

Leclerc later moved ahead when Ferrari brought him in for his pit stop before Vettel. This allowed him to set a series of quicker lap times and jump ahead of his team mate when Vettel pitted.

After the race Leclerc said Ferrari arranged the drivers’ pit stops to put him back in the lead of the race. But speaking in the team’s post-race media briefing with both drivers present, team principal Mattia Binotto denied that was the case.

“The undercut was not for the reason of giving back the position to Charles,” said Binotto, who claimed Leclerc’s pit stop was due to tyre wear. “The left-rear was starting to be worn so that was the right moment for him to pit.”

Ferrari chose to leave Vettel out longer to reduce the risk that a Safety Car period could allow their rivals to make a ‘free’ pit stop and jump ahead of them.

“We knew as well that if we would have stopped both our cars we would have been vulnerable on Safety Cars by leaving the lead to [Lewis] Hamilton. So we tried to stay out as much as we could with Seb simply to protect in case of Safety Cars in that period of the race.

“Then again Seb’s tyres were worn, he called for it, it was the right moment to pit. He pitted and matter of fact Charles was ahead, Seb was behind but the race was still not over and there would have been plenty of opportunity to decide what would have been the best option later on.”

Binotto confirmed the team made a pre-race agreement that Vettel would have to give the lead to Leclerc if he used his team mate’s slipstream to get ahead of him at the start.

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“Being first and second was the key objective,” he said. “How can you do that when you start first and third, certainly protecting the first position but as well making sure that you gain a position being second?

“We agreed together that the best way was not to give any slipstream to Hamilton at first, because giving a slipstream to Hamilton would have given him some advantage or at least some possibility. Therefore Charles would have given the slipstream to Seb. That was what we agreed and discussed.

“But by giving the slipstream to Seb, not defending the position, would have given an advantage to Seb, which later on in the race [we] would have given back by swapping the cars. So that was the deal.”

Having watched the start, the team decided to tell Vettel to let Leclerc retake the lead. “Looking at the video, looking at the start our judgement that the start went as planned and therefore we thought it was right to ask Seb to swap the positions.

“Eventually, the two drivers may have different opinions by driving the car. That’s something which we may discuss with them.

“So we initially asked Seb to give the position back. But fair enough to say that at that stage of the race maybe Charles was not close enough and we would have lost some time on track. Later on Seb was quite fast and gained some track advantage on Charles. So we knew that we could have decided to do it later on.”

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38 comments on “Ferrari denies it pitted Leclerc early to get him ahead of Vettel”

  1. Oh Come On!

    1. Typical ferarri mess.
      Politics and bad management topped with lousy tactics.

    2. It would have been singapore all over again, going safe on the lead car leaving it exposed, in the end as in singapore it was close on pit exit.
      As @gechichan said last time around

      So they just lucked out on a great strategy in the end, as no one in their right mind can actually believe Inaki Rueda could have masterminded such an outcome for the scuderia.

      Ferrari and strategy don’t go along.The strategy was unoptimized, they imploded on a weekend they had the weight of expectations on. Seb could have stayed out at least a couple laps extra and surely keep track position, regardless the merc on the medium were not going to want to stop at the same time, it was guaranteed, so it would have been smart to stay out as long as possible and pit as soon as Ham overtook seb or the race got to merc pit window. Lec undercutting was a valid strategy, had it gone wrong it would have not mattered as long as vet had track position on the merc. 2nd error, glaring mistake, to pit Lec under vsc, don’t need to add anything on that error.

    3. Those are just trick to give face to CL so that CL felt special by the team. Its actually to help SV. CL still number 2 remember? CL can be multiple f1 champion in ferrari if ferrari play it fair and square.

  2. That’s a yoke. At least admit to it, it was plain obvious that is why it was done.

  3. What a joke, like anyone is gonna believe that.
    Actually its even worse if they didnt do it for that reason because then it shows how incompetent they are.

  4. LMAO come on. Now this has to be the most ridiculous thing that happened all weekend. No respect at all for the viewers and supporters. Honesty is overrated. Lead by example. Stop the lie.

  5. That is nice and dandy, but why doesn’t anyone ask about what happened next – asking Seb to stop the car in such urgent manner?

    While on the first sight it is a sensible decision – to salvage as much of a car as possible… on the second – didn’t they realize that SC\VSC was a given in that case, which would have (and had) ruined Charles’ race?

    I don’t say or think it was intentional, but it was yet another epic strategic error on their side.

    And, btw, actually this race was no different to the whole Ferrari season… it went very well in the beginning, but then unraveled with a crazy speed after some more or less “minor” event.

    1. I would have asked Seb to bring the car to pits no matter the damage…. even if he was driving on two wheels, without tyres, wings and halo…. even if he had to push it with legs (as toddler’s ride on cars).

      It will be even worse, if they have to change his engine anyway… and incur respective penalty.

      1. It is likely that the issue could be serious enough to be danger to Vettel in the form of electric shock. If you see, after parking the car Vettel jumped off the car.

    2. @dallein

      While on the first sight it is a sensible decision – to salvage as much of a car as possible… on the second – didn’t they realize that SC\VSC was a given in that case, which would have (and had) ruined Charles’ race?

      I don’t say or think it was intentional, but it was yet another epic strategic error on their side.

      And, btw, actually this race was no different to the whole Ferrari season… it went very well in the beginning, but then unraveled with a crazy speed after some more or less “minor” event.

      I like this quote, I have to save this one, steal it and publish it on my book.

  6. At the start do this, first stint do this, late race do this, swap and this and that. Why micro managing so much? Why not let them race. Its not as if any Ferrari driver is fighting for the championship.

  7. Lewis you apex predator you what a driver the only guy who can take on Ferrari, that Apex predator Leclerc is looking like a young Vettel more and more every day great in qually but in traffic in the race with a ridicolous advantage? Do me a favour. Hamilton was sticking 5tenths behind his teammates bumper for lap after lap in Silverstone and that is the same car, Hamilton would have absoloute won this race in the Ferrari today 2 laps fresher tyres and a ridicolous engine advanatage would have been easy for Hamilton. Leclerc is a young Vettel outstanding out front but in traffic he is not good Singapore shown that Vettel carves throuigh traffic compared to Leclerc. Was lovely karma today. Just look at Hamilton even getting close to Ferrari in Monza and then today he made Bottas look silly all race, leclerc was slower than Vettel who he has beat now for 9 races. Hamilton is the king.

    Hamilton the don

    1. Still I Apex Predator

  8. Yeah, right… Things didn’t look like that, plus in this case they were 1-2 so, pitting VET would have meant the lead still remained theirs, to LEC. In Singapore, pitting LEC would have meant to give the lead to HAM, and most lilely would have been a bad decision.

  9. I am really curious to see what Toto Wolf speaks to press about this, I suspect he will be stoking the fire with massive fan with a smirky smile on face.

  10. Never saw a race where if you get a slipstream you have to give the position back. What next? What other particular situation to manage? All you’re doing is setting yourself up for frustration and problems. Lesson number one: do not create situations yourself that creates something that needs to be managed.
    If you do not make a baby there is no baby in need of nurturing.

    1. Leclerc made no attempt to take the slipstream away or defend, which aroused my suspicion immediately considering Mercedes did something similar last year.

      1. Yes he isn’t going to defend and giving Lewis the lead because he would crash in to Vettel. He was just slow he could do the same speed as Vettel if he wanted to swap he should drive the hell out of the car so Vettel didn’t lost time.

        1. could NOT bloody edit

  11. When was the last time Ferrari had driver control issues?
    For almost 30years now they’ve had compliant pilots.

  12. Leclerc cannot trust Vettel and that’s the biggest issue in Ferrari. Vettel is not a team player. “Tough luck” (2014 China GP) and “Multi 21” (2013 Malaysia GP) are just the two examples of Vettel’s behaviour to the team. There is no easy solution with Vettel for Ferrari – just get rid of Vettel or make Leclerc No.2 driver.

    1. He’s not a team player when he helped Leclerc win in spa? And get a pole in Monza?

    2. The best solution would be for Ferrari to cut his contact early. They have their number one in Charley now, and they’ve got him for the foreseeable future if they keep making a decent car.

      They now need a Bottas to fill the Massa/Barrichello role.

      1. even if I agreed (which I don’t) , they won’t do it because then Vettel would have to get paid big bucks (kind of like Raikkonen in 2009 except his contract is like 2 times higher)

      2. As much as I agree Seb is well past his best, Leclerc is not ready to lead a team. He has the speed but putting together a title campaign and developing a car at the front are big asks.

        Drop Seb and get Alonso in there, oh boy that would be box office and probably score them a couple championships (among the inevitable drama)

    3. I am boggled by this. One of the longest running gripes people have had in F1 is team orders. And now that we’ve got a rivalry building between the old hand and the young gun at Ferrari, traditionally one of the teams who have used team orders the most egregiously, we get calls to either force Leclerc be the #2 driver, or to dump Vettel and replace him with a #2 now that he has begun to find form again and is challenging Leclerc on Sundays. Is this motivated by a desire for better racing, or more so by hatred of Vettel?

      @bulgarian You say:

      Leclerc cannot trust Vettel and that’s the biggest issue in Ferrari. Vettel is not a team player.

      Yet, Vettel very clearly played the team game to protect Leclerc’s win in Spa. When it came time to return the favor in Monza, where the tow was absolutely necessary to get pole, Leclerc did not honor the deal. Vettel still ended up getting a pretty good qualifying time earlier in the session even without it, only 1.5 tenths behind Leclerc after the tow advantage was show to be 5 to 7 tenths of a second.

      As for Multi 21, Weber was no innocent victim. Webber played a lot of shenanegans with Vettel in their years together. He pulled a pretty dodgy move against Vettel in Brazil that Horner later says was the reason behind Vettel ignoring the team orders:–multi-21–controversy-.html

      In China 2014 with Riccardo, Horner explains:

      “He’s a racer,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained after the race. “He first asked what tyre was Daniel on. And, then, at that point what he didn’t realise was that we were looking at a different strategy—because Seb was going through the tyre phases quicker—to convert Sebastian onto a three stop. As soon as he understood that he immediately let him through.”

      I’m not really a fan of any specific team or driver at all, it gets in the way of enjoying the racing for me. I’ve not been a Vettel fan, and especially didn’t like him in the RB era. But at the same time, I’ve never hated him, and I always respect racers who will fight for the win every time the opportunity comes. The door opened for Vettel in SG because of Verstappen pitting and the need for Ferrari to react, and he made the best of it with his out lap and his passing the midfield team cars better than Leclerc did to win. The door opened here simply by virtue of the tow that the pole sitter gives. and Vettel went faster than Leclerc with the same engine mode on the same tires to build a gap that Leclerc could not maintain to Hamilton.

      Which leads me to my other point: I don’t care for teams trying to micromanage the results between their drivers. They realistically should have told Leclerc before this race: the priority is Ferrari 1-2, do not give Hamilton the ability to pass on the first lap, do not crash with your teammate.” and that is it. No quid pro quo, no silly games. Leclerc could have stayed left to deny Hamilton the tow until Vettel was in front of him and moved to the right immediately after to take the inside line. What Ferrari told them compromised Leclerc’s instinct to be a racer, and I’m not a fan of that.

      I do understand the reality that teams have championship considerations in mind. I’m more forgiving about it when it is about getting the best result for the team, and I understand when one driver is well out in front of another that it makes sense not to put him at risk when a rival team is close. I also understand when drivers are on different strategies as sometimes happens because of penalties or problems in qualifying. But when the team has no one close enough behind to challenge, or they are so far behind the team ahead and so far ahead of the team behind that it won’t matter, let them race. Otherwise, they’re trying to screw around with the basic human nature that makes race car drivers good enough to be in F1 in the first place.

      I don’t think Ferrari need to *fix* this problem of friction between the drivers, but they *must* establish very clear rules of engagement: no contact with your teammate, the team result comes first.

  13. Well, sometimes it’s better not to protest to much.

  14. Bit of apples and oranges comparison, but the way Leclerc (and Ferrari) are treating Vettel recently sorta reminds me of… All the things Seb (and Red Bull/Helmut Marko) subjected Mark Webber to from 2009/10-2013.

    1. Thought the same. Karma

    2. …or the way they treated Kimi Raikkonen for much of his stay at Ferrari, but what other viable options are out there for a driver who wants to have a competitive car.

  15. Well they are sort of telling the truth. When Vettel really was screwed over was when the kept him out several laps longer when he was starting to lose pace. That way they could be sure Charles was ahead of him. Pretty in sure Vettel knew exactly what was going on.

  16. Jonathan Edwards
    30th September 2019, 2:00

    Obviously a load of crap.

    Ferrari’s strategy this race is a prime example of a fault seen commonly in F1. Clever people trying to be too clever. In what world did they think the slipstream plan was a good idea, or more importantly, that they could predict how it would play out? Other posters in other threads, trying to defend the plan and blame Vettel, have argued that Leclerc would have normally defended the inside line, without the prearranged strategy. Another load of crap. Why even give Hamilton a chance to take the lead? Sochi, like other tracks, has peculiar features that favor some cars over the other. Slipstreaming is certainly possible at the start. Should teams now ban their drivers from utilizing the slipstream along the Kemmel straight? Of course not. Some tracks allow for passing at the start of a race. Arguing that the driver on pole should not be able to be challenged at the start is the antithesis of racing, and Ferrari are idiots for making the fans have to weasel their way around arguments to defend their preferred driver, Vettel, or Leclerc.

    And other fans arguing that Vettel has lost respect with this move are delusional. No driver in their right mind would obey such as stupid order. Any fan who claims otherwise deserves to have the ghost of Senna slap the nonsense out of them.

  17. Being all over the radio telling Leclerc he can pass Vettel, check.
    Bringing the 2nd placed driver in 1st, check
    Leaving VEttel out for 3 laps instead of 1, check

    If they didn’t do it on purpose, they’re just plain stupid.

  18. @anunaki if we can leave out the fact that Vettel’s car broke, I see it like this:
    – they agreed on Leclerc towing Vettel and having the position back
    – Vettel was faster, but disobeyed the team order and agreement
    – Ferrari once more – like in Singapore – choose to go with the best for the team, leaving Vettel outside.
    a) In case of Safety Car they could have had the free pitstop with Seb, justifying the no-swap with Vettel’s superior pace at the beginning of the race. P1 and P3/P4 could have been possible.
    b) Without SC (as it happened) they could have swapped the drivers, enforcing something Vettel didn’t do by himself. P1 and P2 could have been possible.

    So for Ferrari it was a win-win situation. At this stage, the first and second driver thing doesn’t make sense. They’re not contending for anything but races, and I’m OK with them trying to go for 1-2s, independently about who’s 1st and who’s 2nd.

    I also suggest you to think about the “all over the radio”: they are constantly speaking (but I’m pretty sure we’ll hear less and less from Ferrari giving how this message are being used), it is FOM that broadcasted much more of their messages during this race (which I understand, for the show).

    1. These scenarios look valid indeed. But hey missed one imo: I think if they pitted Seb 1st, he could’ve extended his >7 sec lead over Hamilton even more so might have ran Lewis out of his VSC window.

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