Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Leclerc: Ferrari told Vettel to give up lead because starts “were identical”

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says Sebastian Vettel was told to give him the lead back in the Russian Grand Prix because they made “identical” starts to the race.

Vettel has confirmed the team had an arrangement in place for how they would manage the start. Leclerc lined up on pole position with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes between him at Vettel.

Leclerc indicated the team had agreed he would be allowed to keep the lead of the race unless Vettel made a better start than him.

“For sure he did a great start, but as it has been said on the radio – I don’t know whether it was broadcasted or not – but the start performance itself was exactly the same,” said Leclerc. “After that I just stayed on the left to give him the slipstream.”

Following the start Leclerc was told on the radio that their “start performance was the same” and they would “do the swap further into the race”. Vettel was later told to let Leclerc by, but refused.

The team then brought Leclerc in for his pit stop several laps before Vettel, which allowed him to get ahead of his team mate. “There’s no big deals and at the end I think everyone respected their own things,” said Leclerc.

“We will try to speak now,” he added. “I think everything has been respected in a way because I gave the slipstream, then we have to do the swap back which we did at the pit stop, and that’s it.”

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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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44 comments on “Leclerc: Ferrari told Vettel to give up lead because starts “were identical””

  1. Lol leCrlerk your start was horrendous.

    1. No it wasn’t. Vettel used Leclerc’s slipstream as per the team strategy

      1. Lol you clearly didn’t watch the same race as everyone else. Didn’t you see lecrerk stuck behind Bottas? If the slipstream was amazing and magic like that lecrek with a faster car should have easily gotten past Bottas. Go rewatch the race.

        1. It’s spelled Leclerc. Are you deliberately misspelling it? Because it doesn’t exactly aid your argument.

          1. You argument that my argument doesn’t hold due to a misspell is only making my argument stronger.

          2. Andre.. If you’re comparing a start from a grid position and the slipstream following it vs an exit from the last corner and then slipstreaming… Then maybe you don’t know much about F1

        2. @andrefurtado the ability to get by Bottas during the race when losing downforc3 from following another car thru the final corner, onto the back straight, has little to do with the tow from a standing start at the start of a race. Like comparing apples and oranges. Just watched a replay of the starts and the starts were identical. Both Leclerc and Vettel pulled away from the line at the same rate. Leclerc deliberately didn’t defend from Vettel to protect Vettel from Hamilton. Leclerc could have easily decided to keep the inside line like Bottas did last year but didn’t to aid the team

        3. Andre seems to be a 9 year old, don’t bother engaging.

  2. “There’s no big deals and at the end I think everyone respected their own things” – meaning nobody respected the other person, only themselves. Very good.

    1. When language barriers end up being the best way to tell what another person means.

  3. His start didn’t look as good as Vettel’s. But Ferrari probably have more info than I do.

    1. @rocketpanda no looking at the getaways the starts looked really similar. Vettel’s 2nd phase looks better but that seems to be mainly from the slipstream, and Leclerc doesn’t try to defend due to “the agreement”

  4. That is a pretty subjective metric which is not a good way to determine if a driver should win.

    1. +1 Exactly. For Leclerc, their starts were identical, only Vettel benefitted from the slipstream. For Vettel, he obviously had the better start as he got past Leclerc = self-evidently better. How to decide who was right? Ferrari set themselves up for discord. Much better just to let the drivers get on with it without any deal to return the position, swap them in the pits etc.

      1. Much better just to let the drivers get on with it without any deal to return the position, swap them in the pits etc.

        @passingisoverrated @david-br I tend to agreed in this respect, although they would have had to have let Leclerc defend from Vettel. I think they were afraid of Leclerc giving Vettel the same “chop” the he gave Hamilton at Curva Grande in Monza and them both losing out to Mercedes. Seeing as the he let Vettel take the lead without defence today, then. I think they were right to ask Vettel to hand the place back

  5. Not sure what he is smoking but Vettel had the getaway off the line.

    1. Thanks mate. I thought I’ve lost my eyesight after reading Lecrecs comment.

  6. Whatever weird strategy Ferrari had in mind, if vettel had to give the position back it shouldn’t be in the first 5 laps when the rivals are still close

    1. Agreed, total madness.
      These kind of strange and inexplicable deals should be dealt with at a pitstop. Now they ruined the race for the viewer and made a undercut as payback for Singapore. LEC is fast becoming the new whining kid of F1.
      Ferrari management misses the essence of racing.

      1. At the pit stop true, but the better thing would be to avoid at the start and not make such arbitrary plans!
        I agree about leclerc, but I believe that the way Ferrari has mishandled Singapore and now Russia is what brought this change in him.

  7. If you look at the start again you would notice the tow/slipstream was so strong that even Sainz got ahead of Hamilton briefly. When slipstream is so strong here then asking your team mate to give you the slipstream instead of Lewis is a no brainer (he has no option anyway, one of the cars behind will get the slipstream). Vettel got a great start and with that powerful slipstream he would have passed Lec anyways. If he was smarter he wouldn’t agree to any pre-race agreement of giving place back to Lec and only asked Lec to help the team by giving him the tow instead of Lewis. Simple…but Ferrari and their drivers made it complicated.

    1. @amg44 Agree apart from where you say Vettel would have got past anyway, I don’t think that is guaranteed if Leclerc chose to defend. Start of Russia 2015 Rosberg started on pole and defended the inside hard vs Hamilton in his slipstream, and came out ahead. Given that the two Ferraris had pretty much equal starts I’d put my money on Leclerc holding P1 if he defended.

      1. Yeah I also think Charles could have held the lead if he chose to defend – he made no attempt to cover the inside, whuch made me think before we heard the team radio that it was agreed pre-race.

  8. Anyhow Vettel is already the 2nd driver and Leclerc took the 1st place by his own pace. Funny thing, Vettel was talking about “no one is bigger than Ferrari” just one week before. Anyhow no one can not defend his seat while there is a team mate clearly faster than him.

    1. A faster team mate should be able to pass him on track. Not losing seconds each lap.

      1. “A faster team mate should be able to pass him on track”.
        Not always ture as you lose downforce when you are close enough to front car and your tyres worn out earlier than the front car.
        Anyhow it is really nonsense to defend Vettel everything is very clear.

        1. Yes it is clear that Leclerc was the slower Ferrari driver today. Couldn‘t even catch Bottas. Really sad result for everybody that worked so hard for putting them both in position to win.

          Toss the stupid politics and let them race.

        2. Where was this apex predator you was on about. The new king can not look so good going through traffic can he in the biggest advantage in f1 since Merc 2014-2016, Lewis is still the lion he is a monster in the races, Seb 2 races in a row quicker than the Apex Predator who according to you as more talent than Hamilton haha

        3. Funny how when it’s Vettel trying to get around Leclerc and has difficulty it’s because Leclerc is such a stellar driver, but when the situation is reversed, it’s because Leclerc loses downforce when he gets close.
          Regardless, whatever agreement the team had made, it would have been pure idiocy to have Vettel slow down to allow Leclerc past when Hamilton is so close behind. Why sacrifice a running 1-2 just to appease the kid when the swap could be done more safely later after a gap had been established. Executing the swap the way they did should have been their plan all along to preserve maximum points for the team.

    2. WUT? Vettel’s pace was unambiguously better than Leclerc’s. He pulled ahead by almost 5 seconds, while Leclerc was having difficulty staying clear of Hamilton. That should have decided who stayed in front, not who got a better start.

  9. This was the first time since 2014 that I cheered for a Mercedes win. Ridiculous team call in my opinion. I respect the ‘don’t battle for position’-call or the ‘who reaches first corner in first place should win’ which is a similar call. But there was no way that Vettel could win this race on merit because even a good start was apparently not enough.

  10. Once again Ferrari showing that they don’t have a clue about strategy. Swapping the cars on track so early makes zero sense anyway and all the constant chatter about it (in particular Sky commentary) was just turning me off.
    The pit stop for Seb was the way to do it and for all of a minute, set us up for an interesting race.
    Shame about his Seb’s retirement. Not really a Vettel fan, but his retirement inadvertently ruined the entertainment.
    Maybe Liberty should think of the show and come up with a stupid rule for this eventuality :)

  11. I guess in hindsight Ferrari should not have made that pre race agreement. With Ferrari much faster on the straights anyway and then added that Mercedes was starting on medium, the chance of Ferrari not being 1-2 after turn 1 was almost zero.

    On the other hand, without that agreement Leclerc would have defended his position instead of just sitting still giving Vettel his slipsteam. Lately (since Austria) Leclerc been quite aggressive at defending and then Vettel could have been pushed off track and lost positions that way. Or they could have crashed.

    Also, if Leclerc had moved to the inside he would have given Hamilton the slipstream and Vettel would have had none. So who knows if Hamilton might have been right up there with the Ferrari’s, but Vettel certainly would have not been that fast.

    It’s not that easy to say “for sure” what would have happened without the agreement.

    Reality is that they took an easy 1-2 now, so it worked.

    Mercedes have had agreements like this too. For instance when they boxed Vettel in at France 2018 (both Mercs on slower tyres vs a faster starting Vettel).

  12. mark from toronto
    29th September 2019, 16:17

    So the plan was for Leclerc to help Vettel pass Hamilton by using his slip stream and not closing the door on him. Of course as Vettel has ALWAYS done, he ignored this, and Kama dealt with him. I think its time for Ferrari to turf Vettel, Leclerc is a far better driver.

    1. As we saw clearly today.

      1. And in Hockenheim as well.

      2. @magon4

        As we’ve been noticing all season.

        1. yeah, right.

  13. I’m beginning to dislike Leclerc, his incessant moaning and complaining is annoying as is his naive viewpoint that a competitive sport like F1 should be fair.

    1. Not fair is one thing, not respectful of previous agreement is another thing.

    2. He wouldn’t be complaining as much if Ferrari weren’t trying to screw him almost every race.

      If Vettel can’t keep up, help him to get to 2nd place and fight for the lead in the track if he can. But no, they’re always putting themselves on position to be questioned by Leclerc. Who’s right to question because he is the faster one, is ahead for most of the time and the easier bet to bring the victory home.

  14. If Vettel let Leclerc through he would have been stuck on Leclerc’s tail for the next 15 laps with Hamilton breathing down his neck.

    Vettel instead built an 8 second lead on Hamilton, which Ferrari threw away by stitching Vettel up on strategy.

  15. Instead of focusing on beating the Mercedes, they are creating meaningless drama. They worked together great to get Lewis at the start, who was already in a bad position because of his tyres. But instead of leaving it as it is, and seeing who can come up ahead, they start fighting on the radio.

    They are managing two very big egos very badly. In Singapore they converted a 1-3 into a 1-2. Here they did the same. At the moment, they are not able to fight for the championship, it’s too late. Why not focusing on scoring 1-2s?

  16. Vettel was clearly the faster car today as far as race pace..yeah leclerc can qualify great and has great speed for one or two laps here and there but just doesn’t manage as well in the race..and he needs to stop feeling entitled to anything cause obviously he couldn’t keep up with vettel in race ..and he needs to man up and go out n get the win instead of it being given to him never seen a driver not want to win a race on his own merit instead of it being given to him ..if everybody thinks he is that good then let him prove it on the track n race heads up instead of crying about deals n feeling entitled .needs to go out n win race on his own driving abilities

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