Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Leclerc had “100% trust” Ferrari would give him the lead back

2019 Russian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc says he had complete faith that Ferrari would swap him and his team mate’s positions after he let Sebastian Vettel by at the start.

Ferrari made a pre-race arrangement between their drivers under which Vettel would use Leclerc’s slipstream to overtake Lewis Hamilton at the start, and Vettel would give the lead back to Leclerc if he overtook him by doing so.

However Vettel refused to follow Ferrari’s instruction to let Leclerc overtake him. Nonetheless Leclerc said he was confident the team would put him back in front.

“I think the situation was quite tricky,” said Leclerc. “There was a Safety Car straight away, so then it was quite difficult.

“I tried to stay as close as I possibly could for two or three laps but then it was very difficult to follow, especially first and second sector. The tyres overheated and then I dropped back a little bit.

“But then, as I said on the radio, I had one hundred per cent trust in the team to do it themselves, as it was agreed before the race, and that’s what they did at the pit stop.”

Following Leclerc’s comments Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto denied they had used the pit stop to put Leclerc back in front of Vettel.

Leclerc denied Vettel’s refusal to let him through would erode the trust between the two team mates.

“I think the trust doesn’t change. We need to trust each other, Seb and myself, because I think it’s usually important for the benefit of the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car, and vice versa – I mean in both ways.

“So I think it’s very important but yes, the trust is still here.”

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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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39 comments on “Leclerc had “100% trust” Ferrari would give him the lead back”

  1. I liked Leclerc at Sauber. I hoped he would be WDC in the Ferrari one day. But he starts to annoy me even more and more. I have a feeling it’s worse than Verstappen in his fist 2 seasons.

    1. But what did Verstappen wrong those seasons? The ‘NO!’ against a silly team order? The Mexico incident where he was told to keep position? The 2016 STR situation that was created by the race-engineers and the Sainz camp?

      In the years he has been in F1, I haven’t seen him change a lot in attitude. He’s always been about just racing, and not silly politics. My guess is people finally start to appreciate his straightforwardness, which people had mistaken for arrogance.

      1. Agree. Max like Vettel fights for it. Not moans for it.

  2. Vettel said he would have got past first lap anyway, and its difficult to see how not. He had the tow and a monster start. Leclerc did basically very little, vettel would have had a tow anyways agreement or no.

    Leclerc has a passive agressive style about him which kinda grates a bit.

    1. People say that but Leclerc actually gave Vettel the inside line. He didn’t try to block him at all. It’s probable that without the agreement Leclerc would move around more to break the tow and block the inside line.

      1. Exactly. I don’t understand why people are blaming Leclerc for moaning and acting entitled.

        As per the plan, he avoided giving Lewis a tow and gave one to his teammate. They knew the tow would be powerful, so if Vettel managed to get in front he’d return the position. If Ferrari had decided that Leclerc and Vettel were allowed to race, then Leclerc would have made every effort to weave and break Sebastian’s tow, and obviously defend the inside line aggressively enough to force Sebastian to make a move on the outside.

        If there’s anyone at fault here it is either Ferrari – for having such a silly pre race agreement… or Sebastian, for not handing the place back in the first couple of laps. I actually thought Leclerc handled the situation very maturely. He said he understood and just got on with his race.

        1. “I don’t understand why people are blaming Leclerc for moaning and acting entitled.”

          Because this is motor racing, the start is one of the most crucial aspects of a race that often determines the outcome, pre-determining the outcome is not what people want to see.

          If Leclerc would have defended the inside line, Vettel would still have breezed past him, Leclerc had no choice in the matter, he can’t chose to turn off the tow, its not only physics, but also a part of the sport that the pole guy has always had to accept.

          So what happens going forward? Is the lead Ferrari going to ask for the positions to be reversed if he happens to help his teammate off the line every single race now?

          1. So would you agree this is about Ferrari’s handling of the matter and not related to Leclerc?

            If so, then it has got nothing to do with Leclerc as your response alludes holding responsible to.

          2. I don’t think you understood your own comment.

          3. “So would you agree this is about Ferrari’s handling of the matter and not related to Leclerc?”

            According to Vettel after the race, “I had an agreement with Charles”, so maybe it was just something they discussed and it wasn’t a Ferrari strategy, per se?

            Either way, it should never have been an option in the first place. I don’t know why Vettel would ever actually agree to such a deal given that he was always getting a tow no matter what, he was starting on a softer tyre than Hamilton, so was always going to jump him off the line and get a tow off Leclerc, so by agreeing to give the place back pre-race, is agreeing that hes not going to win the race, before it even happens.

            It just makes no sense, unless Vettel, knowing that once he was in front, was going to pull away and hope ‘something’ happened in the first stint where by he would be allowed to keep first place (like Hamilton passing Leclerc or something)

          4. Vettel would still have breezed past him

            Nope. At no point on the run to turn 2 was Vettel fully ahead of Leclerc. If Leclerc hadn’t given him the tow he would have been even worse off and if Leclerc had defended the inside line no way Vettel gets passed. Its really simple.

          5. “If Leclerc hadn’t given him the tow”

            What’s really simple, is that Leclerc had no choice in the matter, he cannot stop physics, hes giving anyone behind him the tow wether he likes it or not, he cannot turn it off if Vettel didn’t agree that he wouldn’t hand the place back. The very best he could have done was to go on the dirty side of the track and take a defensive position (you know, racing and that…) Vettel would have still got the tow

        2. The plan was stupid, I never expected Vettel to give P1 back to Leclerc. It was very obvious that Vettel was going to ignore the team once they asked him to give P1 back to Leclerc just like how Leclerc ignored the team in Bahrain when they told him to wait a few laps before he could make a move on Vettel. They both have a winning mentality, no amount of team orders are going to change that.

          1. Exactly Leclerc was naive to think Vettel would stick to what he agreed. He should have just ran his race and not bothered about helping Vettel. Lets face it Vettel was in third because of his own bad driving on Saturday anyway.

        3. Spot on. Charles not only gave Seb the tow, he avoided giving Lewis a tow, and even more importantly he didn’t cover the inside line into turn one.

    2. They could have always crashed. Entirely possible with Leclerc defending and Vettel overtaking prowess.

      1. Ok, so fair point. Given this, a pre race agreement suggests they didnt trust the drivers to not tangle. Also, it means they favoured charles for the win, because vettel couldnt benefit from an attack using a tow which was always going to be powerful into turn 2 at sochi.

        So why would vettel agree unless forced to do so? This agreement favours leclerc outright. Bear in mind Ham was on harder tyres and said himself that they would breeze past him to turn 2. Therefore the agreement was unlikely to get past mercs but to keep both the red cars in the race.

        Reading betweeb the lines, ferrari have a driver problem and vettel isnt winning the intrateam battle. If things continue like this i would be unsurprised if vettle leaves as soon as he can.

  3. “I think the trust doesn’t change”
    If something doesn’t not exist, then it can’t be changed, well said by Leclerc.

  4. I think at the end of the day, neither drivers are in the wrong to argue that they should be in the front. It is Ferrari’s fault for enforcing such ridiculous rule in a race. I think it is silly to put such conditions to effect the outcome of the race depending on the quirks of a track. Swapping drivers for the benefit of the championship is hard enough to impose but I haven’t seen anything like this before.

    In addition, either of the outcome of the start would benefit Leclerc- so what is in it for Vettel or for racing? Vettel not giving up the position (he was faster at that point so I think it was fair) also unmotivated Leclerc. In the end, this decision benefited neither of the drivers.

    1. As I write below, I think it was a ‘driver management’ action, which served a clear purpose. Yes, I agree that looking at the race, the switch compromised the Ferrari team’s advantage over Mercedes and made them (a bit) more vulnerable to the (likely) SC. I think for the race, they would have been off better by just running the race for the win, and then at the end of it see if a switch was feasible, or not. (The SC came at a bad moment too, and the reason was bad luck, but that’s not something they could prevent, clearly)

      I fully agree, the decision wasn’t about benefiting the drivers (directly), though I do think it was about easing, or at least managing/stabilizing, their driver situation, which does serve them in the end. It was about Ferrari, the team, setting their drivers straight.

      In Singapore, strategy put them 1-2, but with Leclerc behind, and he was told in no uncertain terms that he had to accept it and shut up about it, for the team. Sunday, leaving Vettel out until he was definitely behind Leclerc after Vettel made sure to leave it an impossibility on track, served to tell both of them that the team was doing what it said should happen, not what the drivers wanted for themselves.

      A bit longer (too long?):
      Let’s remember that Lecler has been showing being unhappy with being occasionally curbed in outracing Vettel earlier in the year, that Leclerc then outqualified Vettel for 8 (or was it 7 then?) races, and too that Vettel felt in Monza (and probably rightly so, listening and looking to the way Leclerc answered questions about it) Q3 that Leclerc not only manipulated things such that he didn’t give Vettel a tow, but that it also in the end denied them a 2nd run, which secured pole for Leclerc, when Vettel felt he would have been on pole himself, had things gone according to the team plan (ie. Leclerc helping Vettel to pole! Not sure why the team would think any driver would happily agree ;) And that lead to a 2nd Leclerc win in Monza, which made sure Ferrari had to be happy with him, but at the same time, a wary Binotto ‘you are forgiven’ indicated it was not quite forgotten. With Singapore, that set Lecler in his place, and then in Sochi, Vettel was shown he also wasn’t beyond the teams’ will.

      I think the team, internally, will feel quite okay about how their intervention itself worked. And should be happy with having been the car to beat here, in Singapore, Spa and probably Monza. As I wrote above, the MGU-K that obviously did in Vettel, and gave Hamilton and Mercedes the step up to win they had been hoping and racing for, was misfortune, and part of racing, but Ferrari can still be quite content with the last four races showing they are going in the right direction.

      1. Those two are in all out war. Nico & Lewis style. this will end badly. Maybe Vettel will retire by the end of all this. Ferrari have a championship within their car if they can get their act together.

  5. The team orders should never have been issued, Binotto is playing with fire. This could turn in Hamilton v Alonso 2.0

    1. it could if Ferrari had a championship contending car. LOL!

    2. this is about to ruin F1, every race a driver feels entitled to a position, what happened to racing to the checkered flags? I really like LeClerc, but he is starting to sound like someone who grew up in today’s world expecting everything to be granted before they ever turn a wheel. I say BS, Vettel made a great start and was pulling away. By doing the multi lap undercut for LeClerc, all Ferrari did was put both cars much closer to Lewis instead of building on their lead. Way to early to be playing such games and they got exactly what they deserved. My first thought when Seb said no MGU-K was he parked it out of frustration with the team screwing him over. No more true winners, only participant awards?

    3. More likely in Seb+Max and Charles+Nico/Daniel/Fernando.

  6. Hm, I don’t think I buy that Vettel and Leclerc exactly trust each other, both know better than to do that, if they didn’t already when they started the season together. Sure they trust each other not to be stupid on track, but as far as trusting in getting a position in the race when it’s about the win?

    Vettel has shown, and learned, often enough in getting 4 WDC’s that trust in the team is important, but that you need to beat your teammate too, and has usually done that when the opportunity was there, even if he had to renege on a previous understanding (Multi21 etc., for example). Leclerc is a young guy, and fresh in F1, but has been racing for a bit longer, and is clever enough to know this too.

    Trust that you know what the team will do if there’s an on track fight between them, is, after trust you can safely race the other, probably the important thing, and despite what Ferrari said, I do think that both Singapore and Russia strategy worked to show their drivers they are not above the team, which has long been a feature of Ferrari.

    Though ironically, on Sunday, sorting that out was sort of put ahead of staying in the best position to win the race, I believe (with Vettel, to my mind, being left out a lap or two longer than ideal, for the team win), I guess that the MGU-K failure at exact wrong time for both of them meant it didn’t so much matter in the end, bc. the VSC and SC put Hamilton in the winning seat anyway.

  7. You know what I miss? Organic racing.

    Whatever happens, should be allowed to happen, and the only time a swap should be allowed, is when the guy ahead is clearly faster and/or on a different strategy.

    Basically, Ferrari shouldn’t be writing cheques they cannot cash.

    What should’ve happened: Leclerc should’ve been allowed to do his own start and tried to get ahead as far as possible. If Vettel got by anyway, he should’ve kept the lead, like he did. At one stage, Vettel was 3.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc and 3.5 seconds ahead of Hamilton – I do not believe a real team player would request his team to halve their lead to the next car (Hamilton) just to abide by a pre-race agreement.

    Also, everyone knows Sebastian has been struggling in qualifying this year, and also that he’s still a different animal when at the front, like we saw yesterday. Combine that with the fact that Charles seems like a qualifying ace, it becomes obvious that no race positions should be determined purely on qualifying. That is a mistake that Ferrari will hopefully get into their heads sooner rather than later.

    1. *is when the guy behind is clearly faster and/or on a different strategy.

      @keithcollantine edit function is sorely missed, please add it.

  8. Binotto must carry the can for the deterioration of team cohesion. The driver tension is transmitted to the rest of the team who tend to take sides in the garage and so that moves down the line. Ferrari always have seemed more like a Medici court than a modern racing team, and this latest “plan” to compensate Leclerc for letting Vettel through or being dumped on in Singapore ( take your pick of reasons ) fits in perfectly to that approach.

    Some advice for the boss from a fellow countryman:

    “He who wishes to be obeyed must know how to command”
    ― Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince

  9. Vettel was the better driver that day. Leclerc dit what he was supposed to do, but it in the end turned out a bit different than expected. If, then else..

  10. I, as a non top-sport athlete, really struggle to understand this kind of behavior from top-athletes, they are supposed to be the best in the world, they are portrayed as over-confident people, but what we see when we focus a bit more is exactly the opposite, constantly complaining about everything and always ready for conspiracy theories that the team, the FIA, and everybody is trying to make them loose.
    Hamilton is like this, Vettel also, Leclerc the same, before them Alonso and Schumacher were the same, and even before Senna and Prost were also always complaining (and we didn’t listen to their radio). FFS, winning and loosing in sport is normal, sometimes you win, sometimes you loose, they set a very bad example having this lack of sportmanship.
    Best thing that happened to Fangio, Stewart and Clark was not having global TV coverage nor radio, otherwise they would probably be the same also.

    1. Formula one is not a sport in the traditional sense of the word.

      In traditional sports , for individual sports the individual is more or less 100 percent responsible for the result (barring things like weather , coaching erc). In team sports , the team in total gets the award although star personalities are given more attention.

      However formula one is a hybrid of individual sport , team sport and technical capability. Hence concepts associated with tradiational team or individual sports do not always translate over to formula one.

      This is neither a good nor bad thing I am just pointing out why it is not constructive to reconcile formula one tradiational team and individual sport.

  11. And they did in the pitstop

    Funny how this time around no one has a problem with the undercut, interesting…

    1. I think given the pace the Vettel had, the undercut gave both an advantage. By pitting early Leclerc got the track position, and Vettel got the better tires for the latter part of the race. Given Vettel’s pace I think an overtake was highly likely in 5-10 laps time if Vettel’s car didn’t break.

      But to your point, Ferrari probably didn’t need such aggressive undercutting strategy on neither cars due to their natural race pace compared to Mercedes.

      1. No way Vettel would have done a clean overtake on Leclerc. On this track any overtake is highly unlikely. Clean air would give so much benefit to the front runner it wouldn’t even be close.

  12. “Leclerc – Vettel is faster than you”, if you like to swap enter the 8-th gear and come closer, do not be as a turtle cry baby

  13. Missing the obvious here. Leclerc agreed to keep left on the start to give a fast starting (with super softs) Vettel the tow down to turn one instead of the usual pole sitters move which is to cut across the 2nd placed qualifier to cut off his nearest challenger. Looked for all the World that this was a good strategy for Ferrari, especially with Hamilton starting on the mediums. This is why Leclerc did not cover the inside and give Hamilton the benefit of the two. Leclerc just showed his rookie strips by not keeping an eye on Vettel and covering his inside move, but then if there was an agreement in place, why would he need to?

    Binotto should have nipped all the radio chatter in the bud with Leclerc, avoided the drama, and then made the adjustment at the pit stop, which is what actually happened, without comment. This would have made him the master of his own domain, but instead, he’s publicly and within the team, shown to be somewhat weak and given us a lot to discuss.

    That being said, the Mercedes team managed the situation perfectly.

  14. Is it me or is there anyone else out there who would have expected Seb to pull over and let Charles go past??…well apart from the team bosses…
    Seb is on a high after his win….he is being out qualified by his team mate….he is faster in race pace..and he is a German…Have I missed anything..
    Ferrari need a No 1 Driver and a team player No 2….who will pick up the pieces and places
    I cannot see these 2 in the same team next season, and not sure these last 5 races will run smooth…but its good to watch

    1. Gideon J Joubert
      30th September 2019, 22:43

      So did Vettel’s car pack up or did Ferrari switch it off

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