Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019

Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Vettel vs Leclerc

2019 F1 season review

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Ferrari’s decision last year to promote Charles Leclerc, after a single season in F1, posted an interesting question.

Was this a sign they had lost faith in Raikkonen, or that they were ushering in a bright young talent who promised to be a replacement for Sebastian Vettel? Twelve months on, we may have our answer, as by almost all the measures that matter, Leclerc had a better 2019 season than Vettel. Factor in the gulf in experience between the pair, and Leclerc’s first full season in red really is something to get excited about.

Ferrari had a plan from the outset, and tried to impose team orders on the pair. In the closing stages at Melbourne Leclerc was told not to attempt an overtake on Vettel in order to secure their positions safely.

It didn’t take Leclerc long to force the team’s hand. He out-qualified Vettel by three tenths of a second in Bahrain and was dominating the race when his engine lost a significant amount of power and he had to settle for third. Vettel, rattled, spun while trying to keep Lewis Hamilton behind him.

This was no one-sided fight. Indeed, Bahrain was the only time in the first seven races that Vettel started or finished behind his team mate. But that started to change in a big way at Paul Ricard, where Leclerc unlocked the secret to conjuring one-lap pace from the SF90. It was a breakthrough that eluded Vettel for much of the rest of the season.

Vettel didn’t go down without a fight and the two drivers were usually separated by small margins, particularly in qualifying. Leclerc won the Saturday fight 11-9 (having trailed 1-7) but when both Ferraris took the chequered flag Vettel was ahead more often (by a score which falls to 9-7 in his favour when Brazil, where both were classified despite having crashed, is factored out).

Vettel was also out-scored by his team mate for the first time since his single season alongside Daniel Ricciardo – a potentially telling statistic.

[icon2019autocoursempu]While Leclerc’s season was certainly not error-free, Vettel’s tendency to implode belied a driver of his experience and success. At Monza, perhaps put out by Leclerc’s failure to give him a tow in Q3, he made an unforced error by spinning in the race. He then compounded his mistake by rejoining the track unsafely and making contact with Lance Stroll. And this wasn’t the nadir of his season – that came two months later when he clumsily strayed into Leclerc while being passed by his team mate, putting both out.

The flip-side of this were days when Leclerc was ragged and Vettel the more cool-headed. Germany was a clear case of this. Leclerc was sailing close to the wind when he spun into a barrier, while Vettel made steady progress from last place to take second – though he got greedy on the final lap and almost spun it away while trying to grab the fastest lap bonus point.

With a year’s more experience under his belt, Leclerc is likely to push Vettel even harder in 2020. Ferrari will have to find a solution to decrease the tensions this will inevitably provoke, however much they play down the rivalry between the pair. And even more so if the additional strain of a title fight is added to the mix.

Sebastian Vettel vs Charles Leclerc: Key stats

Sebastian Vettel vs Charles Leclerc: Who finished ahead at each round

Sebastian Vettel Q
Charles Leclerc Q

Sebastian Vettel vs Charles Leclerc: Qualifying gap

Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time. Negative indicates Sebastian Vettel was faster, positive means Charles Leclerc was faster

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Josh Holland
USA-based Josh joined the RaceFans team in 2018. Josh helps produce our Formula 1 race weekend coverage, assists with our social media activities and...
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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64 comments on “Team mate battles 2019: The final score – Vettel vs Leclerc”

  1. I would say Leclerc had a good first year in Ferrari. But clearly both drivers and the team and the mechanics and the strategists have a lot to think about over the winter.

    1. Indeed. Exciting but still too scruffy on all fronts to be able to challenge Hamilton and Mercedes’ flawless operations. Let’s see what 2020 brings!

    2. @pinakghosh pretty sure the kitchen crew was top notch as always tho

      1. @m-bagattini

        This comment is pure gold, mate

  2. I am going to predict that Leclerc will roll over Vettel next year and dominate him, which will force Vettel out of Ferrari.

    This, in combination with Lewis winning his 7th will trigger Lewis to Ferrari with Leclerc.
    Mercedes will be Verstappen and Alonso.

    1. Then you really must be smoking something.

      1. I think most of the inhalation took place before the last sentence. Alonso? Mercedes??!

    2. Alonso’s not coming back.

      1. Guess what? he did

    3. I’d love to see Alonso back, but do you really believe that?

  3. Leclerc beat vettel in qualy and points were it matters. Thats with losing a win through no fault of his own

    1. 2 wins, Bahrain and Singapore

  4. Imagine what Leclerc could achieve with a competent team behind him.

    1. Alexander Nicklisch
      6th December 2019, 18:34

      Imagine what Vettel could achieve with a competent team behind him…oh wait you don’t have to!

      1. Lets not forget adding a washed up driver as a teammate… or else why would the competent team support Vettel?

  5. Verstappen improved year-on-year from when he first joined Red Bull (relative to Ricciardo), and I expect the same from Leclerc. Now with a year at Ferrari under his belt and a confidence boost from beating Vettel, I can see him moving up a level in 2020. And I really do hope so. It would be great if Leclerc and Verstappen could be the challengers to Hamilton, it would be akin to when Alonso and Raikkonen were the rising stars looking to dethrone Schumacher.

    1. @mashiat I see the development curve as more promising for Leclerc than Verstappen actually.

      Verstappen has been quite fast from the beginning but error prone and too risky. Several years later and he has yet improved the speed and lower the risk and number of mistakes but he stays quite hot. Self belief is very high and he doesn’t seem to be questioning himself while at fault. I think this self confidence is hindering him to become even better or at least slowing his progress.

      Leclerc in the other hand has also been pretty fast from the beginning while less risky leading to less stellar drives during his first year but consistently bringing the car home in a respectable place. During his year at Ferrari, he has improved his speed even further (qualifying trend is highlighting that) and he is always putting himself into question when something doesn’t go right, lack of speed or there is an incident (whoever is to blame). Always looking for the potential improvement makes him a better prospect than Verstappen in my book.

      1. @jeanrien
        “Verstappen has been quite fast from the beginning but error prone and too risky. Several years later and he has yet improved the speed and lower the risk and number of mistakes but he stays quite hot. Self belief is very high and he doesn’t seem to be questioning himself while at fault. I think this self confidence is hindering him to become even better or at least slowing his progress.”

        Hahaha, what a load of bs….and really no one in the paddock agrees with you.
        According to everyone with half a brain and a little bit of intellect he has been performing on Hamilton’s level this entire season.
        Windsor ,Brundle, Brawn, every team boss, every ex driver, every driver’s wife, ex wife, pundit, every media post season driver’s rating……everyone lol. Man, I can’t stop laughing while highlighting how far off you are.

        21 Finishes in a row in the top 5 (The appropriate place for a Red Bull) or higher.
        Beating 2 Ferrari’s in a clearly faster car.
        Made 1 mistake this season for which he was to blame. (Mexico)

        Hmmmm, I don’t know what you’ve been smoking, but it sounds like mind shattering stuff…….

        1. Oconomo, saying that Verstappen had “21 Finishes in a row in the top 5 (The appropriate place for a Red Bull) or higher.” is, frankly, not a massive achievement given the performance difference between the top three teams and the rest of the field – not to mention that it’s clearly not possible that Verstappen could have had 21 finishes in a row in the top 5 this season when he had two retirements, a 6th place and an 8th place finish.

          You’re basically saying “Verstappen achieved the minimum performance that would be expected from any driver in the top three teams given that they were often close to a second a lap faster than the midfield pack in qualifying” – a statement of basic competence.

          By that logic, will you also sing Bottas’s praises for his performance this season given that he also has the same sort of record as Verstappen? Would you say the same thing about Leclerc as well, given his similar performance statistics?

          It’s a caveat that I would attach to the performance of all of the drivers in the top three teams this season – the performance difference is such that they should be achieving that sort of performance, so hailing that as an achievement does ring a bit hollow.

      2. Hm… Leclerc actually made more errors in his second year in F1 than Verstappen did in his first 3 seasons…
        All the media hype can not hide Charles mistakes…. Vettel had a very poor season, than Charles season simply can’t be great either as they are truly very close.

        Verstappen in fact hardly made mistakes, the media can be harsh, but the numbers don;t change…
        In his first year a crash in Monaco and a spin in Silverstone
        Second year another crash in Monaco
        Third year a crash with Dan…it was actually the very first time Verstappen was the cause of another driver taking any damage at all.

        1. @matn
          “ it was actually the very first time Verstappen was the cause of another driver taking any damage at all.”
          And it’s still the only retirement he was 100% guilty of.

        2. Monaco 2015 was completely his fault. As was China 2018. Moreover, you also missed the 2016 Belgian GP where he had several incidents.

    2. Hardly the rule, though. See Kubica vs. Heidfeld, or Raikkonen’s first stint with Ferrari.

      1. Kubica improved against Heidfeld after his first full season with BMW-Sauber, so I don’t quite see your point. Raikkonen got worse relative to Massa after his first season with Ferrari, but Raikkonen was already in his peak, and was always a driver with an extremely narrow operating window, so it’s no surprise he wasn’t consistent over a period of 2.5 years against Massa.

  6. A conundrum for Ferrari: they have one of the most talented young drivers in one car, but he is not ready yet to be a clear #1 (like Schumacher and Alonso were when at Ferrari).
    What to do until he is ready?
    – Continue with Vettel as their #1? Risk upsetting the development path of their young talent.
    – Let them both fight it out between them? Risking both titles. Or,
    – ‘Promote’ Leclerc to #1? Seems too soon to me; it might shortcut his development IMO.

    1. @coldfly

      Do Ferrari have a problem with replacing Vettel? There might be a day early next season where Ferrari need to have the talk with Vettel. Support Leclerc 100% or you’re out.

      That seems easier if there are drivers ready to step up, like a Red Bull. Kimi?

      1. The ideal situation for Ferrari (and for many fans) would be if Lewis ‘does a Nico’ this Christmas and is allowed to start with Ferrari in 2020*. @slotopen
        2020 (and maybe 2021) will be for Hamilton to show that he ‘is the chosen one’ to give Ferrari its next WDC.
        And Leclerc will learn a lot more when racing against Hamilton than (current) Vettel.
        In 2022 Leclerc can be the undisputed #1 with a solid #2 next to him.

        * I’m afraid if Hamilton waits (or rather ‘is contractually forced to wait’) until 2021 that it could be too late. Ferrari might just skip the mentoring phase for Leclerc and hire a #2 immediately.

      2. @slotopen Not Raikkonen. His time at the top level is over, and Ferrari know that as well. He is 40, it would be beyond idiotic to sign him at this point. If you want a number 2, get Hulkenberg or Perez. They’re younger and quicker than Raikkonen, and would also be cheaper.

    2. @coldfly

      The way I see it ..

      – Continue with Vettel as their #1? Risk upsetting the development path of their young talent.

      This shouldn’t even be an option for Ferrari.
      Vettel has failed to live up to #1 driver expectations in 2016, 2018 and 2019. That’s 3 out of the past 4 seasons. Heck, the one thing that Vettel has proved in 2018, is that he can throw away a championship despite having the fastest car on the grid. And the other thing he proved in 2019, is that he is capable of going without a win for more than a season even with a race winning car.
      Ferrari are definitely foolish, but making Vettel #1 would be far too foolish even for them.

      – Let them both fight it out between them? Risking both titles.

      The fans would love to see that … but I can’t see either driver keeping their toys in the pram. Plus, it just goes against Ferrari’s policy of one driver for the title.

      – ‘Promote’ Leclerc to #1? Seems too soon to me; it might shortcut his development IMO.

      That’s the only option left isn’t it?

  7. qualifying is rather only 10-9 (abu dhabi was the decider), because vettel was unable to take part q3 in austria due to an engine issue. i know you’ll say “and what about leclerc in monaco” – that wasn’t a technical issue, ferrari (or his crew) made a miscalculation

    both drivers made mistakes and i know it’ll hurt but they were very close to each other. the press will try to praise leclerc’s and criticize vettel’s saison as much as the journos can, but in reality vettel’s race pace was better during the saison (and in the deciding part of the saison he had to dnfs due to another technical issues). there’s way too much hype around leclerc

    btw leclerc should have been dsq-d in abu dhabi (=same number of podiums), everyone knows vettel was the real winner canada – and if i recalculate the points according to this they are also equal on points which is a real fun fact

    1. Even funnier fact is that Vettel was NOT the real winner in Canada. He cut a corner and rejoined the track seriously hampering another driver’s race.
      He deserved the penalty, hence he is not the race winner.

    2. if i recalculate the points according to this they are also equal on points which is a real fun fact

      Funny indeed when people make a lot of assumptions and then call it a ‘fun fact’ ;)

    3. An actual fact: leclerc outscored vettel this year.

      A fun fact: a woodpecker’s tongue is so highly evolved it has auditory sensitivity. It has a kind of ear on the end of its tongue.

      1. Now THAT’S a fun fact

  8. Leclerc outperforming Vettel was predictable. Before the season started I thought Vettel’s main advantage, one lap speed (and ability to lead a race), would be the biggest challenge. Leclerc took an impressively short time to turn that round. Let’s remember, from Spa and a few races on, it looked like Leclerc could start reeling Hamilton in. Vettel at Monza was possibly the most embarrassing performance by a F1 champion in a race ever. Beyond rookie bad. Then came Singapore, Ferrari pitting Vettel to come out ahead of Leclerc on the undercut, and – whatever the team’s intention – Vettel seemed to gain confidence to make a comeback, while Leclerc started to get scruffier.

    Obviously Leclerc is the future for Ferrari – unless they replace him with Verstappen, clearly the best of the new generation. But Leclerc is an exceptional talent. My only question is his decision to drive more aggressively. It was a response to MV but also, let’s face it, it’s a Ferrari thing too. Will that help or hinder him? He’s better than Vettel at racing, but still, as Verstappen knows, pushing too hard leads to more incidents and point losses. It’ll be intriguing to see how this plays out next season. Vettel, I just don’t see winning a championship with Leclerc there.

    1. “I just don’t see winning a championship with Leclerc there.”

      strongly disagree. experience is still on vettel’s side, so if ferrari can give him a better (=good) car (finally) he can easily beat leclerc. i don’t say he definitely will do it, but leclerc is not as good (yet) as everybody believes

      1. Ferrari has been giving him good cars since 2017. It is the structure and work ethic that needs to change. The strategic department for example, is a joke.

      2. if ferrari can give him a better (=good) car (finally) he can easily beat leclerc

        If memory serves, Ferrari gave them a good car in Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Singapore, Russia, Japan and Mexico.

        In those 10 races…

        – Charles got 7 pole positions, Seb got 1
        – Charles won 2 races, Seb won 1 (and that was only thanks to Ferrari strategy leapfrogging him ahead in Singapore).
        – Charles scored 164 points, Seb scored 129
        – Both lost a potential win due to mechanical problems, albeit Seb’s in Russia was race-ending whereas Charles still finished P3 in Bahrain. Even if Charles’ had been race ending, he would have still outscored Seb in these 10 races by 20 points. Both also had a potential win controversially not given due to penalties (Seb in Canada) or lack thereof (Charles in Austria), so that cancels each other out.

        Given the facts, I don’t see anything to suggest that a better car will give Vettel such a boost over Charles. If anything, when the car is at its best, it’s Charles who’s been able to extract more.

        Granted, Seb has far, far more experience of fighting for an F1 title than Charles. But given Vettel’s litany of errors in recent years – including his complete collapse in his 2017 title-challenging season – and having a far tougher challenge in Charles than he did Mark Webber, I don’t see evidence that past experience can give him much of an advantage over Charles, if any at all.

        1. In response to David, I tend to agree @ninjenius the better the car, the more chance Leclerc has to shine. I don’t see Vettel ridding his driving of his frequent mistakes and his pace seems to fluctuate too wildly.

        2. Ferrari gave them a good car should have been: FERRARI gave them a illegale car. Not that the results between the two divers would be different with a leagle car, but it would have been less impressive for sure.

        3. It’s not really about how fast the car is as much as it is where the car is fast, sebs driving style is a late turn in kind so for him it’s all about the exit if he gets a car with the rear grip and a strong front end some people believe his peak is higher than Hamilton or Alonso…… When everything comes together he can be unstoppable as was proved in 2010-2013. Also towards the end of last season Vettel was faster than Leclerc in both quali and the race he would’ve outquialified him 4 times in the last 5 races if Valtteri didnt crash out in Mexico he was 2 tenths up on the splits. I dont see any trend saying that leclerc qualifying is going to suddenly go through the roof and he’s going to be beating Vettel. We may even see a rejuvenated Vettel in 2020 who puts up perhaps his last challenge for a fifth title.

      3. David = 🤡🤡🤡

  9. I put Leclerc at the second tier with Max and Daniel now. The fact that he beat Vettel incites shades of Dabiel beatting the same Vettel in 2014. It surely must mean LecLerccan challenge Max? And keep in mind Leclerc is in only his second year. Max in his fith.

    Yes. The top tier has only one man on it. Hamilton. Max looks good but just like Vettel i need to see him drive against somebody else fast. Daniel i still put as second tier. I want to see Max and Hamilton in the same car to sew how close he can get to Ham.

    1. Meanwhile Charles is about equal to Vettel who got trashed by Ricciardo…. not to mention what Max made Dan look like…

      Donno how you can put Dan above Max…he beat his three times out of 20 races last season in which needed Max to make mistakes in each and every race he beat him. As for Charles, he’s been in autosports a year more than Max, and wasn;t hardly as impressive… Charles always was behind Max in karts and would probably be in F1 under equal conditions as well.

      It’s Max vs Lewis, the rest is at a good distance

      1. It’s Max vs Lewis, the rest is at a good distance

        Hardly believe that. I really believe that RIC, LEC would have performed better than BOT and HAM would have been challenged in the WDC.

    2. High chances VER will beat HAM, at least the way LEC performed against VET. He seems to be faster, most likely the fastest driver on the grid since he joined F1. Then, don’t think RIC is a tier2 driver, he seems better than that. Barrichello, Coulthard, Massa, Bottas, Webber etc are tier2 drivers, RIC seems better than them on all fronts: speed, consistency, racing skills etc.

      1. @mg1982

        High chances VER will beat HAM, at least the way LEC performed against VET.

        This is a weird statement. So because Leclerc beat Vettel, Verstappen could beat Hamilton?

        I’ll put it to you another way. If Daniel Ricciardo could beat Max Verstappen twice, despite not having Max’s speed- and if Albon could beat Verstappen until the penultimate race- I am pretty sure Hamilton will have incident prone Verstappen covered. Lewis is at the very least as quick as Verstappen if not quicker- I will put it at a hairs width over a season pending on which driver is more comfortable with the setup. But in terms of consistency, Max isn’t on Lewis’ level.

        Even if Max was in the Merc I fail to see how he wopuld beat 413 points by throwing away points like he did since the summer break and as I said, being beaten by Albon until Brazil.

        Seriously, Verstappen is quick but nowhere near the complete article. Hamilton is. Whether Max will learn from his mistakes remains an unanswered question given 5seasons on- we still see red mist such as in Mexico etc. Avoidable incidents.

    3. @david-beau

      Didn’t quite understand the logic. Verstappen is as good as Vettel, and Ricciardo (who gave Verstappen got the better of) is tier 2. Ricciardo smashed Vettel though… does that mean Vettel is tier 3 and Verstappen is equal to him.

      How can Ricciardo be tier 2 and Verstappen tier 3?

  10. While Leclerc’s season certainly not error-free, Vettel’s tendency to implode belief a driver of his experience and success At Monza, perhaps put out by Leclerc’s failure to give him a tow in Q3, he made an unforced error by spinning in the race.

    Come on…

  11. What surprised me was the poor race pace of the Ferrari on many weekends. On Saturday it looked like a championship-winning car, on some Sundays it was all over the place. Especially the last race in Abu Dhabi was incredibly poor, with both Ferrari drivers being schooled by Bottas on much older tyres (albeit on different compounds). It does make me wonder what Hamilton or Verstappen could have done in races in that Ferrari.

    1. I really do believe Mercedes is always sandbagging, especially when it comes to the winter testing.
      They were fast, but Ferrari seemed to be faster…then championship started and we saw what we saw thru the year.
      And it will be really difficult to beat them next year. Hamilton simply cruised to the victory in Abu Dhabi.

    2. @adrianmorse They lacked downforce, which increased tire wear. Also it seemed Ferrari had the best party mode of the three top teams.

  12. With three kids at home now, going into his 13th season I think Vettel must surely see the writing on the wall. Either he accepts the role Raikkonen had with him (experienced elder champion who brings solid points and occasionally wins) or stubbornly insist he is #1 and exacerbate the rivalry. The later isn’t going to win any titles against Lewis and Max.

  13. Vettel won the Q-battle in places he ran before and Leclerc not or just a few times. On the European tracks which are more familiair to Leclerc, he clearly was faster most of the time.

    1. What I find very interesting is, were it not for Ferrari favouring him with strategy in Singapore, Vettel would have endured another winless season in F1 driving a car his teammate won in.

      Last time that happened was also the last time he was beaten in the championship by his teammate.

  14. I think the graphic should have a third color on race finishes bar for “hold station” finishes. Leclerc would have finished ahead in Australia at the very least.

  15. I would say that Vettel was faster in Q in the first third of the season, Leclerc was faster in second, and they were pretty much even in last part. Why is 11:9 meaningless – Vettel had engine issue in Austria and France, Leclerc was screwed by Ferrari in Monaco, Vettel didn’t get final lap in Mexico, Leclerc crashed in Baku. The race score is also quite even, with both of them experiencing some bad luck. Mistakes wise I would say also pretty close – Vettel with Monza, Silverstone, Bahrain, Leclerc with Baku and Germany, got away in Hungary. I would not call Canada Vettels mistake, it was more than obvious that he was asking from the car more it could handle. Hamilton did a couple of lock ups at the hairpin, but would be all over ferrari in no time. The point wise – Leclerc finished ahead, but it was so close that saying Leclerc beaten Vettel is simply not in place. I would say Leclerc had some important ups than Vettel. I believe that next season will be similar, Leclerc will improve, Vettel will probably have a car more to his liking.

  16. Obviously Leclerc isn’t nowhere near of Kimi’s level but Vettel had a terrible season, which massively helped him.

    If Leclerc would’ve kept his car on track the difference would be even larger, and that looks really bad for Vettel. On the other hand Bottas lost Monaco GP win for unfortunate reasons and VSC cost him a win at Silverstone so these comparisons are never fully reliable.

    1. How did Bottas lose Monaco given he didn’t start on pole and during the race, he ended up 2 stopping to try and get ahead of the cars in front?

      Also in Silverstone Valterri was forced on to a 2 stop by the early HAM challenge in the early laps which made Bottas destroy his tires whereas Lewis could run longer. Whether Bottas could have caught and passed HAM on a 2 stopper is a big question but I don’t see those 2 races as “probable” Bottas wins that were taken away by events.

  17. The graphic doesn’t do Leclerc justice. He should’ve been ahead of Vettel in Australia, China and Singapore.

    What happened to Vettel in Australia is the same thing that happened to Hamilton in Italy. Hamilton lost the position to Bottas. Vettel on the other had was protected by his contract.

    With Vettel starting next year on a low, and Leclerc sure that he will stay with the team, my money is on Leclerc again for next season, and Vettel doing his last one wearing red.

  18. Stunning season from Leclerc, despite the rookie-like mistakes. Vettel was really shown up by Leclerc, but it is yet to be revealed if this was by a F1 great although it does look like it from his Monza performance.

    Vettel is also beset by a frustration that other champions going to Ferrari have had in the past, which have affected his performance. It must be doubly so to be up against the best team/cars of all time with no let-up in sight, but I expect him to settle more to his new fate as a 4-time champion only, and so for it to be closer next season.

  19. One of the drivers back in the classic era of F1 said that each child you have costs you a second per lap. Vettel has 2 children, so that would explain at least 5 tenths of his deficit to Leclerc and the decline in his wheel to wheel race craft.
    Having a family certainly takes the bite out of a driver, you can see the same with Kimi.

  20. It’s interesting that Leclerc had found the speed since France, perhaps team had helped him just put 4,88+ kg/hour of fuel more each race right after ?

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