Russian Grand Prix – Charles Leclerc is seeking discussions with Ferrari after admitting that the opening lap plan was for team-mate Sebastian Vettel to be slipstreamed ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari were left with an early complication from a successful start to the race when Sebastian Vettel jumped from third to first at the start.
This led to early discussions about the running order of the drivers, with the radio messages between the drivers suggesting that a pre-race agreement had been put in place between the drivers.
Leclerc claimed that he had helped the team by providing an opening lap slipstream to Vettel, and should have been given the position back.
Vettel argued that he did most of the start-line work himself and that both drivers should remain in position to extend the gap to Hamilton, who was running in third at the time.
The lead held by Vettel gradually extended, but he lost the lead when Ferrari gap a multiple-lap undercut to Leclerc to bring the Monegasque ahead.
It was all in vein for Vettel, though, who retired moments after exiting the pits, triggering a virtual safety car and handing Mercedes a pit stop at a reduced time loss.
Eventually finishing in third, Leclerc confirmed in the post-race interviews that the agreement was to always give Vettel a slipstream, but he added that he wanted to discuss the issue with the team further in the debriefs.
“I will always trust the team, but the tactic was me giving the slipstream [to Vettel] for us to be one-two at the end of the straight, which happened,” said Leclerc.
“But after that, I don’t know what happened, I need to speak to the team to understand the situation better.
“We were quick. We definitely had the pace to finish ahead of Valtteri [Bottas], but it was quite tricky to follow. As soon as I got under one-and-a-half seconds behind him, everything would overheat and it was quite a difficult time for us. Third today is the best we could’ve done with the safety car.”
He added that, despite the qualifying performances, Mercedes remain quick in race trim and more performance needs to be found by the Ferrari team.
“At least we are quite consistent. It’s good to be back on the podium, even though it’s a shame for the team to not have the second car here. On our side, it was an okay-ish race. Mercedes are still very quick in the race runs, compared to qualifying, so we need to try and understand and improve that in the next races.”