Japanese Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc says things are ‘fine’ between himself and teammate Sebastian Vettel after their Russian ‘misunderstanding’.
Tensions have been rising at Ferrari between teammates Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc as their car has become a viable contender for race wins in the second half of the season. With Vettel’s usual favoured position at the team coming under threat from the Ferrari-backed Leclerc, the German driver snatched victory away from his young teammate in Singapore after a tremendous undercut and drive at Marina Bay.
In Russia two weeks ago, Vettel hooked up his start to jump past front row starters Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc but team radio revealed a strategy had been decided pre-race that Vettel would use Leclerc’s slipstream to get past the Mercedes driver. Vettel, however, felt he had hooked up his start all by himself and hadn’t needed Leclerc’s help to take the lead. This meant that, when the call to switch positions came, Vettel ignored it and continued to pull away until his pitstop. It all became moot after his stop when his car suffered an MGU-K failure.
Vettel had a publicised meeting with team boss Mattia Binotto at Ferrari’s base in Maranello two days after the race, while Leclerc says he did the same thing the day afterwards: “Unfortunately I had some things happening on the day Sebastian was in Maranello, so we didn’t have the chance to meet-up together – but I had a meeting with Mattia and he had one with Seb the day earlier.”
Explaining the circumstances from his perspective, Leclerc said: “Obviously there was some misunderstanding from the car but I think we’ve had a discussion and everything is clear now. Obviously it felt like it was a huge deal from the outside – which it definitely wasn’t but yeah, now everything is fine.”
“I think that’s clear from the beginning of the season, we need to obey team orders and what is clear is that the situation wasn’t clear for both of the drivers, starting the race, and I think that’s the most important (thing). So we spoke about it and we’ll make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again in the future.”
With Ferrari taking four pole positions in a row since the summer break, and winning three of the four races in that time, Leclerc said he sees no reason why the trend can’t continue this weekend if the weather permits normal running: “It’s working pretty well since we came back from holidays. The car feels great. We’ve had, I think, four poles in a row, which is always nice. The last two races have been a bit… not what I expected, but the performance is there, which is the most important, and there are no reasons for us not to be competitive this weekend. So, yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I think we need to focus on the Friday especially. Saturday seems to be very tricky, if not impossible to drive, so Friday will be very important. And I hope we can have a very positive Sunday.”