Ferrari’s team radio communication in Sochi caused great drama within Ferrari and for all F1 fans involved – thus harming itself. A commentary by Bianca Garloff, editor-in-chief at Auto Bild Motorsport.
Mercedes-Benz sports chief Toto Wolff already prophesied in Singapore that the rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari will pick up speed. Just a race later, it seemed Ferrari really wanted to prove Toto right!
At the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, the Scuderia wanted to perform an act planned and scripted in great detail. The master of all this director Mattia Binotto (team boss):
At the start, Vettel was supposed to catch Lewis Hamilton with the help of Leclerc’s slipstream. Then, according to the script, Ferrari would be able to control the race with two drivers in front.
What the command post didn’t include in their script: the unpredictability of the sport and the ambition of its assets. In the end, it came, as it had to come:
Vettel didn’t need Leclerc’s slipstream to catch Hamilton. Instead, he got off so well that the slipstream of his teammate catapulted him to the front before the braking zone. Also, Vettel was faster.
Nevertheless, Ferrari and the red Crown Prince stoically stuck to the script. It went so far to demand from Vettel to slow down, to bring Leclerc back in front.
Now, let’s forget for a moment, who did and didn’t stick to what agreements. The question should be: Is that still racing? Does Ferrari already determin before the race start who should win and who shouldn’t?
I say: It’s not just arrogant to think that’s possible, it’s also cheating on the fans, on Formula 1 and on the sport itself.
How many times have we criticized Mercedes when Lewis Hamilton was given way to the detriment of his subservient team-mate? At least, Hamilton was fighting (usually) for a championship title.
Ferrari, on the other hand, has already lost the championship in the first half of this season. Now it’s about honor. For the team and its two pilots.
But the Scuderia is anything but honorable when its sacrifices a fourfold world champion to bring the new shooting star – no matter what – to the front.
Should Vettel really slow down for Leclerc now? How do you think it feels? Vettel had the better start, was faster than his teammate and still wasn’t heard by their own team.
We can’t clearly proof Vettel’s degradation by Ferrari. Allegedly, they wanted to let him stay out longer to cover a possible safety car incident, Binotto explained afterward and the exchange was no intention. Honestly, you don’t even have to be an expert to see that the tactic was planned.
Anyway, for me, it’s all a nonsense discussion. Let the pilots drive freely! Let them fight it out among themselves! Let them be heroes! And don’t degrade them being pawns of a command post!
But make no mistake, the internal politics within Ferrari will continue. Leclerc and unfortunately Binotto as well have already achieved one thing: In scapegoat for the whole charade has already been found by the international press – Vettel, who didn’t stick the team’s agreement.
At least, the fans saw it differently. They chose him as the driver of the race.
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.