Big trouble at Ferrari in Russia. The internal competition between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc is escalating and threatening Ferrari’s recent success. This is what the experts say:
After the GP of Russia, one thing is clear at Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel (32) and team-mate Charles Leclerc (21) won’t become good friends in theirs lives. After the race in Monza and Singapore, and now the third time in Sochi there were serious differences between the two fighting cocks with the alpha gene.
As a reminder, in Monza Leclerc refused the German to give the agreed slipstream in qualifying, which would have brought him the pole position ahead of Leclerc.
The result, Leclerc was on pole instead, won the start and finally the race. Vettel, extremely angry, risked too much and lost his car in one corner.
In Singapore, Vettel came in to pit before Leclerc and won the race. Leclerc moaned excessively on the radio, complaining about the undercut – although he should have blamed himself for losing precious time the laps before.
In Sochi, Leclerc was on pole but was ordered to give slipstream to help Vettel pass Hamilton. However, Vettel started better than even Ferrari expected, overtaking not only Hamilton but also his team-mate.
After that, he was faster than Leclerc and therefore didn’t let him pass. Ferrari tried to correct the situation during pitstops. In the process, they let Vettel starve with old tires and allowed Leclerc the undercut this time. Very soon after that, Vettel dropped out with engine failure
Hard to imagine what would have happened if he had been second on the podium behind his junior Leclerc.
His reactions after the failure were obvious: “I have fulfilled my part of the arrangements, everything else is explained internally.”
The German was visibly angry. And this is exactly where Ferrari’s problem begins. It’s hard to say that team boss Mattia Binotto was overwhelmed for the first time this season. The Swiss-born, with the youthful radiance of a Harry Potter, has lost his magic for the first time since being team principal.
He tried to explain his self-defeat after the race, but his words didn’t match his facial expressions and body language. “Everything is ok,” he wanted to convey. There wasn’t a problem within the team.
But this time, no one in the press room could believe him. But impartial experts and observers had some clear words to say:
“Ferrari has given Mercedes the victory,” analyzed RTL expert Christian Danner.
“Vettel was faster in the race than Leclerc, so why should he let him pass? Ferrari messed it up.”
“Even without the safety car that Mercedes put on the charts, they would have destroyed Vettel’s race.”
Jacques Villeneuve had this to say:
“Vettel has tuned his car for the race and he was much faster there. And you know that points are only given in races. Ferrari has now a serious problem.”
What the Canadian means, in the future it can’t go well with the two fighting cocks. In Sochi, the power struggle already led to a loss of a believed victory.
The young Leclerc, who believes the team will support him, will soon demand the number one position. He relies on his manager Nicolas Todt, who does politics behind the curtains.
His father Jean, president of FIA and former head of the Scuderia, still has a great influence on Ferrari. To the detriment of the German, who so far renounced political games.
“That’s a matter of attitude,” he once justified his passivity behind the scenes to Auto Bild and F1-Insider. For Vettel insiders like Red Bull chief advisor Helmut Marko, it is clear:
“Ferrari managed not to win with the fastest car. They sacrificed Sebastian, even though he was the fastest man.”
Marko therefore to Auto Bild and F1-Insider:
“Vettel has no future at Ferrari, that’s clear for me now.”
The fans at least sympathized with the German and showed Ferrari the red card. In the vote for the “driver of the race” Vettel won. He now has to consider how he proceeds in the last five races of the season and whether he still does a 2020 Ferrari season despite the existing contract.
A change to another team isn’t possible. It would not be until 2021 that new opportunities arise for the four-time world champion.
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.