Ferrari admits Sebastian Vettel will get priority treatment over new teammate Charles Leclerc in the opening portion of the 2019 Formula One season.
Ferrari was criticised for its application of team orders last year, having hesitated at several key moments — it dithered on ordering Kimi Raikkonen to move over for Vettel in Germany before allowing its drivers to fight for the lead on the opening lap of the Italian Grand Prix, handing the initiative to Lewis Hamilton. By contrast, Mercedes wasted little time implementing similar instructions in Germany and Russia.
Further strategy blunders and a series of errors by Vettel ultimately prevented him from winning the championship.
The arrival of Leclerc is one of the fascinating storylines going into the new season and many expect the highly-rated youngster to give Vettel a sterner challenge than he received from Raikkonen. However, new team boss Mattia Binotto admits the team will favour the four-time world champion early on.
“I think it’s normal, especially early in the season, that if there are particular situations our priority will be Sebastian,” Binotto said at the launch of the team’s 2019 car. “He is the guide with which we aim for the championship.
“But there’s no prejudice — the absolute priority is for Ferrari to win.”
Despite that admission, Binotto is hopeful Leclerc will turn out to be as competitive as many expect him to be.
“To have a driver pairing so competitive I think it’s not a problem but an opportunity. Sebastian has little to prove, and he remains our guide. Charles still has to learn, as pointed out by himself, but we know how talented he is.
“I hope to have this problem of having two drivers to manage among the top positions.”