After just one race of the new F1 season, it seems that Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has already been established as the team’s number two driver after being given orders not to overtake his teammate Sebastian Vettel in Melbourne this morning.
With just a few laps left of the opening race of the year, Leclerc appeared to be closing in on Vettel, and asked his team through the radio whether he could overtake. However, he was swiftly told to “back off to have some margin,” - scroll down to see the radio exchange.
This comes after Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto had said in the build-up to the campaign that both drivers were “free to fight” each other, and that there would be no team orders in regards to race position.
In the end, Vettel placed fourth and Leclerc fifth in what was a less than memorable start to Ferrari’s season.
However, despite not being able to get more points on the board, Leclerc appeared to be respectful of the team’s decision.
“I got off to a great start and found myself in a good shape to fight,” Leclerc said.
“I tried to overtake Max on the outside but Seb was blocked by the two Mercedes.
“I also went outside Vettel, and I don’t know if he saw me, but I had to go on the grass because I didn’t have any space left and I lost a position to Max.
“In general, the car was quite difficult to drive. However, the second stint was more positive.
“I had the pace to get past Seb, but the team decided to freeze the positions via team radio. In the end there was nothing to win. I understand.”
Ferrari’s main title rivals, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, secured a one-two in Melbourne to take an early lead in the race for the title. Vettel and Leclerc finished almost a minute down on winner Bottas, but Leclerc still feels upbeat about Ferrari’s chances in 2019.
“It wasn’t a fantastic race, but on the other hand we know that the Melbourne track is atypical.
“That’s why we don’t have to panic. We know that the Mercedes is very strong, but we are much closer to them than we have seen today.”
All of this year’s contenders will next be on the grid in two weeks for the second race of the season, this time in Bahrain.