Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto explains decision to issue team orders at the Australian GP

F1 Grand Prix of Australia - Final Practice

The contentious topic of team orders in Formula 1 has come to the fore once again with Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotta telling new Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc to back off from Sebastian Vettel at the Australian GP.

The four-time World Champion was comfortable in third place for the majority of the race, but began to lose grip on his medium set of tyres.

That setback saw Red Bull driver Max Verstappen pass him for third place, while Leclerc was gaining very quickly on his new teammate.

When Leclerc had moved to almost level pegging with Vettel, he asked Binotta what he should do, to pass the German or stay behind him.

Binotta told the former Sauber driver to stay where he was and still believes it was the right call.

"By Friday we were not comfortable on this track," Binotta said, per Planet F1.

"Although we did a lot of set-up work, we did not find the right balance and even our qualifying performances showed that we struggled to adapt to the Albert Park track.

"Then, during the race, during the first stint, we tried to keep the pace. Charles made a slight mistake, which prevented him from staying with the leaders.

"After his pit stop, Seb’s car never found grip on the medium tyres and so he was unable to attack those ahead.

"When he could no longer defend himself from Verstappen, we decided that the most important thing was to go all the way and manage the tyres.

Binotta said that when the 21-year-old caught up with Vettel, a decision had to be made.

“When Charles caught up with him, it seemed wiser to take no chances.

F1 Grand Prix of Australia

“We are leaving Australia with a lot of data to analyse and we will use it to determine how to return to our level of competitiveness."

While it was the best finish in the 23-race career of the Monaco-born youngster, he was left in no doubt whatsoever over where his position is in the pecking order.

How he deals with that as the season progresses remains to be seen.

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