Charles Leclerc is the only driver who came close to putting an end to the Mercedes dominance in the start of the 2019 Formula One season, as the Monegasque driver was leading comfortably in Bahrain, before an issue with his Ferrari SF90 cost him what would have been a sensational victory in his second race for the Maranello team. The luckless Charles Leclerc had looked like becoming Ferrari’s youngest ever race winner, at 21, after starting on pole position and leading comfortably. Instead, the Monegasque ended up third.
Speaking for BBC, Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto confirmed that the Italian side is more than happy with Charles’ debut for Ferrari: “He is very fast, even surprisingly very fast in the start of the season. But more than that, he is a very mature driver. He is a hard worker, he is really working very well with the engineers. Charles has got a lot of, let me say, desire to perform well and that is something on which we are very happy.” – Mattia Binotto said.
There have been many discussions regarding Ferrari team orders in start of the season and despite the media inevitably trying to generate interest by painting a less than accurate picture of the situation within the team, Mattia Binotto explained that both drivers proved to be team players. In Bahrain, Charles Leclerc took matters into his own hands and passed Sebastian Vettel a few corners later anyway. How did Ferrari handle the fact he had disobeyed a direct team order, even if it was the correct decision?
“We discussed that all together,” Mattia Binotto says. “Together with Charles, together with Seb. He disobeyed, yes, but he overtook with no risk. But more than that, he was quite disciplined because he first came on the radio when closing the gap on Seb and asked: ‘What should I do?’ I was happy about that. So he recognised the team interest, but also that at that specific moment he was faster on the straight and he had the opportunity. So it is fine. We understand these situations. In this circumstance, he was fast enough to overtake and maybe it was more the mistake on our side to [ask him to] wait to overtake for a couple of laps.” – he added.
Asked about Sebastian Vettel, the Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal said: “Seb is a fantastic driver. He has been four-times world champion. I believe that if he is comfortable and he has serenity in his mind, he can deliver well.” But does Sebastian Vettel’s contract dictate that he is number one driver? – “No.” Mattia Binotto says. “It is not a matter of being number one driver. It is team interest first.”