Why Leclerc must be prioritised at Ferrari

Leclerc himself torpedoed a decent chance in Japan when the arrival of arch-rival Verstappen around his outside at Turn 1 prompted a red mist moment. Then, arguably conservative Ferrari strategy cost Leclerc in Mexico. Right there, 10 races Leclerc could have won from the first 19, instead of the two he actually claimed.

The pace is clearly there, and that’s Ferrari’s problem. Vettel is the senior statesman, a good guy, intelligent, with a wry sense of humour and a fine ambassador for the sport. He’s hard not to like.

But Eddie Irvine always told it like it is and has done so recently in an interview with an online gambling company. Vettel, Irvine says, is not a worthy four-time champion. He’s good but mistake-ridden. And Eddie doesn’t think he’s super-quick either, claiming that we saw that when he was bested by Daniel Ricciardo in 2014, and are seeing it again.

There were times this year when Vettel has not been sacrificed because of his status and Ferrari has lost races because of it. The intra-team rivalry had flashpoints in Monza, Singapore and Sochi and is becoming a problem. Team principal Mattia Binotto calls the ‘problem’ a luxury. But it’s one he could do without.

At the start of the season Ferrari announced that it would start off prioritising Vettel. It’s now time they did the reverse. The timing screen, ultimately, decides a team’s number one.

By design or coincidence?

Ferrari’s lacklustre performance in the US Grand Prix, after being bang on the pace ever since F1’s August break, prompted much muttering and speculation in the days and weeks that followed the Austin race.

Ferrari’s power unit has given the red cars a straightline speed advantage all season but, after a poor display at Budapest in August, Ferrari took a run of six straight pole positions only halted by Mercedes in the USA.

The Ferrari speed advantage has always been much more prevalent in qualifying than in races but, in Austin, Charles Leclerc finished more than 50sec behind the winning Mercedes, just as Ferrari had done in Budapest. It happened just a day after the FIA issued a Technical Directive (TD).

An intrinsic part of F1 is looking for exploitable loopholes in the regulations. If a team believes it has found one, it may seek to clear it with the FIA. The FIA will then pass an opinion that such a thing is legal, or refuse it. If it’s the latter, a TD is issued to all teams telling them of the inquiry and the reasons that it has been denied.


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