- F​errari fumbled a 1-2 after multiple radio messages between Leclerc and Vettel caused a stir during today's Russian GP.

Are tensions rising within Ferrari after Russia?

F​or the second time in as many races this season, we saw tempers flare at Ferrari as Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc battled for victory in Sochi, utlimately leading to a retirement from Vettel and Leclerc finishing 3rd. Do the Scuderia have trouble on their hands?

1y ago
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L​et's face it, Formula One is no stranger to strong inter-team rivalries. The first driver that you must compare yourself to is your team-mate. It's been made no secret that Sebastian Vettel had been struggling to get on top of the Ferrari in 2019 until his victory at Singapore last week, and it hasn't helped his case that he has arguably the fastest young driver in F1 snapping at his heels in the sister car. Charles Leclerc has given the German plenty to think about so far this season, and even led the four-time world champion by six points prior to today's Russian Grand Prix. It's not quite as bad as 2014 for Vettel, but there's no doubting that the 21-year old Leclerc is more than a match for the once adored Maranello son.

B​ut today's action in Sochi added a new problem for team boss Mattia Binotto to contend with. Charles Leclerc dominated the Belgian Grand Prix, followed by a sensational performance in Monza to hold of both Mercedes' drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas to claim the Scuderia's first win on home turf for nine years, and cementing his legacy amongst the Tifosi in the process. Vettel had been on the ropes since the Canadian Grand Prix earlier in the season, and he's slowly fallen out of championship contention. That was until until last Sunday evening at Marina Bay Street circuit where the German snapped a 392 day winless streak to score his first win since the 2018 Belgian Grand Prix. But this weeks race in Russia seems to have raised even more tension within the Ferrari camp, as a clear 1-2 was on offer for the dominant red car until a VSC trumped them, allowing Lewis Hamilton to sneak in for victory.

T​tensions are definitely rising.

S​o where was the race won and lost in Sochi?

In typical Russia style, the start was a slipstreaming affair. Leclerc lead away from the lights, with Hamilton and Vettel side by side through the sweeping turn one until Sebastian dragged up on Leclerc and passed the Monegasque driver into turn two. The Ferrari duo began to slowly pull away from Hamilton in third place, and argued between each other, using the team's strategy department as a middle man to their opinions as to how they should attack the race. Vettel wanted to keep the lead, and Charles wanted to be let back past. Vettel made it very clear that he deserved to be there, and immediately pulled out a four second lead to show his intentions.

S​ebastian Vettel's storming opening laps was thwarted after being kept out and losing the lead to his team mate Leclerc before retiring with an MGU-K issue on lap 27.

S​ebastian Vettel's storming opening laps was thwarted after being kept out and losing the lead to his team mate Leclerc before retiring with an MGU-K issue on lap 27.

A​nd this is when we saw the Sebastian Vettel of old. The fire was back for Vettel, and he easily had the measure of his young protege. But it was becoming evidently clear that Ferrari had a pre-race plan that wasn't being adhered to by Sebastian. So Ferrari pitted Leclerc early and left Vettel out to cover for a safety car eventuality, essentially splitting the strategy. But the fresh tires for Leclerc was enough to allow him the ability to regain the lead once Vettel finally made his stop several laps later. The whole radio communication issue was quickly forgotten after Vettel retired after leaving the pits, with the German pulling off at the end of the lap with a very rare MGU-K issue. But the irony of him pulling off was leaving Leclerc vulnerable to the eventual Virtual Safety Car that allowed Hamilton to pit and come out ahead of Leclerc and control the race from there. Ferrari shot themselves in the foot today.

I​s there now a rift at Maranello?

C​onsidering the manner in which Leclerc lost the Singapore Grand Prix last Sunday, and then how the race went for him in Sochi today, he handled it extremely well, with professional responses to the media and a great body language. He could've easily have won the last races, and he knows he has Vettel right where he wants him. Sebastian Vettel on the other hand is no stranger to awkwardness and commotion with team mates over the years. He showed displeasure with Mark Webber back in the Red Bull days, and no one needs to be reminded of Turkey 2010 or Malaysia 2013.

While it is a long shot to say that Leclerc and Vettel will have the same rocky relationship that Vettel and Webber endured during Red Bull's dominant years, it is fair to say that Singapore and now Russia would've had a more negative effect on their relationship rather than a positive one. Leclerc would've taken it personally regardless of knowing what was better for the team or not. He will of course understand why Ferrari have done what they did in the previous two races, but he will still feel rather hard done by, and will be seeking instant redemption at Suzuka in a couple weeks time.

L​eclerc now leads Vettel by 21 points in the drivers' standings with fives races to go.

L​eclerc now leads Vettel by 21 points in the drivers' standings with fives races to go.

S​o what can we expect from Suzuka in a couple of weeks?

Ferrari have now had the best car at four completely different circuits. With Spa-Francorchamps' high aero efficiency package, Monza's low drag package, and Singapore's traction package, as well as Russia's point and squirt nature, the team in red have managed to nail all types of track since the summer break. So it goes without saying that the team from Maranello will be going to Suzuka in a couple of weeks as favourites. And with Ferrari's clear performance advantage in the engine department, don't be surprised if one of two Ferrari's are on the front row come Saturday afternoon.

T​he championship isn't over until it's over, and both Vettel and Leclerc are still mathematically in the title hunt, and will be looking to take big points out of Hamilton's sizeable lead right up until the final race in Abu Dhabi. But this will eventually cause a problem within the Ferrari camp, and eventually the team will have to put all their efforts behind one driver to pursue Hamilton in the quest for an unlikely championship upset.

E​ither way, tensions are rising as we reach the conclusion of this gripping 2019 campaign. Ferrari will be scratching their heads as to where this pace was at the start of the season, but they were too busy fumbling race strategies and having a general lack of pace to the Mercedes cars, even if they showed dominant pace during the pre-season test in Barcelona during the winter months.

B​ut now Ferrari have the car to challenge for victories in the remaining five races, and it should be a fantastic duel to the flag in Abu Dhabi between the top three teams, let alone between Charles and Sebastian within the Ferrari team.

T​his one isn't over.

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Comments (26)

  • Ferrari had to do that in order to cover Seb (and maybe Charles too) from Max Verstappen. Seb won it on the out lap.

      1 year ago
    • The out lap and in the closing stages with the safety car restarts. The race was there for the taking and seb didn’t give Charles a chance

        1 year ago
    • Oh I agree, Seb did a cracking job in the out lap and deserved the win for sure. And we all know he’s one of the best safety car restart specialists.

        1 year ago
  • It’s a RACE Seb overtook you Charles put the dummy back in, if he caused an accident a different story. If there’s a chance to overtake then a driver will go for it why start a race with doubt in your mind if your allowed to overtake it’s not what fans want to see we want wheel to wheel nose to rear racing.

      1 year ago
    • I fully agree! Ferrari’s team orders are not helping the show. I’m a firm believer of having team orders banned, but it is a team sport, so it’s a bit of a catch 22.

        1 year ago
    • I don’t mind team orders in some aspects, like last race & it means stopping another teams driver from winning I get that it’s a team sport, but for me it’s catch me if you can what driver wants to freely give up positions.I don’t think they could...

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        1 year ago
  • No team orders, let them race. The Hamilton / Rosberg battles were great to watch.

      1 year ago
    • Indeed they were! Ferrari have always played this way though, so don’t expect the games to stop any time soon.

        1 year ago
  • To be strictly honest I think Vettel has proved that he is a good drive with a good car. And Hamilton is roughly the same although he has has more luck with teams.

    The best driver left last year, he was Fernando Alonso. Kimi Räikkönen is also one of the old breed. Maybe Verstappen and the news boys will hopefully prove me wrong.

      1 year ago
    • I love Fernando as a racer, but Hamilton has overtaken him in terms of quality over the past few years. Hamilton is the most complete driver on there grid, there is no doubting that. Vettel still shows glimpses of speed, but he’s soo...

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        1 year ago
    • I agree with Hamilton been the most complete and most consistent driver on the grid. Hopefully one day he will become more successful than Schumacher.

      Also can not forget Noris!

        1 year ago
  • do you think Ferrari turned Sebs NGK-U off to make a point

      1 year ago
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