It’s bad enough to lose one of your cars in a grand prix but what’s worse is losing two cars, particularly if both parties were involved in each other’s failure to finish. In Brazil, however, Ferrari did just that with both Leclerc and Vettel crashing out in an incident between the two.
Leclerc emerged with broken suspension, and Vettel had severe floor damage along with a puncture. It was only small contact, but the implications were much larger, as both red-clad drivers were understandably frustrated with one and other.
The incident took place towards the end of the race when the grand prix re-started after a safety car period for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas' DNF. The two were jostling for positions with Vettel wanting to keep Leclerc behind, after losing to Red Bull Racing’s Alexander Albon.
Leclerc eventually got past his teammate at Turn 1 but Vettel came back on him. As the German went past the Monegasque, a slight touch of Vettel’s rear left and Leclerc’s front right, it was enough to cause damage and ruin both of their races..
Tempers were high on the radio but post-race, things had calmed as Leclerc predicted that there would be no long-term animosity. “From my side, I overtook in Turn 1 and I enjoyed it,” he said. “In Turn 3 I had to close [the door].
“I was aware Vettel will try again and he did. He went around the outside, which there was little space, but I left the space. He took [it] and then towards the end of the straight, he started to squeeze me a little bit, to the inside, and we were very close.
“So everything happened very quick, and then as soon as he went to the inside we touched, and then I had a puncture. I’m pretty sure we are mature enough to put this behind us, at the end, both of us feel very sorry for the team.
“Both of the cars didn’t finish and that is very disappointing. For the future, we will put that behind [us] and continue to work together.” The FIA stewards looked into the case and decided that they no one particular driver was to be blamed for the clash.
Vettel was a man of few words after the incident as he only felt disappointed for the team. “From my point [of view], I didn’t have enough space on the right, and obviously I had a better run out of Turn 2 and tried to pass and that’s it,” he said.
“It’s a shame for the team, obviously, we didn’t finish the race.” It is another headache for Ferrari team principal Binotto, who also felt the disappointment, as he made it clear such instances would not become commonplace under his watch.
“I feel sorry for the team, and the drivers need to feel sorry for the team,” said Binotto. “They were free to fight, I think our second position in the constructor’s [championship] is given. They were battling for their own position in the drivers’ championship.
“I think silly mistakes are somehow, something we should avoid for the team itself, and it was a very small contact, but there will be time to analyse. There will be time to look at the video. I don’t want to blame anyone in the heat [of the moment].
“We will sit with the drivers [and sort it out]. There will be time to do it together.” It is expected that both Vettel and Leclerc will be summoned by Binotto at Maranello, not only to discuss Abu Dhabi, but crucially for the 2020 F1 season.
[Note: This story was written by me on Formula Rapida, and edited by Darshan Chokhani]