Charles Leclerc says he still holds trust in Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel after the latter’s defiance of team orders in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
A pre-race agreement between Leclerc and Vettel called for the latter to slipstream past Sochi’s poleman after the start to allow the Ferrari duo to build its advantage over its Mercedes rivals before Vettel would give back the leading position to Leclerc.
The first part of the plan worked to perfection, with the German blasting off the grid, outpacing Lewis Hamilton into the first corner and slipstreaming past his teammate thereafter.
However, when the call came from the Ferrari pitwall telling Vettel to cede back the position, the German stalled the move by finding convenient reasons to remain in front.
Lap after lap, Leclerc was told “Sebastian will let you by next lap”, only for the positions to remain unchanged, a plight that understandably frustrated the Monegasque.
Ultimately, the situation between the two drivers was resolved, but not to Ferrari or Leclerc’s advantage.
Vettel was sidelined by an engine issue, while his teammate who had regained the upper hand thanks to the undercut was set back by the untimely activation of the VSC and the deployment of the Safety Car which – coupled with Mercedes’ tyre strategy – gave Hamilton and Bottas a crucial edge.
The talk after the race was rather Leclerc felt he had been let down or deceived by Vettel’s defiance of Ferrari’s orders. But the 21-year-old saw no reason to question his trust in his teammate.
“Yeah, I think the trust doesn’t change and I think we need to trust each other, Seb and myself,” said Leclerc.
“I think it’s hugely important for the benefit of the team in some situation, to know that you can count on the other car and vice versa.
“So, yeah, I think it’s very important, but yes, the trust is still here.”
Diplomatically, Leclerc said that the race’s circumstances had perhaps led Vettel to ignore Ferrari’s team orders.
“There was a safety car straight away, so then it was quite difficult, I tried to stay as close as I possibly could, for two or three laps, but then it was very difficult to follow – especially first and second sector, the tyres overheated, and then I dropped back a little bit,” he explained.
“But then I was, as I said on the radio, I had 100 percent trust in the team to do it themselves as it was agreed before the race, and that’s what they did at the pitstop.”