All quiet on the Ferrari front as Vettel dismisses team orders boilover

Sebastian Vettel at the Japanese Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel insists all is well inside Ferrari after he appeared to baulk team orders at the Russian Grand Prix.

Vettel overtook Sochi polesitter Charles Leclerc for the lead at the start of race in Russia, but the pair bickered via their engineers over team radio about the execution of an agreement that would have seen the German cede the lead back to the Monegasque.

For several laps Vettel rebuffed calls to hand the position back until the team took matters into its own hands by pitting Leclerc first to give him an undercut advantage, which restored his lead once the sister car made its own stop four laps later before retiring with a power unit problem.

The atmosphere was prickly post-race, but speaking ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix Vettel said that the situation was clear with Leclerc and team boss Mattia Binotto.

“We spoke about it obviously, and more than once,” he said. “We speak with each other — that may be different to what some people think.

“But I think it’s pretty clear, and obviously now it’s two weeks ago, so we look forward.

“We didn’t write anything in stone. I don’t think it’s necessary.

“The priority is to work together as a team. I think here and there we could’ve done better, but we spoke about it and we try to look forward and make it better in the future.”

But that’s unlikely to be the end of hostilities between the red-clad pair now that the Ferrari car has discovered race-winning pace.

Vettel started the season as the nominated number-one driver but has been gradually overcome by his sophomore teammate. Leclerc has scored five poles and two wins to his teammate’s single pole and victory to lead him by 17 points in the championship standings.

“There will always be a certain competition between drivers,” Vettel said. “It’s been the case in all the years I’ve been in Formula One and it will be the case in the future as well.

“That’s the name of the game, that’s competition, that’s how we grew up racing each other. We want to be faster than all the other guys. That’s normal I would say.

“Obviously I’m not happy if I am slower, whether it’s practice, qualifying or race, but that has been the same not just this year but years before as well.”

Despite the momentum swinging towards his teammate, Vettel said he was confident he could still turn his season around, with the Singapore-spec upgrades that reignited Ferrari’s form bringing the SF90 towards his driving style.

“I genuinely believe it’s first a race against yourself and then the others,” he said. “In that regard, I struggled to extract what I know I have in me. On the other side, it also very quickly looks different on the outside than it does on the inside.

“There have been races where things didn’t fall into place and therefore things didn’t look great on the outside, but I think we were tackling the right things on the inside, so I’m not worried.

“There are certain things this year I’ve struggled with here and there with the car which didn’t allow me to extract my best; I don’t think it would have been any different if anyone else was in the car.”

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