SUZUKA: Squabbling teammates Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc on Thursday insisted “everything is clear now” with Ferrari team orders after their Russian Grand Prix debacle.
The Scuderia saw their race in Sochi fall apart handing Mercedes a one-two after a pre-arranged plan for Leclerc, who started from pole position, to “tow” Vettel into the lead unravelled when the German refused to give back the place before retiring with a mechanical problem.
Leclerc told reporters in Suzuka ahead of the weekend’s typhoon-threatened Japanese Grand Prix that team principal Mattia Binotto had held talks with both drivers to iron out a “misunderstanding”.
“Yeah, obviously there was some misunderstanding from the car but I think we’ve had a discussion and everything is clear now,” said Leclerc.
“Obviously it felt like it was a huge deal from the outside, which it definitely wasn’t, but yeah, now everything is fine.”
Vettel disobeyed team orders in Russia and Leclerc seemed to have a further dig at his teammate before trying, cryptically, to wriggle out of it.
“I think that’s clear from the beginning of the season, we need to obey team orders,” said the Monegasque.
“And what is clear is that the situation wasn’t clear for both of the drivers, starting the race, and I think that’s the most important.
“So we spoke about it and we’ll make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again in the future.”
Vettel agreed with his teammate that relations between them and the team had been resolved but admitted: “There are certain things we could have done better.”
“We spoke about it obviously, more than once,” Vettel told reporters.
“We speak with each other. Maybe different to what some people think. But I think it’s pretty clear. But in the end, we look forward and look forward to this race and the next races. So not worried too much.”
Vettel shrugged off suggestions that Ferrari rookie Leclerc’s recent electrifying pace, which has seen him win two races and top Vettel consistently in qualifying, had any bearing on what happened in Russia.
“Charles is doing a very good job, but I genuinely believe it’s first a race against yourself and then the others,” said Vettel.
Saturday’s qualifying and practice have been put in doubt by the approach of Super Typhoon Hagibis, which has caused the cancellation of two Rugby World Cup games.
Japanese Grand Prix organisers will make a decision on Friday whether to move qualifying to Sunday morning, saying the safety of fans and drivers was their top priority.
“I think it’s pretty clear if the typhoon is going to come here there’s no way we can drive,” said Leclerc.