‘We made the right choice’: Ferrari defend team orders to allow Sebastian Vettel to pass Charles Leclerc during Chinese Grand Prix
- Ferrari bosses made Charles Leclerc move aside for Sebastian Vettel
- Leclerc, in just his third Grand Prix, had been reluctant to move for team-mate
- It is the third time this season that Leclerc has been subject to a team order
- He later dropped behind Max Verstappen as Lewis Hamilton won the race
Ferrari have stood by their decision to hand Sebastian Vettel preferential treatment in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
As Lewis Hamilton moved into the lead of the championship for the first time this season, by virtue of winning Formula One’s 1,000th race, Charles Leclerc found himself under instruction to relinquish third place to his more experienced team-mate.
Leclerc, in just his third outing for Ferrari, had been reluctant to move aside for Vettel, and later dropped behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, too, after the Dutchman stole a march with an early stop for new tyres.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari reflects after being subject to team orders the in Chinese Grand Prix
Leclerc was asked to move aside so his Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel could pass him
The Monegasque, who has now been issued a team order by Ferrari at each of the opening three rounds, admitted he was frustrated with the decision and wanted an explanation.
But Mattia Binotto, the rookie team principal for Ferrari, insisted they delivered the correct call in favouring Vettel, the four-time world champion and winner of 52 grands prix.
‘We made the right choice,’ he said.
‘It was not easy to give the order, and I thank Charles for the way he behaved and showing he is a good team player.
‘We tried everything we could not to lose time on the Mercedes cars ahead and that was among the only chance we got at the time. So, we tried. It didn’t work. It was right to give Seb that chance.’
Vettel (bottom) ahead of Leclerc after being allowed through during the race in Shanghai
LeClerc pictured in the pits during the Chinese Grand Prix – he ultimately finished fifth
Hamilton finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes secured a hat-trick of one-two finishes from the opening three rounds.
The Englishman, a six-time winner in Shanghai, is already 31 points clear of Vettel in the championship as he chases a sixth title.
Leclerc is a point further back.
‘We definitely didn’t expect to have three one-twos, but I’m proud to have been part of the work that everyone has done and to be a part of these results,’ said Hamilton as he celebrated his 75th career victory from 232 starts.
Hamilton, who is now just 16 wins shy of Michael Schumacher’s win record, jumped pole-sitter Bottas with a fine getaway.
‘The start was where I made the difference,’ he added. ‘After that it’s history.’