Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari’s Russian GP controversy proved that Sebastian Vettel is “clearly not” their ‘number one’ driver anymore – but doesn’t think the team prioritising Charles Leclerc is a good idea.
Vettel and Leclerc’s topsy-turvy first year as team-mates has been one of the most intriguing themes of F1 2019 and their most recent disagreement came in Sochi, when Ferrari asked Vettel to swap places with the young Monegasque, who he had just passed for the lead.
Hamilton felt that team order by Ferrari, which was disobeyed, made it clear that they have now switched their focus to Leclerc, who has more poles and victories than four-time world champion Vettel this season.
“It’s an interesting dynamic they have there because obviously Seb was number one and now clearly not,” Hamilton told reporters ahead of the Japanese GP.
“From the energy, the outlook, they’re trying to ramp Charles up to be.
“Is that good for a team? I don’t think so. But that [having a number one] is the philosophy they’ve had for forever.”
Hamilton admitted that it was just an “assumption”, but urged Ferrari to find the right way to “manage” the pair and their “friction”.
Both drivers cited a miscommunication for the mishap in Sochi – Leclerc moved to the left-hand side of the track to give Vettel the ‘tow’ to overtake Hamilton, but the German had such a good start that he didn’t need that advantage and then darted down the open inside line to pass his team-mate.
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“I understand that working ethic,” said Hamilton, citing occasions when he and Valtteri Bottas had worked together to keep other drivers at bay.
He then expanded: “I think Charles said ‘I’ll let you take the tow’ and then didn’t move to defend, which he should have done.
“You don’t give up the place and expect to get that back. I wouldn’t give it back.”
Asked if he felt sorry for Vettel, Hamilton added: “I don’t know what Seb’s feeling… I’ve not had a team back the other side so much, so heavily, before.”
Hamilton reminded of that 2007 seasonThe Englishman then compared the Ferrari situation to his own at McLaren in 2007 when, as a rookie, he partnered up with a multi world champion in Fernando Alonso.
“When I was with Fernando, obviously he was number one but then mid-season they changed that to make it to equal. Then that dynamic shifted.
“There are drivers who always wanted that number one status and it’s easier for them. I like to earn that. Start on an equal platform, then either of you can get that number one status on that weekend – weekend in, weekend out.