Toto Wolff has sympathy for Ferrari’s team orders situation but believes it has made life difficult for itself after Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc swapped places during the Chinese Grand Prix.
Vettel had started ahead of Leclerc on the grid but fell behind on the opening lap, closely following his teammate during the early stages of the race. Ferrari then opted to swap the drivers to allow Vettel to try and close the gap to the two Mercedes cars in the lead, but the German was unable to pull away from Leclerc, who made it clear he was then losing time running in dirty air. Wolff (pictured above with Vettel) says Ferrari made a risky call by reacting to one driver’s comments early in a race.
“That’s a tricky situation of course, because you would like to have the quicker car hunting down your opponents,” Wolff said. “Sebastian said that he had the quicker car at that stage, so they reverted the order. I can understand that somehow.
“Nevertheless, once you start doing these things, it becomes very complicated, because you start to set a precedent and you’re opening up a can of worms — and then every single race the car that is behind would say, ‘I can go quicker.’ So it’s not an easy situation.”
However, Wolff says Ferrari is not alone in having to manage that situation, pointing to the last two pairings at Mercedes as having created similarly difficult scenarios.
“We have been there. We have been there with Nico (Rosberg) and Lewis (Hamilton), and we have been there with Valtteri (Bottas) and Lewis as well. We had a situation where they were pushing each other very hard, taking a risk of potentially not finishing the race (in China). So it’s not a Ferrari problem alone. Every team has that issue if you have two alpha drivers.”
Vettel himself pointed to Mercedes’ use of team orders in last year’s title race as vindication for Ferrari’s own approach, but says it was frustrating the end result in China wasn’t as strong as it could have been.
“Mercedes has been in a very different situation, but I think it’s not the first time that we’ve seen something like that,” Vettel said. “We try to do everything as a team. Two weeks ago, Charles was faster and it was quite straightforward, maybe a bit easier to pass in Bahrain.
“But I think the upsetting thing after the race is that we didn’t manage to finish third and fourth. Obviously I want to be ahead of Charles, he wants to be ahead of me — that’s the name of the game.”