Charles Leclerc insists he still trusts Sebastian Vettel despite his teammate ignoring team orders to switch positions early in the Russian Grand Prix.
Vettel picked up a tow from Leclerc on the run to Turn 2 at the start of the race, with the pair working together to ensure Ferrari ran first and second ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap. Leclerc then expected to be given the position back in the opening stint, but Vettel defied requests from the team to let him by in the first stint. Only an early first stop for Leclerc allowed him the undercut that gained him back his position ahead of Vettel, although it was not in the race lead.
“I think the trust doesn’t change and we need to trust each other, Seb and myself,” Leclerc said. “Because I think it’s hugely important for the benefit of the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car and vice-versa, both ways.
“It’s very important, (and) yes the trust is still here.”
Leclerc delivered a number of calm radio messages to Ferrari about the situation in the opening laps, making it clear he had held up his side of the bargain; and he said later, he maintained trust the team would address the situation at some stage.
“I think everything was respected at the start. I went to the left to give Seb the slipstream; I knew he would overtake. Then we just had to do the swap back.
“The situation then, though, was quite tricky. There was a Safety Car straight away. I tried to stay as close (to Seb) as I could, but then it was very difficult to follow, especially in the first and second sector. The tires were overheating and then I dropped back a little bit.
“Then, as I said on the radio, I had 100 percent trust in the team to do it as it was agreed before the race, and that’s what they did in the pit stop.
“I actually had no reason to fight because, as I said, I trusted completely in the fact that we would swap back after, so there was no need to take any risks at that time. That’s why I just didn’t fight.”
With Vettel retiring on his out lap after losing a place to Leclerc, the Virtual Safety Car allowed Hamilton to pit and retain the lead. Leclerc said his chances of winning would not have been greatly altered if Vettel had moved over in the opening stint.
“Not if the (Virtual) Safety Car had been at the same time. To be honest, that was the main thing that went wrong today but there was nothing that we could have done. It’s a shame for the team because I believe we had the potential to do very good today, and, yeah, with the Safety Car at that time of the race, it was not great for us.”