Sebastian Vettel insists he has a good relationship with Charles Leclerc and says it is key for Ferrari to be successful at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and beyond.
The two Ferrari drivers collided when fighting in the latter stages of the last race in Brazil, with the team holding clear-the-air talks back in Europe before flying out for the final race of the season. Vettel was not present to face the media in Abu Dhabi on Thursday as he delayed his arrival following the birth of his third child, but after Friday practice he was keen to talk up his relationship with Leclerc.
“Obviously it’s unfortunate what happened, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Vettel said. “That’s clear. That’s the most important. The key for me is that we get along, we don’t have a problem with each other. I know that the outside tries to hype this a little bit, but actually there’s nothing to worry about from the inside.
“I think the lesson is that if we race each other then we need to give each other more room to make sure that we don’t touch. It was a very little touch, but the touch led to a result.”
Ferrari looks well-placed to challenge Mercedes at this early stage of the weekend as the two drivers ended up third and fourth in FP2, with Vettel saying he got away lightly with a spin at the end of the first practice session that resulted in his hit the wall at Turn 19.
“It was a bit of a surprise — I didn’t expect to actually spin. I knew that going in I would have to catch the rear, didn’t quite work. So it was a bit unfortunate, but there was no damage other than the rim, so I got lucky.”
Leclerc followed suit by touching the wall at the same corner in FP2, but he says that incident shouldn’t overshadow good progress made by Ferrari between sessions.
“The day started actually pretty badly for us, one of the hardest sessions of the year in terms of balance and overall quite a messy session,” Leclerc said. “But we worked very well between the sessions, and we gained quite a lot of performance for FP2.
“FP2 was pretty positive, apart from the race pace on the soft (tire), where I think we can do better. We need to work quite a bit on that, but the hard, the race pace was very strong, so that is a good thing.
“The whole third sector is pretty difficult because it’s overheating in the rear. Especially this corner, as soon as you go a bit too wide you lose a bit of grip, and I’ve been surprised by that.”