Former Ferrari Boss, Luca di Montezemolo, Slaps Down Petulant Charles Leclerc
Luca di Montezemolo, the former Ferrari boss who revived the brand to its current status, has weighed in on the recent inter-team rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. Leclerc, in his second season of Formula One, is becoming the heir apparent of the next cycle of F1 stars. The 21-year-old was meant to be Vettel’s understudy but has shown speed and driving nous to match his teammate. Leclerc has out-qualified Vettel 8 times in a row, has two victories to Vettel’s one and could have won at least three more had misfortune not struck.
At the Singapore Grand Prix Leclerc set his car up for qualifying, whereas Vettel set his car up for the race. This meant Leclerc had the better one-lap advantage, he promptly secured pole position. But during the race, Vettel, who qualified third, had the better race pace. Prior to the race, an agreement was made between the two Ferrari drivers that if Vettel takes the lead at the first corner he should give it back to Leclerc. The theory being Leclerc had a better race pace and had the best chance to win.
In the end, Vettel’s diligent decision to focus on the race meant he had the higher-ground advantage. Vettel was within his right to ignore team orders, indeed he should not have made the agreement in the first place. You can not expect a multiple world champion to give way to a junior understudy no matter how good he is.
For Vettel Singapore was not about naked ambition, it was about pride and personal status. He didn’t win due to mechanical failure but he made his point. One day in the future, when the likes of Hamilton and Vettel have left the sport Leclerc will be in a similar position with a faster, younger teammate to fend off. And he will take the same decision to ignore team orders as Vettel did in Singapore.
Leclerc pressed his team during the Singapore race to all but instruct Vettel to move over. In an interview with Italian media Luca Di Montezemolo was asked how he would handle the Vettel vs Leclerc rivalry:
“I assure you that if you came into my office with such complaints you would hear more than a few words,” said Luca di Montezemolo.
But di Montezemolo did heap praise onto Leclerc:
“They often ask me to compare that driver with that other, Schumacher with Lauda and so on. Let’s talk about generations and Charles Leclerc is one of the best of his.”
Luca di Montezemolo cited the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix, about how to manage driver rivalry. Rubens Barrichello, leading the leading Austrian Grand Prix for Ferrari, was instructed to let teammate Michael Schumacher by on the last lap. However, Barrichello initially refused.
“I still remember that fight with Barrichello, to whom we told Michael to pass and he was angry. I told him he had to do what I had decided. And that’s that.” recalled di Montezemolo.