The Singapore Grand Prix 2019 gave Formula One fans the barest hint of a rivalry forming between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel. Apparently, Mercedes has noticed this as well and team boss Toto Wolff believed that it has the potential to escalate.
At the recently concluded race, Vettel finally opened up his account when he pitted a lap earlier than Leclerc. In other words, he went for the undercut instead of Ferrari pitting the lead car first.
Evidently, a furious Leclerc did not appreciate the stunt and made his feelings known on the radio. It was worth noting that Vettel warned that a driver would be “very misled if you ever think that you are bigger than this team”.
Admittedly, Mercedes can breathe easy, knowing that there will be no such rift between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. This partnership is a whole lot more civil than when Hamilton partnered Nico Rosberg. When those two fought for world titles between 2014 and 2016, the animosity was getting to toxic levels.
Speaking to Motorsport.com, Wolff said: “I think always two alphas competing for position has the potential for a rivalry, and an escalation within the team. We’ve been there and I think today as a team we’re very strong with a clear philosophy.”
“On the positives, they [Leclerc and Vettel] keep taking points away from each other, which is an advantage, but I don’t want to look at points at that stage.”
“It’s about optimising what we have, winning races and doing the best you can, and we didn’t do that [in Singapore].”
Ahead of the season opener earlier this year, Vettel was regarded as Ferrari’s number one driver. However, the impressive form of Leclerc, with five poles and two wins threatened that title. Now, the Monegasque driver is four points ahead of Vettel in the championship.
Up until now, everything was rosy between them, but then the Singapore Grand Prix happened. Ferrari’s communication over its strategy was the biggest cause of Leclerc’s ire and he really let them have it on the radio.