Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto insists Vettel still is regarded as the #1 driver within the team, despite the outcome of the race and Leclerc’s superiority in Bahrain. However, he added that his position may change, in case misfortunes or different factors affect the internal balance at Ferrari.
Sebastian Vettel has been through challenging times both at the end of his Red Bull stint and at Ferrari, displaying weak pressure endurance, which would translate into unwanted verbal rants (Mexico 2016) or mistakes and shortcomings. Nonetheless, Ferrari has put its full trust in the German's hands since the beginning of the 2019 season, when he was put for the first time on equal machinery against a driver who was not Kimi Raikkonen.
"Certainly as a team we need to give the priority to the team, and try to maximise the team's points at the end of the race,” Binotto said. “And as I said at the start of the season, if there is any 50/50 situation where we need to take a decision, the advantage would have been given to Sebastian simply because Sebastian has got most of the experience in the team, in F1. He won four championships, and certainly for us he is the driver who's got most probability to challenge for the title.”
Leclerc is ahead of Vettel in the drivers’ championship after his strong performance throughout the whole weekend at Sakhir, but the team believes experience is a major factor on the long term. This is why Ferrari is sticking to the agreement that made at the very beginning, although things may evolve differently.
“If, as something we agreed with both drivers, in few races’ time, things may change, for whatever reasons – bad luck or whatever could be the situation – we may change our position on that.”
“But on the track they are free to fight, on the track I think if there is one driver who is certainly faster he will get the advantage” he added, stating that the team is not preventing Leclerc from delivering and accomplishing great results.
Therefore, Ferrari decided to stay coherent, as one mistake from their top driver is certainly not enough to make a change and prioritise his teammate. Furthermore, with reliability being quite precarious, as we saw this morning at Shanghai as well, the team ought to be cautious, as there are more key points to fix, and with higher priority.
As for Bahrain, Binotto stressed that he was more impressed by what the Monegasque showed after rather than during the race, letting his maturity surface once again.
"Losing was tough, but even more probably frustrating. But that has given us even more of a boost for the following races and for here in China. To Charles, what I told him is that I think he did a great quali and great race, but more than that I think he has been fantastic in the post-race comments."
“It shows that he is a really mature driver. So I simply told him ‘good job,’ but I’m more happy for what he did after the race than during the entire weekend. And that’s enough, because all of us are simply looking ahead and at the next challenge.”