Toto Wolff believes Ferrari is making a "statement" by suggesting it will prioritise Sebastian Vettel over Charles Leclerc at the start of the 2019 Formula 1 season. 

Four-time world champion Vettel will be joined by new signing Leclerc at Ferrari this year after he was promoted to a race seat at the Scuderia following an impressive rookie campaign at Sauber. 

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said at the team’s 2019 car launch that Vettel may be favoured over Leclerc during the early rounds depending on the championship situation. 

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“Mattia has a tremendous task in front of him and I believe he wants to do it his own way,” Wolff said when asked about Binotto’s comments. 

“Team orders are always a controversial topic, we discussed it last year, be it within Mercedes or Ferrari, and coming out with that at the beginning of the season is a statement.”

Mercedes resorted to team orders in Germany and Russia last season in a bid to enhance Lewis Hamilton's title bid. 

Former technical chief Binotto heads Ferrari’s F1 operation this season after taking over the role of team principal from the ousted Maurizio Arrivabene, and Wolff has backed the Italian to prove a “force to be reckoned with”. 

“I have known Mattia for quite a long time, for many years as a technical director, first as the engine boss and then the technical director. 

“I respect him, he’s a very intelligent man, and knows how to maneuverer his way through the paddock. And he’ll be a force to be reckoned with, definitely.” 

Mercedes heads into 2019 looking to continue its impressive clean sweep of every single championship title on offer since the start of the V6 hybrid era in 2014. 

A sixth successive world championship double this year would see the German manufacturer match Ferrari’s all-time record set between 1999 and 2004. 

“It’s very motivating as it wasn’t done before,” Wolff said. “Equally, there is a reason why it wasn’t done before, because it is very difficult. 

“It feels like you’re 30 secs left in the Superbowl and you need to catch the ball, that’s not trivial to catch the ball in the last pass, and drag it over into touchdown zone. 

“That’s a little bit how it feels but Ferrari is going to do everything to not make that happen, and equally some of the other teams.” 

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