Charles Leclerc accepts he had to be cautious overtaking Sebastian Vettel as his Ferrari teammate but had no hesitations racing against the German as he did during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

After the 21-year-old was instructed to hold station behind Vettel during the 2019 season opener, while Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has previously said he’s ready to use team orders, the perceived favouritism to the four-time Formula 1 world champion was shattered as Leclerc was allowed to take on his teammate after falling behind him and Valtteri Bottas in the sprint into the first turn.

After getting past Bottas at the start of Lap 2, Leclerc sent a team radio warning that he felt faster than Vettel and duly dived up the inside of his Ferrari teammate with the boost of DRS at Turn 1 on Lap 6 to retake the lead.

Leclerc says he was purposely careful with his overtake on Vettel to avoid clattering his teammate but had no concerns about taking on the move.

“It’s always a tricky situation when you get to fight your teammate because the risks are very high and, as in every team, they warn you before the race: OK, you can try things on different people, but with your team-mate, please be careful – which is something normal,” Leclerc said. “It’s always obviously that something more.

“I had the opportunity and I didn’t hesitate, I just sent for it. I was happy it was successful the first time I tried, especially after the bad start. So yeah, happy with how it ended up.”

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When quizzed about his Ferrari team radio message, Leclerc says it was merely confirmation he felt faster rather than asking his team to let him overtake Vettel.

“I was just letting them know. I think I had an answer, ‘okay, stay like this for two laps’ but then on the next straight I had the opportunity to go for it, so I went for it and it was a successful pass and then I was just quicker, so then I did my race,” he said.

Cruelly for Leclerc his hopes of a maiden F1 win were crushed by a late engine issue which allowed both Mercedes drivers to skate past and push him into third place.

“Then obviously, to lose the lead in this way it’s always a shame and always a disappointment but I also had a lot of things to do and there were still points to grab so I very quickly got back to focus on my race,” he said.

“The win was out of reach because of the problem but there were still very important points to gain.”

 

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