Charles Leclerc says he understands Ferrari’s explanation for its use of team orders during the Chinese Grand Prix, accepting it was “not an easy situation” to manage.

Running third, Leclerc was told on Lap 10 to let teammate Sebastian Vettel past in order to try and close the six-second gap to the two Mercedes drivers ahead before moving aside one lap later.

But Vettel was unable to cut the gap, with the move inadvertently dropping Leclerc into the clutches of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen behind. Leclerc went on to finish the race fifth.

Leclerc said in the immediate aftermath of the race that he would wait to hear an explanation from Ferrari’s engineers before passing comment, before explaining the talks at a press briefing a few hours later.

“Obviously we had the meeting,” Leclerc said. “It was not an easy situation. I was obviously struggling with tyres. We both were. But at the time, it just felt like Seb was quicker.

“But obviously being behind me for some laps, he also damaged his tyres, and when he went in front, his tyres were probably also damaged.”

Asked if he was satisfied with Ferrari’s explanation, Leclerc said: “Yeah. I mean, yeah.”

Team boss Mattia Binotto said Ferrari had explored every option to try and stop the Mercedes drivers from pulling any further clear at the front before settling on the call to switch Vettel and Leclerc.

“It’s always difficult to judge. I think what we tried at the time, we tried everything we could not to lose time on the Mercedes ahead,” Binotto said.

“That was the only chance that we got at the time. We tried, it didn’t work, but it seemed it was right to give that chance to Seb.

“I think as a team, we did whatever we could.”

Ferrari sits 57 points behind Mercedes in the constructors’ championship after three races, with Vettel already 31 points off Lewis Hamilton at the head of the drivers’ standings.

Additional reporting by Michael Lamonato.


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