Ferrari will continue to prioritise Sebastian Vettel over Charles Leclerc in any “50-50 situations” that arise, according to Formula 1 team principal Mattia Binotto.

Vettel currently lies fourth in the drivers’ championship, 18 points ahead of Ferrari teammate Leclerc, who has taken three consecutive podium finishes and narrowly missed out on victory last time out at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Ferrari stated at the beginning of the season it would support Vettel in any “50-50” scenario that would aid the German’s position in the championship, and instructed Leclerc to remain behind Vettel in Australia and Bahrain - the latter order he ignored - while it swapped its drivers around in China in favour of Vettel.

But after Mercedes won eight of the opening nine races of the season, Ferrari now finds itself with a huge deficit to its chief rival in both championships.

Asked if Ferrari would still give Vettel priority despite Mercedes’ large lead, Binotto replied: “I think we said at the start of the season that we are here to get maximum points for the team. I think the team is first.

“The 50-50 situation really needs to happen and as I said Sebastian was in that case the one with priority.

“Sebastian is still the one ahead in the championship between the two drivers at the moment so if there would be any 50/50 certainly we will give the advantage to Sebastian.

“But I think as the championship is going on, Charles is certainly proving that he is a very fast driver, he’s been on pole and he had plenty of opportunities to win races. We will never stop him.”

Leclerc has outqualified and outraced Vettel at the last two races in France and Austria, and Binotto believes the Monegasque’s resurgence has been a direct result of starting to find his feet within the team.

“I think first he is getting more used to the team, our way of working, knowing better his own engineers and mechanics, he's certainly fitting more into the team itself,” Binotto explained.

“I think the start of the season certainly everything was more new around him, his second season in F1 but with Ferrari, with the pressure to manage, with the strong drivers around him and in the same car.

“So, it's a lot of things around him to manage and to understand and also not to distract him as well and to focus on himself and after several races he is getting more comfortable with the team, with his pace and performance and he's more and more focused on the task to improve himself all through the weekend and race by race.

“In quali, I think how you prepare the best performance for Q3 from Q1, understanding the track evolution is something he is getting used to it and the result in the race is getting a lot stronger.”

 

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