Charles Leclerc insists the trust he has with Ferrari Formula 1 teammate Sebastian Vettel remains intact despite confusion over a pre-race agreement in the Russian Grand Prix.

Leclerc did not fight a fast-starting Vettel on the long drag down to Turn 2, instead allowing him to move into the lead of the race by sticking to the left-hand side of the circuit, handing Vettel the benefit of a slipstream.

The move proved controversial when Vettel ignored initial instructions to hand the place back to Leclerc, with the German concerned by the diminishing gap to the chasing Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in third.

Ferrari ultimately put Leclerc onto the optimum strategy, enabling him to leapfrog Vettel, who later retired with an MGU-K failure in his SF90.

"I think the trust doesn’t change,” Leclerc said.

“We need to trust each other, Seb and myself, because I think it’s hugely important for the benefit of the team in some situations to know that you can count on the other car and vice-versa.

"In both ways. I think it’s very important but yes the trust is still here.”

Expanding on the pre-race agreement for the start, Leclerc added: “I think everything was respected at the start.

"I went to the left to give Seb the slipstream, I knew he would overtake and we knew that. Then we just had to do the swap back and we did it at the pit stop later on in the race.

“Then our race went downwards as soon as Seb had the issue, the [Virtual] Safety Car didn’t come at a great time for us. Everything was more complicated from then on.

“I actually had no reason to fight because as I said, I trusted completely in the fact that we would swap back after, so there was no need to take any risks at that time.

“That’s why I just didn’t fight.”

Vettel’s stoppage ironically caused a Virtual Safety Car that handed victory to rivals Mercedes, with Hamilton able to make the most of a free pit stop while Leclerc was unable to drive at full speed.

Leclerc ultimately finished third behind both Mercedes drivers after making a second pit-stop to switch onto Soft tyres under a separate Safety Car period.

Asked if he felt he could have won the race if Vettel had allowed him through earlier in the race as initially instructed, Leclerc replied: “Not if the Safety Car had been at the same time.

“To be honest that was the main thing that went wrong today but this was nothing that we could have done.

“It’s a shame for the team because I believe we had the potential to do very good today and yeah, with the Safety Car at that time of the race, it was not great for us.”

 

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