Ross Brawn has warned Ferrari its driver combination of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc must be handled carefully as he sees it as “potentially explosive” following their face-off during the Russian Grand Prix.

Ferrari opted for a pre-race agreement to see pole-sitter Leclerc give the slipstream to teammate Vettel, who was starting in third place, in order to leapfrog Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and gain an early 1-2. Ferrari then requested Vettel give the lead back to Leclerc but instead the four-time Formula 1 world champion upped his pace to keep clear of his teammate until the pit stops.

It triggered a series of radio messages between Ferrari and its two drivers as Vettel appeared to ignore team orders, something team principal Mattia Binotto has disputed, which has led to apparent fractions within the Italian squad.

Former Ferrari boss Brawn feels Binotto must handle this developing teammate dynamic carefully to ensure the team remains united rather than fighting against itself.

“It’s a potentially explosive combination and needs careful handling,” Brawn, F1 Managing Director of Motorsport, said. “Of course, Mattia is well aware of how this kind of dynamic can work as he has experienced it before when he was a young engineer, but now the honour and obligation falls to him to make sure that mechanism that drives what can be healthy rivalry runs smoothly.

“On the one hand they have a four-time world champion who is still one of the finest drivers on the grid, despite a few too many mistakes over the past two seasons. And on the other, they have an incredible talent in Charles Leclerc – after all you don’t take six poles (including four in a row), and win two races at legendary circuits such as Spa and Monza if you’re not a star in the making.”

With the Ferrari controversy becoming annulled when Vettel suffered an MGU-K failure, as the Virtual Safety Car period allowing Mercedes to pit both its drivers and retain the lead with Hamilton, Brawn feels there will be no need for any hard reaction from Binotto but concerns will remain for the upcoming races.

“Vettel’s pit stop (after which he emerged behind Leclerc) followed by his retirement meant there was little point in any recrimination,” he said. “But it’s a fact that Mattia Binotto will have work to do in the next few days to pour oil on what seem like turbulent waters.

“Ferrari has clearly made a lot of progress in recent weeks but it still probably has to deal with a few internal issues in terms of the balance between its drivers.”

 

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