Sebastian Vettel feels it is too early to consider Charles Leclerc as his toughest-ever teammate in Formula 1.

Vettel currently occupies fifth place in the drivers’ championship, sitting two places and 21 points behind his Ferrari teammate after a recent brilliant streak of form from Leclerc.

The Monegasque has claimed two victories to Vettel’s solitary win in Singapore and has also taken the last four pole positions on offer, out-qualifying Vettel at each of the last nine rounds heading into this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. 

Vettel has only been beaten by a teammate once before in his F1 career, when Daniel Ricciardo came out on top during the German’s final year at Red Bull in 2014.

Asked if he feels Leclerc is the hardest teammate he’s ever faced in F1, Vettel replied: “I don’t think it’s fair, it’s been too short.

“Certainly he’s young, he’s very quick. I don’t think there is anyone who doubts it.

“Ultimately you can’t compare, you need to put Mark [Webber], Daniel [Ricciardo], Kimi [Raikkonen], Tonio [Liuzzi], [Sebastien] Bourdais – did I miss anyone? – in the same car in the same time, so it’s not fair.

“Certainly in terms of raw speed, he’s very quick, but it’s very early for him, only his second season in F1, different to Kimi and Mark who had a lot more experience. I don’t know, I don’t look at it that way.

“It’s good he’s a real reference, especially in the times where I struggled to get the most out of myself and the car, it’s good to have that as it can also help you and as a team, it’s good to have two drivers fighting for the same ground on track.”

Vettel, who was knocked out of title contention in Sochi following his retirement, insisted he is not getting bogged down with thoughts of beating Leclerc in the drivers’ standings.

“It’s normal that you try to beat your team mate,” he explained. “It’s been the same in all the years I’ve been running in a team with two cars.

“In F3 I even had three team mates. I think that’s normal. That’s the name of the game, that’s competition, that’s how we grew up racing each other. We want to be faster than all the other guys.

“So I think there’s only one championship you can win. Which you arrive maybe it doesn’t look so good. Probably mathematically it’s still an option but it would require a lot of ifs so not the best looking forward.

“But certainly we try to use these races as a team to get the right momentum and get in the right place for next year because the cars will be largely the same. Anything we can learn this year still will help us for next year.”



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