With two consecutive wins under his belt and a pole-position start to work with, Charles Leclerc had every reason to believe he had a shot at his third straight victory. He had the pace, he had the consistency, he had the pit strategy over his competitors. But, in a disappointing return to form, Ferrari handed the win to Sebastian Vettel Again.
Vettel was winless in 2019 up until today, while Leclerc managed two consecutive wins leading up to Singapore. Some may have wondered if the team had a new star driver. Ferrari sent a message today: when the choice is there, Ferrari picks Seb.
In this case, Ferrari’s opportunity came with the pit strategy. They brought in Vettel first and used Leclerc’s pit stop to position Seb in the lead, undercutting his own teammate.
Ferrari made a habit of this kind of strategic nonsense earlier in the season, like in the Chinese Grand Prix when they forced Leclerc to move aside for Vettel because Vettel thought he was faster. A weak point, considering that if he were really significantly faster he wouldn’t be behind Leclerc in the first place.
It’s also hard to pretend that this is a selfless, “for the team” mentality and not Seb’s ego. When given the same order during his Red Bull days, he was ordered not to pass teammate Mark Webber for the lead. He passed him anyway.
But Vettel is the veteran, the superstar, the golden boy. And Ferrari makes sure that Leclerc knows it. Even though he got overtly annoyed on the team radio and in post-race interviews early in the season, Ferrari still prioritised Seb. After all, he was their best driver and the one who had actually won a race.
That’s no longer an argument they can really make. While Vettel has a longer history with the team, Leclerc has proven that he is one of the most talented drivers out there and brought more wins home this year than Vettel, despite the team politics.
Leclerc himself probably thought it’d be different after he won two races. Two races, we should note, that Vettel was so far behind that Ferrari had no chance to give him preference over Leclerc. But as soon as the opportunity presented itself, Ferrari undercut Leclerc.
He understandably seemed annoyed with the strategy and angry in interviews. He has every right to be. If Ferrari wants to keep one of the best drivers in the world racing for them, maybe they shouldn’t make him defer to Vettel whenever the entitled veteran “feels faster.” Or, at the very least, don’t make him give up a three-win streak just to feed Seb’s ego.