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2019 F1

Ferrari priority is Vettel, not Leclerc – boss

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Mattia Binotto has suggested 2019 will be a close three-way battle for victory.

The Italian, who remains the technical director, is also Ferrari’s new team boss, having taken over from the ousted Maurizio Arrivabene.

“True, they are completely different roles,” Binotto said. “But I’m fortunate to count on a strong team. Everybody knows exactly what he has to do.”

Ferrari has launched its 2019 car with lightweight matte paint. Binotto says it is an “evolution” of the 2018 machine with some “extreme” details.

“We have carefully examined what has been done by Mercedes and Red Bull,” he told Italy’s Autosprint.

“We have studied the details and I congratulate them because there are some original and interesting innovations.”

Robert Shwartzman, a Russian driver and member of Ferrari’s development ‘academy’, told the Championat publication that he has driven the car in the simulator.

“Compared to the previous car, the changes are quite small and in speed it is almost as good as the previous one,” he said.

Sebastian Vettel gave the car its real ‘filming’ track debut at Barcelona on Sunday.

Although highly rated youngster Charles Leclerc has joined Ferrari, team boss Binotto says quadruple world champion Vettel remains the number 1.

“If certain situations occur in the first part of the season, our priority is Sebastian,” he said.

“He should lead us to the title. This is completely normal and not a disadvantage for Charles,” Binotto insisted.

However, he admitted that Leclerc is likely to be competitive in 2019, as he is “gifted”.

“Sebastian has nothing to prove, and Charles still has a lot to learn. But honestly, I would like the problem of having to deal with two drivers in top positions,” said Binotto.

If Leclerc gets the upper hand, though, Vettel’s place as team leader would be in doubt.

The German driver said: “I think everybody knows that my contract runs until 2020, so I do not expect anything else other than that. I am very happy here.”

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