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2019 F1

Leclerc not denying he wants to be number 1

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Charles Leclerc has refused to deny he thinks Ferrari should switch the order of the team’s number 1 and number 2 drivers.

Prior to the season, boss Mattia Binotto said that despite Leclerc’s obvious promise, it is Sebastian Vettel who will get Ferrari’s full support for the title.

But Vettel is now under fire for being outpaced and spinning two weeks ago in Bahrain, prompting the question about whether it should be Leclerc with the favoured position.

“This question should be asked to Mattia,” Leclerc said in China.

“It’s not my decision. Unfortunately,” he smiled.

Quadruple world champion Vettel praised Leclerc’s driving so far in 2019 but agreed with Lewis Hamilton that he is fully capable of bouncing back.

“Maybe he (Hamilton) is the only one with more than short term memory,” said the German.

Leclerc revealed that his and Vettel’s driving styles are different, and defended his decision to ignore a team order in Bahrain instructing him not to pass his experienced teammate.

Vettel agreed: “Charles was much faster than me so it would not have made sense to stop him.”

But the press continues to pound Vettel with pressure. Germany’s SID news agency declared from Shanghai: “Is Leclerc the career killer for Vettel?”

Massimo Rivola, the former head of Ferrari’s driver development academy, said: “Charles can make life difficult for any driver.

“He is one of the few who aims to succeed as much as Fernando Alonso,” he is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Charles wants to win and he gets things done with a disarming smile. I think he will win the title this year,” said Rivola.

If that happens, the driver earmarked as Vettel’s potential successor is Mick Schumacher.

Willi Weber, who was the great Michael Schumacher’s manager, told Kolner Express newspaper: “Of course Vettel has to deliver now.

“Vettel has often proved that he can do it, but if he cannot do it quickly now, he will quickly be gone at Ferrari.

“Mick would certainly be the first choice. Ferrari is preparing him for that,” Weber added.

At any rate, Ferrari’s main rival Mercedes is expecting to again be outpaced in Shanghai, thanks to a clearly more powerful engine.

But Vettel said: “In Australia we were weak on the straights and in Bahrain we were strong. I don’t think you can talk about a trend.”

Hamilton agrees that only “little things” have been added to the Mercedes package in reaction to Bahrain.

“You don’t catch up that quickly with the engine,” said the reigning champion. “Or you’d have to take big risks with the development for that.”

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