Vettel or Leclerc - do Ferrari need to choose a leading man?

By Sports Desk September 30, 2019

It is not an issue Ferrari could have imagined having to consider a matter of weeks ago.

The Scuderia had not won a single race heading into Formula One's mid-season break, with a variety of woes hampering new man Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel appearing a shadow of his former self.

But despite Mercedes' one-two in Russia on Sunday, both men have hit form and that has given Ferrari a bit of a problem.

For two weeks running, the inexperienced Leclerc has fumed that four-time champion Vettel has found himself in the lead despite lagging in qualifying.

The team's tactics have scarcely come under greater scrutiny, even if Leclerc remains diplomatic in public - seemingly happy to forget his team radio rants the moment he leaves his SF90.

"I think everything was respected," he said in Sochi, wilfully ignoring his earlier complaints that Vettel was taking his time to accommodate a position swap after Leclerc "played the team game".

In Singapore, where Leclerc raged Vettel's undercut was "not fair", the 21-year-old similarly backtracked: "In the car, it's frustrating and then, as soon as I thought a little bit more of the situation after it, you see the things maybe a bit differently."

The Monegasque could pile further pressure on his team by starting to stand by his mid-race thoughts in the hours and days that follow.

So we weigh it up: do Ferrari need to choose between the two drivers?

 

WINNING CAN ONLY BE GOOD

The radio squabbling might not be a good look, but Ferrari could understandably care little if they continue to perform on the track. There was comparatively little tension between Leclerc and Vettel earlier in the season when neither driver was winning.

Now, the Scuderia have had four straight poles - all for Leclerc - and gone on to win on three of those occasions. Only an MGU-K failure in Vettel's car that forced him to retire and enabled Lewis Hamilton to pit under the virtual safety and retain the lead denied them another victory in Russia.

The battle to be the main man at Ferrari appears to be bringing the best out of both stars.

MERCEDES SHOW HOW IT'S DONE

In 2018, it was Mercedes who were at the centre of a team tactics storm. Valtteri Bottas went the entire season winless but would have had victory at the Russian Grand Prix had he not been ordered to allow Hamilton through.

Of course, the chief difference between the situation there and at Ferrari is that Hamilton won the drivers' championship and Mercedes collected the constructors' title, justifying their decisions.

By the start of this season, the Silver Arrows were on the same page, beginning with five straight one-twos - including a pair of Bottas wins.

TIME TO CHOOSE THEIR HAMILTON?

Mercedes may have two stars, but they also boast a clear leading man - unlike the Scuderia. Bottas was permitted to take on Hamilton early in 2019 but can be under no illusion when it comes to the identity of the team's star.

Hamilton extended Mercedes' winning run through eight grands prix this year and is on course for a sixth championship - his third in a row.

Vettel cannot claim to have this season shown the experience and quality that led him to four titles, with Leclerc performing in a superior manner. The former champion and the up-and-comer can each justifiably feel they deserve special treatment - and Ferrari have so far found themselves stuck in the middle.

While their chances of hunting down Hamilton this season appear extremely slim, the Italian outfit have shown potential for 2020.

In order to provide a consistent challenge to Hamilton's crown, they must surely choose their own contender and back him week after week and avoid the confusion of these debates.

Related items

  • Presidents Cup 2019: Leishman and Ancer's incredible comeback against Thomas, Fowler Presidents Cup 2019: Leishman and Ancer's incredible comeback against Thomas, Fowler

    Marc Leishman and Abraham Ancer produced an incredible recovery against Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas at the Presidents Cup on Saturday.

    The Internationals were in huge trouble in the foursomes at Royal Melbourne Golf Club, but staged a late rally.

    The biggest one belonged to Leishman and Ancer, who somehow managed to salvage a tie against Fowler and Thomas.

    Perhaps showing some signs of fatigue after winning earlier in the day – with Thomas playing for the fourth straight session – the Americans gave up a point that looked certain.

    We look at how Leishman and Ancer, who were 5down through 10, produced their response.

    Back-to-back birdies spark Internationals

    Leishman and Ancer headed to the 11th hole 5down, but put the pressure on the American stars.

    Ancer's superb approach shot to within five feet set up a Leishman birdie before the roles reversed.

    The Internationals' second shot at the 12th, played by Leishman, went to within 10 feet, setting up Ancer's birdie putt.

    Fowler and Thomas managed pars at both holes, but that form would soon change.

     

    Missed putts bring Internationals within one

    The USA still looked in control with a 3up lead with just three holes to play.

    However, pars at 16 and 17 from the Internationals would be enough to reduce that deficit.

    Fowler missed a six-footer for par at 16 before Thomas' miss from nine feet meant the USA's lead was just 1up heading to the last.

     

    Perfect storm at the last

    Thomas' tee shot into the trees immediately put the USA on the back foot at the last.

    While they tried to recover, Leishman put a quality approach shot to within seven feet for Ancer, setting up the Internationals' birdie.

    The USA could only manage another bogey – their third straight – to somehow cough up a win that appeared certain.

  • Ferrari to assess 'performance and motivation' of Sebastian Vettel next season Ferrari to assess 'performance and motivation' of Sebastian Vettel next season

    Sebastian Vettel may have just five races to secure his Ferrari future next season as the team plan to assess his "performance and motivation" before making a May decision.

    Charles Leclerc finished ahead of the four-time world champion in his first year with Ferrari, the youngster winning two races and claiming seven pole positions the 2019 Formula One season.

    That compared to two poles and one win for Vettel, who finished fifth in the drivers' championship.

    Vettel is under pressure heading into 2020, the last year of his current contract, especially with speculation swirling over whether six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will choose to join Ferrari.

    Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo are other top drivers due to be out of contract in 2021, which is when F1's new technical regulations come into force.

    And while he may not have intended to, Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto added fuel to the speculation by saying Vettel will be monitored closely with a view to making a swift decision on his 2021 driver line-up.

    "By the beginning of May, roughly around the race in Spain, we want to know where the journey will go in 2021," Binotto told reporters.

    "I think that with Seb we need to sit down to discuss ways we set to understand his intentions for the future.

    "We need to see as well the performance and how he does fit with the car and his motivation for the future.

    "So, it's not about his mistakes or not. It's really a matter of how he sees himself as far as his future and how we see our line-up. We need to see our strategy developing next year."

    But Binotto also pointed out Vettel, 32, remains an important and respected part of Ferrari's plans.

    "Seb is a key driver for us - he is central to our project," added Binotto. "He's part of the team now since many years. He knows the team very well.

    "He's got a lot of experience. He has been four times world champion. So, there is no doubt that such a driver is key for our project."

    Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri, meanwhile, felt it was inevitable that the form of Leclerc would cause some strain on Vettel. 

    The two drivers hit each other to cause a double Ferrari retirement at the Brazilian Grand Prix last month.

    "Charles' performance has obviously had an impact," Camilleri said. "It's inevitable that when you're the world champion, this young kid comes on and has phenomenal season.

    "You should know that behind closed doors they actually get on very well. There's great respect between them. They joke together and there's quite a great relationship. 

    "Clearly, they're both very competitive and Brazil was a nightmare. However, now the air has been cleared. 

    "You sometimes need a crisis to put the goalposts in the appropriate place.

    "I actually think, going forward, it gives Mattia a much better way of managing them, but also renders them significantly more receptive because they realise how they screwed up."

    Binotto confirmed earlier this month there would be no Ferrari number one next season, with the two drivers starting as "equals".

  • From Wembley woes to European euphoria - a timeline of Klopp's Liverpool tenure From Wembley woes to European euphoria - a timeline of Klopp's Liverpool tenure

    Jurgen Klopp signed a new contract with Liverpool on Friday that keeps him tied down to the European champions for another four-and-a-half years.

    The German coach guided the Reds to Champions League success last season and is on course to end the club's long wait for a maiden Premier League crown this term.

    Now in his fifth campaign at Anfield, and with potentially at least three more to come, we look at the work Klopp has done so far on Merseyside.


    FINAL HEARTACHE CAPS MIXED FIRST SEASON

    Liverpool experienced two cup final defeats in Klopp's first campaign at the helm, losing on penalties to Manchester City in the EFL Cup and 3-1 to Sevilla in the Europa League.

    Despite falling short on both occasions and enduring largely mixed results in the Premier League - beating City 4-1 away a month before going down 3-0 to Watford - supporters were willing to stay patient.

    KLOPP REPAYS LIVERPOOL FAITH

    Rewarded with a six-year extension ahead of his first full season at Anfield, Klopp repaid the faith shown in him by guiding the Reds back into the Champions League with a fourth-placed finish in the Premier League.

    Liverpool's improving consistency saw them racked up 16 more points in 2016-17 than they had 12 months prior, providing clear evidence that things were on the up.

    TOTTENHAM HUMBLING PROVES TURNING POINT

    Klopp may be considered a Liverpool legend now, but a 4-1 loss away to Tottenham in October 2017 - making it three wins in their first nine league games in 2017-18 - led to questions being asked of the German.

    Results quickly improved, but there was still the feeling Liverpool might be a little fragile at the back until, in January 2018, they spent a then club-record fee on Virgil van Dijk.

    While the signings of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah thrilled Liverpool fans, this arrival would take them to the next level.

    A STEP TOO FAR IN KIEV

    Another final for Liverpool, another heartbreaking defeat - even as Van Dijk starred.

    A Gareth-Bale inspired Real Madrid came out on top in the 2018 Champions League final, ending a magical run that had seen the Reds produce attacking masterclasses to overcome Porto, Manchester City and Roma en route to the Kiev showpiece.

    Having come so close to glory, Klopp again made big moves in the transfer market. In came Brazil international goalkeeper Alisson - replacing final flop Loris Karius - as well as midfield reinforcements in Fabinho, Naby Keita and Xherdan Shaqiri.

    REDEMPTION IN MADRID SOFTENS DOMESTIC BLOW

    Despite accruing 97 points in 2018-19, Liverpool were remarkably pipped to the Premier League title by Pep Guardiola's City side.

    The blow of finishing as runners-up with nearly a century of points was softened three weeks later, however, as goals from Salah and Divock Origi earned Klopp's men a 2-0 win in the Champions League final against Tottenham.

    Buoyed by that first major European success in 14 years - and indeed the subsequent victory over Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup - Liverpool have started 2019-20 in remarkable form and are firmly in contention for a clean sweep of silverware.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.