Vettel can never rely on Leclerc, claims former Ferrari driver Berger

By Sports Desk September 11, 2019

Charles Leclerc is showing the "killer instinct" required to be a Formula One champion, according to former Ferrari star Gerhard Berger.

Leclerc held off Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in a tightly contested Italian Grand Prix to clinch his second successive victory, taking him above Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the season standings.

The 21-year-old was also involved in a contentious qualifying session at Monza, as he ignored a team order to provide Vettel with a slipstream.

Berger believes Leclerc's status as Ferrari's current number one driver is no longer in doubt, saying four-time world champion Vettel must fight his own corner.

"Ferrari always attaches itself to the one who has the biggest opportunities and that is currently Charles," Berger told Cologne newspaper Express.

"I must say it very clearly: there is no team play at this level in Formula One.

"I don't know if he [Leclerc] fooled Vettel [in qualifying at Monza], but it's been clear for a long time that Leclerc has an absolute killer instinct and is heading in the direction of the world title. He [Vettel] can never rely on Leclerc."

Berger added: "It's quite simple, if you lose your instincts, then you no longer have the claim to become world champion. You have to hone them again during the season."

Reigning champion Hamilton was frustrated by Leclerc's robust defence of the lead at Monza, suggesting the new generation of drivers are treated with greater leniency, and Berger acknowledged the chances of the Ferrari golden boy receiving a penalty on the team's home track were always slim.

"The goodwill issue for Ferrari at Monza cannot be overlooked. I agree," he said. "Some gentlemen probably closed their eyes."

While Leclerc was not penalised, Vettel was not so lucky, with the German receiving three points on his FIA Super Licence for unsafely joining the track, which caused a collision.

Vettel conceded he did not expect it would take so long for him to return to the track.

"Obviously I didn't see anything," Vettel told crash.net. "When I spun, I was looking the other way, I thought there was quite a bit of a gap. But then obviously you don't start counting, so I knew there would be cars coming.

"But originally I thought it would be much quicker rejoining."

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  • MotoGP Raceweek: Vinales looks to profit from Marquez-Rossi feud MotoGP Raceweek: Vinales looks to profit from Marquez-Rossi feud

    Maverick Vinales hopes to be the beneficiary of a feud between MotoGP's biggest two names, Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, at the San Marino Grand Prix.

    A spat between Marquez and Rossi over track position in qualifying, which led to both riders being hindered and exceeding the track limits on their final flying laps, was the major talking point from Saturday.

    The championship leader and the motorsport icon had to settle for fifth and seventh on the grid respectively.

    Rossi's Monster Energy Yamaha team-mate Vinales, meanwhile, took pole position at Misano, building on his manufacturer's strong showing in testing at the circuit ahead of the race, which had continued through practice.

    Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Pol Espargaro claimed his team's first front-row start at a dry race with a superb second and rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo completed the top three.

    "When I arrived to parc ferme and I saw the two Yamahas and our orange rocket in the middle, I was fully proud," said Espargaro. "It was an unbelievable moment."

    Quartararo's Petronas Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli, a qualifying specialist, also impressed and he leads Marquez and Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso on the second row.

    Dovizioso will therefore start close to Marquez, who leads the Italian by 78 points in the standings with only seven races to go.

    Alex Rins, a thrilling winner at Silverstone last time out, starts eighth due to a three-place grid penalty for Johann Zarco, who drops down to 11th.

    Cal Crutchlow (14th), Jack Miller (16th), Danilo Petrucci (17th) and Jorge Lorenzo (18th) were among a host of big names to miss out on Q2, while Andrea Iannone will not take part in the race due to a shoulder injury.

    Vinales finished seventh the last time he was on pole, in the season opener in Qatar, but he has recorded three podiums since then including a victory in Assen.

    The Spaniard, who was 0.295 seconds clear of the field to claim his eighth career pole, said: "I'm really happy and excited - a really good weekend so far.

    "We're enjoying the moment because it's always difficult to be in P1 on Saturday. We've worked well for the race, the rhythm is there, we had great pace in the last laps.

    "During the test we worked really hard on the slippery conditions and that's why we are on the front now. All the Yamahas have been working well, but somehow we created better grip than the others.

    "My objective is to take the lead from the first corner and then push at my maximum. This is a good track for me and for sure I'll be going for the victory.

    "I have nothing to lose and everything to win."
     

    MARQUEZ-ROSSI FEUD CAPTURES ATTENTION

    The worst qualifying result of the season for Marquez, who had earlier crashed in FP4, came partly because of his battle with Rossi.

    Three-time Misano winner Rossi and Marquez tangled during their last attempts to set a time, trading overtaking moves before both riders sat up after coming very close to contact at turn 14.

    No action was taken by race stewards, but neither rider was particularly happy, both having touched the green run-off area outside of the track limits at different stages.

    Rossi said: "I was on my hot lap, I was pushing 100 per cent and he overtook me in the fast corner at turn 11 and he already made me lose a lot of time.

    "He tried to pass me in the Curvone knowing that he was ruining my lap and to overtake me he also went [to the] green. I tried to stay more inside to re-overtake in the hairpin but I arrived wide.

    "In the end we lost all the chance to do the lap time."

    But Repsol Honda star Marquez insisted he was not aware he had run off track and questioned the motives of Rossi.

    "I didn't know that I touched the green," he said. "I was pushing and I thought that I was not on the green.

    "I was on my hot lap because it was my last chance. At that moment, even I didn't understand what happened because that kind of overtake in qualifying practice is a little bit strange.

    "Of course it was an aggressive reaction [from me] because I didn't expect it. His lap was also cancelled because in the exit of turn six, and this is important, he already touched the green.

    "For that reason it's difficult to understand what his intention was, you must ask him. I overtook him in the back straight, then at turn 14, I just go in, I saw one black and yellow bike arriving very, very fast inside with a speed that it is impossible to make that corner with."


    DOVI EXPECTED DUCATI STRUGGLES

    After his big crash at the British Grand Prix last time out, Dovizioso – last year's winner at this track - suggested he had made the best of a bad situation for Ducati, especially given his team-mate Petrucci starts towards the back.

    "We were surprised about the level of grip, but we also knew [it would be poor] because when we did the test that was the reality after the changes made to the circuit," said Dovizioso.

    "The changes affected our bikes more. You can see that easily because all the Ducatis are in a group and the other bikes are in a different group.

    "But the race pace is closer [to the front-runners]. If we make a good start, I believe we can have a say in the matter because the race is particularly long."


    THE GRID

    1. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha)
    2. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
    4. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)
    5. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda)
    6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
    7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha)
    8. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar)
    9. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar)
    10. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda)
    11. Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
    12. Michele Pirro (Ducati)

    PREVIOUS WINNERS

    2018: Andrea Dovizioso
    2017: Marc Marquez
    2016: Dani Pedrosa (for Honda)
    2015: Marc Marquez

    TITLE STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 250
    2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 172 (-78)
    3. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 149 (-101)
    4. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 145 (-105)
    5. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 118 (-132)

    Teams

    1. Ducati 317
    2. Repsol Honda 281 (-36)
    3. Monster Energy Yamaha 234 (-83)
    4. Suzuki Ecstar 192 (-125)
    5. Petronas Yamaha 161 (-156)

    WEATHER FORECAST

    A dry, cloudy and humid race is expected on Sunday, with light winds. Temperatures should be warm, reaching the low to mid 20s (in Celsius).

  • MotoGP Raceweek: Vinales denies Espargaro maiden pole as Marquez and Rossi clash MotoGP Raceweek: Vinales denies Espargaro maiden pole as Marquez and Rossi clash

    Maverick Vinales claimed his first pole since the opening round in Qatar, producing a superb late lap to deny Pol Espargaro in San Marino as Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi were involved an incident that saw both men summoned to the stewards.

    Espargaro had looked set to claim his maiden MotoGP pole and the first for KTM as he moved to the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1:32.560.

    However, KTM saw a piece of history snatched away from them at Misano, where Vinales went 0.295 seconds quicker to take the top slot on the grid.

    The Monster Energy Yamaha rider will now hope for a better result than he enjoyed in the season opener in Qatar. Vinales was left to settle for a seventh-place finish on that occasion despite starting at the front.

    Qualifying specialist Fabio Quartararo completed the front row of the grid for Petronas Yamaha, with runaway championship leader Marc Marquez only able to claim fifth behind Franco Morbidelli after a tempestuous duel with Rossi.

    Marquez was involved in a crash in the fourth practice session but appeared well positioned to challenge for the top three on his final flying lap.

    However, he and Rossi traded overtaking moves before the Italian pushed the Spaniard wide at turn 14, the two riders coming close to making contact.

    The near-collision hindered each rider's lap, with Marquez gesturing angrily at the seven-time premier class champion after being condemned to the second row.

    It was later confirmed the pair would be required to attend a hearing with the stewards panel regarding the incident. 

    Rossi qualified seventh behind Andrea Dovizioso, who is Marquez's closest challenger in the championship, the Ducati rider trailing the Repsol Honda star by 78 points with a maximum of 175 points still to be claimed.

    LCR Honda's Cal Crutchlow failed to make it out of Q1 and will start from 14th, with Aleix Espargaro just behind him for Aprilia. Espargaro's team-mate Andrea Iannone was unable to compete in qualifying after an FP4 crash left him nursing a shoulder issue that will keep him out of the race.

    Jorge Lorenzo, himself still recovering from injury, could only qualify 18th.

     

    PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

    1. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha): 1:32.265
    2. Pol Espargaro (KTM): +0.295s
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha): +0.306s
    4. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha): +0.445s
    5. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda): +0.477s
    6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati): +0.773s
    7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha): +0.814s
    8. Johann Zarco (KTM): +0.858s
    9. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar): +1.000s
    10. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar): +1.166s
    11. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda): +1.184s
    12. Michele Pirro (Ducati): +1.196s

  • MotoGP Raceweek: Rossi hopes for happy homecoming after strong Yamaha tests MotoGP Raceweek: Rossi hopes for happy homecoming after strong Yamaha tests

    Valentino Rossi hopes to make the most of what he considers to be a "home grand prix" in San Marino after Yamaha laid down a marker in testing.

    The seven-time world champion has secured a podium finish in six of his past 11 races at Misano, although last year yielded a disappointing seventh place.

    Yamaha have enjoyed great success at this circuit, although they are winless in the last four visits, and a new carbon fibre swingarm is expected to grant Rossi and team-mate Maverick Vinales a boost in horsepower and tyre life this weekend.

    Indeed, championship leader Marc Marquez suggested Yamaha could be the team to beat, telling reporters: "Misano test was quite interesting; we will check this weekend.

    "Race pace was not so fast compared to last year but we were competitive, especially the Yamaha riders were very fast."

    Rossi shared a special moment on Wednesday when he rode through his home town of Tavullia as crowds lined the narrow streets to afford him a hero's welcome.

    Having finished fourth behind Vinales at Silverstone two weeks ago, the 40-year-old is eager to get back on the podium.

    "For sure here in Misano it's always a special grand prix, it's really the home grand prix," he said. "In the last races I was a bit better but, in Silverstone, after a solid weekend, in the race I wanted to fight for the podium but I was not strong enough. So, we will try another time here.

    "We did some tests, important tests, my pace was quite good, I feel quite well with the bike, so we try. We are ready and we will see if we are strong enough to fight for the podium."

    Vinales is certainly feeling confident after testing having eased two points ahead of Rossi in the standings with his third-place finish in England last month.

    "I feel really good on the bike and especially with myself," he said. "Confidence is really high, we'll try to push the maximum, try to keep a good level all weekend and during the race be at the front. The test has been really successful for me, so we will try to do our best."

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