Ferrari will prioritise Vettel early in 2019 F1 season if necessary

Ferrari is willing to prioritise Sebastian Vettel over his new Formula 1 team-mate Charles Leclerc if required in the early stages of the 2019 season

Ferrari will prioritise Vettel early in 2019 F1 season if necessary

Vettel, who spearheaded Ferrari's ultimately unsuccessful title challenges in the past two years, often enjoyed preferential treatment on strategy over his now-former team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

The team was criticised for its application of the policy last year, as it frustrated Raikkonen with overly vague instructions during the German Grand Prix and then allowed the Finn to battle Vettel at the start of the Italian GP after it had locked out the front-row.

Ferrari's hesitant approach was in sharp contrast to rival team Mercedes' handling of team orders in the Russian GP later that season, when Valtteri Bottas was asked to move aside for Lewis Hamilton while leading.

Raikkonen has been replaced by Leclerc for 2019 but, although the Monegasque has been tipped to give Vettel a tougher challenge, team boss Mattia Binotto said he would not start the season on a completely equal standing to the four-time world champion.

"I think it's normal, especially early in the season, that if there are particular situations our priority will be Sebastian," said Binotto at the launch of Ferrari's new SF90.

"He is the guide with which we aim for the championship.

"But there's no prejudice - the absolute priority is for Ferrari to win."

Vettel and Raikkonen's partnership was one of the more harmonious in the F1 paddock, but Binotto - who replaced Maurizio Arrivabene as team boss in the off-season - does not expect Leclerc's arrival to be disruptive.

"To have a driver pairing so competitive I think it's not a problem but an opportunity," Binotto said.

"Sebastian has little to prove, and he remains our guide. Charles still has to learn, as pointed out by himself, but we know how talented he is.

"I hope to have this problem of having two drivers to manage among the top positions."

After his Ferrari switch was confirmed last year, Leclerc said he would target winning the drivers' title in his first year should the team maintain its frontrunning 2018 form.

Asked at Friday's launch whether he was still thinking of the title heading into the campaign, Leclerc said: "I do not think about the championship, I have so much to do in front of me.

"I'll have a good reference thanks to Sebastian, right now I don't want to aim for anything but just to work.

"Then we'll see what will come."

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Sebastian Vettel
Teams Ferrari
Author Roberto Chinchero
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