Ferrari assure Sebastian Vettel he is still in the driver's seat

LONDON • Ferrari have backed Sebastian Vettel, despite him making another mistake and being comprehensively beaten by his younger teammate Charles Leclerc in Bahrain on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Leclerc was on course for his maiden Formula One victory, but engine failure meant he had to slow down, allowing eventual winner Lewis Hamilton as well as his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pass.

Vettel should have been the one passing the Monegasque, but the German had made a mistake with 20 laps left and he finished fifth.

The spin, which forced him into an emergency pit stop, was reminiscent of the mistakes that blighted his title bid last year.

Before the start of the season, Vettel was touted as the team's No. 1 driver, understandably with four world titles to his name, compared with Leclerc, who is starting only his second season.

But there was also talk about when, not if, the former Sauber racer would bring the fight to Vettel. For now, Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is standing by the 31-year-old, who finished fourth in the season-opener in Australia, one place ahead of Leclerc.

He said: "With regard to Sebastian, these things can happen in racing when you are on the limit, therefore it's more important to consider the car, which performed well.

"Clearly, there are still various things that we have to learn and we will continue to work on them."

However, Vettel's position in the team is far from secure, with another young buck keen to make an impression with the Scuderia.

More than 12 years after Michael Schumacher's last race for Ferrari, his son and Formula Two driver Mick yesterday came out of the garage for his F1 test debut.

The 20-year-old, who will again test drive for Ferrari and partner team Alfa Romeo today, was behind the SF90's wheel in Bahrain.

Seven-time world champion Michael has not appeared in public since suffering severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013.

DPA, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2019, with the headline 'Ferrari assure Vettel he is still in the driver's seat'. Print Edition | Subscribe