Hamilton warns Ferrari not to snub Vettel to ‘ramp up’ Leclerc

Friday, October 11th, 2019 00:00 |
Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO of Rakuten and Formula 1 Racer, Lewis Hamilton watch the game between Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors as part of the 2019 NBA Japan Games at Super Saitama Arena in Saitama, Japan on Tuesday. Photo/PD/AFP

Suzuka, Thursday

Lewis Hamilton said Thursday that Sebastian Vettel was now “clearly not” number one at Ferrari but warned against the team “ramping up” support for rookie Charles Leclerc ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s botched team orders at the previous race in Russia two weeks ago handed Hamilton a surprise victory after Mercedes had trailed Ferrari on the timing sheets all weekend.

Vettel ignored team instruction several times to hand back the lead to Leclerc at Sochi. The German’s retirement with a mechanical problem and a virtual safety car then enabled Hamilton and Bottas to secure the top two steps of the podium.

Both Leclerc and Vettel were at pains Thursday to point out that all was now “clear” between them and Ferrari. But the major beneficiary of their spat, Hamilton, has been keenly watching the antics of the Maranello team.

“It’s an interesting dynamic they have there because obviously Seb was number one and now clearly not,” Hamilton told reporters at Suzuka.

Leclerc has been the fastest man on the grid since the summer break, securing four straight pole positions and two race wins.

“From kind of the energy, from the outlook, they’re trying to ramp Charles up to be (number one). Is that good for a team? I don’t think so,” said Hamilton. 

Hamilton said he had a similar issue in his 2007 rookie season at McLaren when he partnered Fernando Alonso, and that didn’t end well after the Spaniard was angered by losing his number one status.

“Obviously when I was with Fernando he was the hired number one. But then mid-season they changed that,” recalled Hamilton. -AFP

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