Why Ferrari Slipped Victory In Sochi ?
In the latest race of F1, particularly in the battle for Ferrari driver supremacy, was Vettel right to ignore team orders in the opening exchanges of the Russian GP?
Ferrari's efforts to try and salvage for points for the championship were dealt a blow in Sochi after they failed to convert their pole position into race victory, while Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas instead taking first and second-placed for Mercedes.
Following Ferrari’s good accomplishment in Singapore, the team looked on course to continue with their strike on Mercedes' title lead when they completed the opening lap of the Russian Grand Prix in first and second, with Sebastian Vettel leapfrogging both Hamilton and team-mate Charles Leclerc into first place.
It soon transpired over the team radio that this scenario had been planned before the race, and that the plan was Leclerc to give Vettel a slipstream at the start to ensure both Ferrari drivers were ahead of the Mercedes cars. And then Vettel would surrender the situation to Leclerc, who had been given special treatment because of taking pole position.
However, Vettel was resistant to the command after taking the lead, and suggested that he had taken the lead on merit before proposing to complete the swap when and if he and Leclerc had a bigger lead over Hamilton.
Instead there being a time his gap over Leclerc was increased up to four seconds when the pit stops being made. From there, it could have been a Ferrari’s triumph, and most likely their second consecutive one-two finish - which hasn't occurred since 2008 - but a power unit issue forced Vettel into race withdrawal. This prompted a virtual safety car, which gave Mercedes a “modest” pit stop as well as Hamilton the lead of the race.
In the aftermath, Vettel defended his decision of dismissing the call from the team’s command to swap positions with Leclerc and said that he had stuck to the pre-race agreement, something which team leader Mattia Binotto seemed to concur with, in spite of Ferrari obviously planning for the driver swap via the pit stops.
Here's the radio chatter between Ferrari's - both race engineers and sporting director Laurent Mekies - and its drivers.
Lap 2 (since)
Xavier Marcos Padros to Charles Leclerc: "We are looking into doing the swap partway into the race."
Leclerc to Padros: "Yeah yeah, no problem, this I understand."
Padros to Leclerc: "Sebastian will let you by next lap."
Sebastian Vettel to Riccardo Adami: "I would have got him anyways. But let's break away for another two laps."
Adami to Vettel: "Let Charles by."
Vettel to Adami: "He'll have to close up."
Adami to Vettel: “Let him by, gap is 1.4 seconds."
Leclerc to Padros: "You put me behind. I respected everything. We will speak later. But now it is difficult to close the gap obviously."
Adami to Vettel: “You are the fastest car on-track, head down, you are doing well. We are looking into Plan C, Charles is 1.9 behind."
Laurent Mekies to Leclerc: "Charles, we will do the swap later on. Lewis is a bit close, and we want to push now into the race. We will do it later, just focus on your race, thank you."
Leclerc to Mekies: "I completely understand. The only thing is that I respected. I gave the slipstream, no problems. But then I tried to push at the beginning of the race, but it's no problems. Manage the situation."
Padros to Leclerc: “Sebastian in front 3.7, Hamilton behind 3.3."
Padros to Leclerc: “You can push now."
Vettel to Adami: “My rears are falling off."
Adami to Vettel: “We are worried about Hamilton going long, Hamilton lap time 8.8."
Adami to Vettel: "Box now Seb, box now."
Vettel to Adami: “I’ve got no K."
Adami to Vettel: “Stop the car now."
Vettel to Adami: “Are you serious? Bring back f**king V12s."