Rear gunner Sebastian Vettel helps teammate Charles Leclerc to victory at the Belgian GP
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium): four times Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel he found himself in the unknown position of playing young gunner back Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc in the Sunday Belgian Grand Prix .
The German, who started second alongside Leclerc, struggled from the outset to extract the race-leading speed the 21-year-old, who went on to win ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, was pulling out of his Ferrari.
Hoping to end a victory drought stretching to last year’s Belgian race, any chances Vettel had vanished after Mercedes tricked Ferrari into pitting him early.
For the team, yes, I'm happy, said Vettel, who finished fourth after making a second pit stop in the final stages of the race.
For my part I am not happy. From the first stop forward, it was clear that we would not be in the fight. So, all I could do by then is serve the team.
His hopes of victory dashed, Vettel switched to a supporting role to help his teammate clinch Ferrari ’s first win of the season.
Without tires that fade, Vettel had enough to support Hamilton and allow Leclerc to win for less than a second.
In only his first season with Ferrari and second in Formula One , Leclerc has increasingly had the measure of Vettel, who has looked a shadow of the driver that won four titles on the trot between 2010-13.
Aside from taking Ferrari’s first win of the year, Leclerc has three pole positions to Vettel’s one and has qualified ahead of the German for the last six races.
After his victory on Sunday, he is only 12 points from the 32-year-old in the overall standings.
Used to being the undisputed number one of a team, Vettel, leader after the pit stops at one stage, was even asked to give way to Leclerc.
“It is never an easy call, I have to say,” said Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto, explaining the decision.
“I think there weren't many options today.
We had to anticipate Seb's well to protect himself from the Mercedes, otherwise Hamilton would have stopped and weakened.
So they were in different strategies and from the beginning we thought we were wasting time and that would not be the best for the team on that occasion.