Why did Ferrari swap positions in today’s race?

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Russia, Sochi International Street Circuitru

Ferrari faced another though call to make in today’s Russian Grand Prix after Sebastian Vettel took over the lead from his teammate Charles Leclerc at the start. Team principal Mattia Binotto revealed the thinking behind the team’s decision to swap places during the pit stops.

Ferrari arguably has the best driver pairing in the current field with the duo of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. However, managing the intra-team battle is slowly emerging as one of the main challenges for team principal Mattia Binotto. Thanks to an early pit stop, Sebastian Vettel won the previous race in Singapore ahead of Charles Leclerc who started the race from the pole position. The Monegasque was fuming when he emerged behind his German teammate.

Just a week after the incident, the Russian Grand Prix led to another difficult situation inside the Ferrari camp. After securing his fourth consecutive pole position, Leclerc started the race from the first place while Vettel snatched the third starting position in the qualifying session. Lewis Hamilton managed to split the two Ferrari drivers which the Scuderia wanted to change right at the start. Charles had a great getaway from pole and Sebastian was in his slipstream, which pulled him past Hamilton. The towing effect was so powerful that the German even went into the lead going into the first real corner at the track.

Leclerc confirmed Ferrari’s tactics after the race. “At the start of the race, I gave Sebastian a tow so that we could race at the front and get ahead of our competitors together,” he said.

Mattia Binotto was delighted with the way his drivers worked together on the run-down to the first braking zone after the start to secure an initial one-two lead for the team.

“Before the race, as always, we spoke with the drivers and we asked Charles to give Seb a tow, because that would be the best way for him to get ahead of Hamilton and for the two of them to be first and second come the end of the opening lap. In fact, Seb got a fantastic start, which allowed him to pass Hamilton even before the entry to the corner."

Positions swap

Only a few laps into the race, Vettel was asked by his race engineer Riccardo Adami to let his teammate by. However, the German started to push on at a cracking pace and pulled away from his teammate, who was leaving the pack behind.

After realizing that Vettel had the better pace in the opening stint, the team had to work out a different way to swap positions. Charles was the first of the two Ferraris to pit, coming in on lap 22 and switching from Soft to Medium tyres. Vettel came in four laps later. Although the German still had a reasonable pace on the used soft tyres, a slower pit stop for him and Leclerc’s strong pace on the fresh medium tyres meant that the Monegasque emerged slightly ahead of the quadruple world champion.