Charles Leclerc ignored a team order from Scuderia Ferrari to stay behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel and passed him for the lead of the race during the early stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Leclerc was instructed by the Italian team to stay behind Vettel, despite the Monegasque driver stating that he was the quicker driver out of the two Ferrari’s during that stage of the race.
The twenty-one-year-old who scored his first ever pole position started the race poorly, dropping down to third at the end of the first lap. But Leclerc managed to pass Valtteri Bottas for second place, creating a Ferrari one-two in the opening laps to the race around the Sahkir International Circuit.
But on Lap 5, Leclerc radioed in saying “I’m quicker, guys!” as he followed closely to the back of Vettel’s car. The team replied thirty seconds later to Leclerc’s message at Turn 10, with the instruction to “Stay there for two laps, stay there for two laps”. On the start of the sixth lap, Leclerc disobeyed his order from the pit wall and passed his team-mate around the outside in the run towards Turn 1.
The two drivers squabbled for the lead of the race, with Leclerc winning the battle and was on course to claim his first ever win in Formula 1, but a cylinder failure caused his engine to lose power and handed the win to Lewis Hamilton with a handful of laps to go.
Leclerc’s engine problem demoted him to third place as Bottas passed him with ease, but a late safety car thanks to both Renault F1 Team cars retiring, helped the Ferrari driver hold third place and managed to secure his first ever F1 podium.
The Monegasque driver’s radio message was broadcast on the world television feed, but the reply by Ferrari wasn’t picked up until a tweet revealed that the Italian team did acknowledge Leclerc’s speed, but told him to stay behind his Vettel for two laps.
Charles Leclerc Ignoring (defying) the team orders at Bahrain GP
CL (00:05) – “I’m quicker, guys!”
Race Engineer (00:35)- Copy… “Stay there for 2 laps.”
CL (01:30) – Overtakes Vettel
If you think you can pass the guy in front, f*cking do it. CL has a very bright future pic.twitter.com/nmEirhr19b
— Eau rouge (@Insidef1) April 1, 2019
At the season opener in Australia, Leclerc asked the team whether he can pass Vettel for fourth place in the latter stages of the race, after an appalling start from the Italian team. He was denied the opportunity and was told to build a gap away from Vettel, which he followed.
After the race, Leclerc admitted to the press that he did ignore the call from his team because the opportunity to pass for the lead presented itself.
“I was just letting them know,” said Leclerc to Racefans.net. “Then I think I had an answer, saying to me ‘OK, stay like this for two laps’ but then on the next straight I had the opportunity to go for it, so I went for it and it was a successful pass and then I was just quicker, so then I did my race.”
“It’s always a tricky situation when you get to fight your team-mate because the risks are very high and, as in every team, I think, they warn you before the race: OK, you can try things on different people, but with your team-mate, please be careful, which is something normal.
“So it’s always obviously that something more. But yeah, I had the opportunity on lap five and I didn’t hesitate, I just went for it. I was happy it was successful the first time I tried, especially after the bad start. So yeah, happy with how it ended up.”