Told to let Vettel through, Leclerc has right to be upset: Ferrari boss after Chinese GP

Charles Leclerc was told to let Sebastian Vettel through in China, and Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto accepts he may not be happy.

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel in action   -  Getty Images

Ferrari team principle Mattia Binotto accepts Charles Leclerc would have the "right to be upset" after being ordered to let team-mate Sebastian Vettel past at the Chinese Grand Prix.

Leclerc struggled for pace in Shanghai and, despite twice sounding reluctant to follow team orders when communicating with the paddock, by lap 10 he let Vettel through to allow the German the chance to try and catch flying Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

It proved a fruitless task, as Hamilton led Bottas over the line for a third Mercedes one-two in as many races in F1 this season, while Vettel finished third and Leclerc limped home fifth behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen. Addressing the issue after the race, Binotto said he would understand if Leclerc was unhappy with the team's strategy.

READ | Hamilton wins landmark Chinese Grand Prix to go top

"I understand the feeling of Charles. At that stage of the race Mercedes were faster. We had to give Sebastian a go," he told Sky Sports.

"It was not to try and give an advantage to one driver. From a team perspective our strategy would not have changed [if Verstappen had managed to overtake Vettel].  If Charles is upset he is right to be upset and we accept it." 

Leclerc was philosophical about the decision, choosing to keep his counsel when addressing the incident with reporters post-race.

"There is for sure a reason behind this decision. Overall the weekend I have not been as strong as I wanted," he said.  "Overall today was not a good day but we will come back stronger. I need to look at the data and speak with the engineers. I don't want to make any silly comments. We will look forward now."

Vettel believes Ferrari made the right call and expressed sympathy for Leclerc.

"I felt I could go faster. Then it was a bit difficult for me to find a rhythm," Vettel said. "We were just not able to stick with Mercedes. It's a shame he couldn't get Max in the end. Plenty of homework for us. It's a good result but not a great result."

Hamilton and Bottas agree start was key

Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas agreed the start was key to deciding the winner of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Bottas qualified on pole but was overtaken into turn one by Hamilton. The finish represented Mercedes' third straight one-two to start the season, making them the first team to achieve the feat since Williams in 1992.

Hamilton was pleased to have come out on top despite Ferrari dominating during the free practice sessions and suggested he did not feel any pressure after moving past Bottas.

"It's not been the most straightforward of weekends but what a fantastic result for team, everyone worked so hard," said the Briton in his post-race interview. "We didn't know where we would stand with the Ferraris, they were so quick. Valtteri was quick all weekend to have the one-two is special on [the] 1,000th grand prix. I got a quick start and rest is kind of history.

"The strategists were really on point in the first three races and we've got to keep it up."

Bottas acknowledged his car was sluggish at lights out and it proved the deciding factor as he surrendered his place at the top of the drivers' standings to Hamilton.

"I think I lost it at the start honestly. The car was feeling OK and otherwise the pace was similar," said Bottas. "In the dirty air I couldn't follow. It was a shame about start, got some wheelspin from start-finish line and I lost it there. It's small details but it's early days in the season, things looking good for the team, three perfect weekends.

"It's not a nice feeling so I'll come back strong."