F1: Ferrari will allow Leclerc to 'fight' Vettel

Sebastian Vettel's status as Ferrari's "champion" will not stop Charles Leclerc from competing, says team boss Mattia Binotto.

Ferrari new boy Charles Leclerc posted a best lap time of one minute and 16.231 seconds, comfortably the quickest during the pre-season sessions.   -  Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Ferrari will allow Charles Leclerc to take on teammate Sebastian Vettel, even if there is an acknowledgement that the German may have to receive preferential treatment at times.

Rival Formula One team Mercedes drew criticism at times last year for its handling of Valtteri Bottas, who did not win a single race throughout 2018 and was ordered to allow Lewis Hamilton through on occasion. And Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto prompted concern of a similar scenario at the start of the new Formula One season as he suggested "particular situations" would see the team side with Vettel.

However, clarifying his comments at F1 testing this week, Binotto added that this directive would not prevent Leclerc from challenging his colleague.

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"I think that it's good for Ferrari [if the two compete]," he told reporters. "When you've got your intentions clear from the very start, at least you do not make mistakes when you may have a bigger situation.

"Obviously the two will be free to fight. We will not ask Charles to be slow or Sebastian to be faster. We need both of them to run to the maximum, to try to do their best.

"But certainly, if there is a big situation at the start of the season, Sebastian is the one who's got more experience. Many years he's with us, he's already won championships, so he's our champion."

Leclerc is preparing for his first campaign with Ferrari, having debuted in F1 with Sauber last year. He replaces Kimi Raikkonen.