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Ferrari: Leclerc and Vettel free to fight in 2019

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Team preference? What team preference? New Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says newcomer Charles Leclerc will be “free to fight” his four-time world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel this season…

At the launch of the SF90, Binotto suggested “if there are particular situations our priority will be Sebastian” however he has moved to clarify the Prancing Horse’s stance.

“Obviously the two will be free to will be free to fight,” said Binotto. “We will not ask Charles to be slow, or Sebastian to be fast. I need both of them to run to the maximum, try to do their best.

“But certainly, if there is any ambiguous situation at the start of the season, Sebastian is the one who's got today more experience, many years he's with us, he's already won championships, so he's our champion.”

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Newcomer Leclerc was impressive throughout testing, his headline time just 0.01s adrift of Vettel’s pace-setting time, and he dealt maturely when reliability issues – that limited him to 463 laps versus Vettel’s 534 – struck.

“Charles is a good driver,” said Binotto. “He is certainly a very fast driver. In Barcelona he focused on himself, understanding the car, working with a new team, new engineers.

“They’ve [Leclerc and Vettel] done very similar lap times. I think that proves that Charles is certainly a fast driver. I think we knew it since the past.

“It’s now many years he’s with Ferrari, he spent last year with Sauber, so nothing with Charles is a surprise in that respect so it’s not the testing in Barcelona that is telling us that was the right choice. It was certainly the right choice but the season will tell us a bit more.”

Leclerc will become the youngest driver to make his Ferrari debut since 1961 when the season gets under way in Australia at Melbourne’s Albert Park on March 17.

READ MORE: We rank the teams ahead of Australia

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