Opinion: How to control Ferrari's F1 drivers at war
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We thought they had it all sorted. Even they thought they had it all sorted. Certainly the drivers, or at least one of them, thought the situation was sorted. But clearly and publicly it wasn’t. It isn’t.
At more and more circuits the Scuderia Ferrari team is showing it has the car to beat all comers, including — and especially — the Mercedes team.
Ferrari is blindingly fast on the straights and handling better than ever in the corners with a young driver who looks every inch a champion of the future, driving alongside a four-time champion who, now back on track though perhaps at the zenith of his career, still shows speed when things are working for him.
And they are making the dominant Mercedes team rock back on their heels — exactly what the sport needs. High-level rivalry, competition, a real contest. So what could possibly go wrong?
Well, the inter-team battle for supremacy may cost the Ferrari pair, and the team, the success they crave over the remaining races of 2019 and beyond.
During the early part of the season, team boss Mattia Binotto was careful to point out that Sebastian Vettel was the lead driver and any close calls would be made in his favour. Clearly the team did not expect the “Number 2”, Charles Leclerc, to eclipse the Number 1.
Leclerc has already proved to the world at large his speed and race craft, and with the experiences of this season behind him the balance of power will surely shift in the 2020 season, if not before. So Binotto has a delicate balancing act to perform. Does he continue to favour, and humour, the 32-year-old champion or look to the future and treat the 21-year-old pretender as the imminent messiah for the team and the fanatical Tifosi, lest he finds greener pastures?
Vettel is not known as over favourable to his team-mates when orders are issued, especially when he sees them as not in his favour — as the likes of Mark Webber will surely attest.
The battle, on and off track, will be fascinating to watch and at some point Binotto and the Ferrari PR machine will no longer be able to paper over the cracks that are slowly coming to the surface in the drivers’ relationship.
What will be fascinating to see are the venues and routes chosen for the FIA / World Rally Championship New Zealand Rally, coming to a stage near you (if you are in Auckland ) next September.
The achievement of Peter “PJ” Johnson and his small team in getting the WRC back to NZ is enormous, for the sport in this country and the country itself.
The rally routes of New Zealand have long been recognised as some of the best in the world, so PJ and his committee — dubbed The Engine Room — deserve all the help that can be mustered in their efforts to make the rally a success — and a regular date on the calendar.