Formula 1: Is there a driver crisis at Ferrari after the Brazil GP?
The 2019 Brazil Grand Prix was a classic race with wheel-to-wheel action, edge-of-the seat racing and some surprising podiums and results. However, one of the key talking points from the dramatic race was a collision between the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. That incident brought out the Safety Car and set up the grandstand finish that had Formula 1 fans jumping for joy.
A lot has already been said about who was at fault and how Vettel caused the collision but the thing is that both the drivers are contracted to Ferrari for the 2020 season. This begs the question, what should Ferrari do to manage their two drivers in Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel who both want to be the alpha in the team.
The Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto said that it is a "luxury" to have a driving pair of Vettel and Leclerc but is he really feeling that way? Everyone knows that having two great drivers in one team is like unchecked gasoline waiting to be ignited. From Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren to Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the same team. From Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber for Red Bull to Hamilton again, this time with Rosberg at Mercedes. Even the recent rivalry of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in the latter's twilight at Red Bull. All these instances have served to teach us that when there are two alphas in one team, calamity ensues.
There is no doubt that Ferrari will not back the four-time world champion Vettel in 2020 like they did at the start of the 2019 season. As the 2019 season went on, Leclerc's performances showed why he should be the top dog at the team but Vettel will not like that. The German is stubborn when it comes to the stature he wants in the team given his glittering resume in the sport. Vettel doesn't take kindly to being beaten by a younger teammate either, as was the case with Ricciardo in 2014. Leclerc has outqualified the German and outscored him as well in his maiden season with the Scuderia.
So, what should Ferrari do in 2020? Should they allow their drivers to race or should they impose a pre-season team order which forces the drivers to put the team's overall success ahgead of their individual battles much like what Force India did with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in 2018?
The thing is both the options come with consequences. If they allow the drivers to race then an incident similar to what happened at Interlagos will be inevitable and deal a big blow in the race for the Constructors' Championship. If they impose team orders, it can upset one of the drivers and cause them to leave the team in the future. Also, there is the factor that Vettel has never been one to adhere to team orders. He did it with Webber during the infamous 'Multi 21' scene in Sepang in 2013 and in Sochi earlier this year, another race Ferrari squandered with team orders.
Starting 2020, Ferrari might just allow their drivers to race each other and hope there isn't any awkward situation, which can be risky. However, if Ferrari do decide to back a driver (which will most likely be Leclerc) they risk the chance of unsettling Sebastian Vettel.
The future of Ferrari and its driver is very unclear to say the least. The only thing that is clear is that Binotto has a huge task ahead of him during the winter break end this 'cold war' between the two drivers. Ferrari cannot afford to hand Mercedes another title by their mismanagement. It is going to be a long winter back at Maranello for sure.
Which again begs the question? Is it better to have a clear second driver in the team like Valtteri Bottas? Well, it almost worked for Ferrari and Vettel when they had Kimi Raikkonen playing second fiddle. With their upgrade package after the summer break, the Prancing Horses have shown they can match the Silver Arrows for speed. All they need is good team cohesion and some reliability if they want to challenge seriousy for the titles. However, none of that can happen till the two drivers are on the same page and as of now, there are slim chances for that.