Charles Leclerc’s number two status at Ferrari is already in effect after being told not to challenge team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Leclerc, on debut for Ferrari, was closing in on Vettel in the final stages of what was a very forgettable race for the Scuderia.
But, when asked if he can push his team-mate any closer, he was simply told “back off to have some margin”.
"Sebastian and Charles are free to fight."
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) March 17, 2019
Vettel would limp home in P4 with Leclerc hanging back in P5, whilst rivals Mercedes recorded a 1-2 finish and Red Bull secured the final podium spot.
Vettel was asked whether there was any discussion on his side about swapping positions, he said: “No I mean obviously it was clear so I think everything goes normal.
“I don’t have much chance to fight anybody at that point because I was quite slow. For me it was just making sure I get to the end.”
Leclerc, meanwhile, said he understood the team’s decision.
“I got off to a great start and found myself in a good shape to fight,” Leclerc said.
“I tried to overtake Max on the outside but Seb was blocked by the two Mercedes.
“I also went outside Vettel, and I don’t know if he saw me, but I had to go on the grass because I didn’t have any space left and I lost a position to Max.
“In general the car was quite difficult to drive. However the second stint was more positive.
“I had the pace to get past Seb, but the team decided to freeze the positions via team radio. In the end there was nothing to win. I understand.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) March 17, 2019
Ferrari finished nearly a minute behind Mercedes, but Leclerc is confident the timesheet does not tell the actual story.
He added: “It wasn’t a fantastic race, but on the other hand we know that the Melbourne track is atypical.
“That’s why we don’t have to panic. We know that the Mercedes is very strong, but we are much closer to them than we have seen today.”