Sebastian Vettel has claimed his comments after the Portuguese Grand Prix, in which he inferred Charles Leclerc was receiving preferential treatment from Ferrari, were misconstrued.
The German was reported as saying he had been “biting my tongue all year long” because it is “obvious the other car is much faster”, with Leclerc having completely outperformed him over the first 12 races of the 2020 season.
Vettel, of course, was told before the campaign began that his contract with Ferrari would not be extended and he has signed a deal to join Aston Martin, rebranded from Racing Point, for 2021.
Whereas Leclerc, who is the Scuderia’s great hope for the future, is fifth in the drivers’ World Championship standings with 75 points, Vettel finds himself down in 13th position on only 18.
Ferrari have denied there is any difference between the two cars with team principal Mattia Binotto saying after last week’s race in Portimao that they “are identical, no doubt”.
Binotto added: “Charles is certainly very good, but maybe you expect even more from the second driver.”
And that is a sentiment with which the four-time former World Champion concurs, for Vettel insisted on the eve of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that what he had actually meant was that “the other car is much faster” because he has not been driving it as quickly as he should.
“I don’t know which people listened to me but I said I am certainly not satisfied with my performance at the moment,” Vettel told Sky Germany.
“The other car is stronger, it drives further ahead. What the people made of that statement was not what I said. I recognise the performance that Charles is giving at the moment.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) October 30, 2020
Having made his F1 debut in the season after the most recent grand prix at Imola – the 2006 San Marino GP – the Italian venue is a new one to Vettel in what will be his last outing for Ferrari in their home country.
“I’m looking forward to it, I think it’s a great circuit to drive,” he said. “I’ve never been here, so it’s a novelty, but it looks great, looks fun, so let’s see tomorrow if it is.”
Ferrari have been making minor upgrades to their cars over the last few races, with Vettel saying: “We’ve always said the updates are very small and haven’t really changed much. I think we were a bit more competitive last weekend, let’s see if we can confirm that or not.”