Ferrari provided drama in the opening stages of the Russian Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel going against team orders after taking the lead.
Vettel, starting from P3 on the grid at the Sochi Autodrom, passed both Lewis Hamilton and pole sitter Charles Leclerc on the long dash down to Turn 2.
After a brief Safety Car period passed, Leclerc was told that Vettel would let him by for the race lead as Ferrari tried to implement a pre-arranged race plan.
However, while Leclerc argued that Vettel benefitted from the slipstream and played the team game, Vettel responded by saying he would have overtaken his team-mate regardless.
“I would have got him anyways. But let’s breakaway for another two laps,” Vettel said after being told to swap places.
But Vettel continued to lead, prompting Leclerc to respond.
“You put me behind. I respected everything. We will speak later. But now it is difficult to close the gap obviously,” Leclerc said.
Ferrari were forced onto Plan C just 10 laps into the race as Vettel continued to stay ahead and opened up a four second gap to his team-mate.
Ferrari team radio: “Charles we will do the swap later on. Lewis is a bit close, and we want to push now into the race. We will do it later, just focus on your race, thank you.”
Leclerc responded: “I completely understand. The only thing is that I respected. I gave the slipstream, no problems. But then I tried to push at the beginning of the race, but it’s no problems.”
And the plot thickens 👀
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 29, 2019
The Ferrari pit wall would have the final say by engineering the swap in the pit lane but, on Vettel’s return to the track, his MGU-K failed and was forced to retire.
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) September 29, 2019
It gifted Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes a cheap pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car and he would take the outright race lead from Leclerc…and go on to win the race.
Vettel, meanwhile, was voted Driver of the Day.