Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has confirmed that Sebastian Vettel was allowed to win the Singapore Grand Prix in controversial circumstances ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc to show the German that he retains the full faith of the Scuderia.
Leclerc, having won from pole in Belgium and Italy previously, once again took the qualifying victory in Marina Bay, but finished second behind his team-mate after Ferrari inadvertently undercut the Monegasque with Vettel.
While Leclerc fumed over team radio, Vettel was not ordered to let Leclerc through to resume first place and went on to take his first, and only, win of the 2019 season.
The campaign was far from stellar for Vettel, who finished fifth in the drivers’ championship – his worst return for Ferrari – and ended the year behind a team-mate for just the second time in his F1 career.
Vettel has been linked with potential retirement across 2019, and ended the year with rumours circulating that Lewis Hamilton could replace him in the team, but Binotto believes the nature of his Singapore win proves that the team still back the four-time champion.
“He has been uncomfortable with the car at the start of the season, certainly with the braking instability,” said Binotto.
“I think the challenge [of Leclerc] for him has been a good benchmark as well, because having such a fast team-mate gave him some headaches.
“In order to improve himself, he’s always very analytical. He approaches the exercise, he’s not emotional in that respect. He’s looking at the data, to compare the sectors, looking where he’s eventually slower or faster.
“In the first part of the season he has been put under a lot of pressure. I think he reacted very well in the second half.
“The victory in Singapore has been key for him, not only for the victory itself, but the trust in the team. He knew that he could count on the team for help, if necessary.
“But I think it was right, it was the right choice and time to let him win.”