Ferrari grabbed themselves three consecutive wins when the F1 season resumed, however this storming start soon came to an abrupt end with disappointment in Russia a fortnight ago. Indeed Ferrari were backed to make it four on the trot, however it was not to be as Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and refused to allow team-mate Charles Leclerc to pass him and then failed to complete the race thanks to a problem with his engine. Leclerc did actually finish but he occupied the third podium place with Lewis Hamilton coming out on top.
Following this race there was an inquest held into what Ferrari can do to turn things around. They have won three of the last four and this is a marked improvement on the early-season slump, however it would appear that there is a rift between the two drivers. Leclerc willing followed orders in the previous race while Vettel blatantly ignored them in the last one, this certain to have increased the tension between them.
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Former technical director Ross Brawn said: “It’s a potentially explosive combination and needs careful handling,” Brawn told Crash.net. “Of course, he [Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto] is well aware of how this kind of dynamic can work as he has experienced it before when he was a young engineer, but now the honour and obligation falls to him to make sure that mechanism that drives what can be healthy rivalry runs smoothly.
“On the one hand they have a four-time world champion who is still one of the finest drivers on the grid, despite a few too many mistakes over the past two seasons. And on the other, they have an incredible talent in Charles Leclerc – after all you don’t take six poles and win two races at legendary circuits such as Spa and Monza if you’re not a star in the making. It’s a fact that Mattia Binotto will have work to do in the next few days to pour oil on what seem like turbulent waters. Ferrari has clearly made a lot of progress in recent weeks but it still probably has to deal with a few internal issues in terms of the balance between its drivers.”
Clearly all eyes will be on Ferrari this weekend in Japan as they seek to end Mercedes’ dominance at this venue. Hamilton will surely be hard to beat given that he has pretty much mastered the circuit and as such it is no surprise to see the bookmakers making him huge favourite to triumph. Nevertheless we’re going to back Ferrari on this occasion and Charles Leclerc to be the man which hands them their fourth victory in five races. He has been enjoying some excellent form since the campaign resumed with four back-to-back pole positions and had team orders not dictated otherwise, he could have turned all of these into wins, Ladbrokes Bookmakers going 7/4 on Charles Leclerc to win.