Formula 1: Did Ferrari boss take a shot at Sebastian Vettel?

Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)
Carlos Sainz Jr., Ferrari, Formula 1 (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images) /

After a solid 2021 Formula 1 season opener for Ferrari, team principal Mattia Binotto appeared to take a dig at former Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.

After of a disaster of a 2020 Formula 1 season for Ferrari, which scored their worst finish in the constructor standings in four decades and saw one of their drivers finish in the worst position for a Ferrari driver in 39 years, the Italian team opened up the 2021 campaign on somewhat of a strong note.

Charles Leclerc, who is in his third season with the team, led the team by qualifying in fourth place and finishing in sixth for this past Sunday’s 56-lap Bahrain Grand Prix around the 15-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) Bahrain International Circuit road course in Sakhir, Bahrain.

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Teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., who joined the Scuderia from McLaren as the replacement for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, qualified and finished in eighth.

The combined result netted the team 12 points, placing them fourth in the constructor standings through the first of 23 races on the 2021 schedule.

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In only five of the 17 races on the 2020 schedule did the team score points with both Leclerc and Vettel, and only once did both of them finish in the top eight.

Vettel was often criticized at Ferrari following the arrival of Leclerc, and that criticism was usually justified. He had won 11 of his 12 career teammate points battles entering the 2019 season, but he was beaten by Leclerc in 2019 and then beaten handily by him again in 2020 during what was his career-worst season — by far. He was effectively released by the team for 2021 even before the 2020 season started after Leclerc signed a massive extension which runs through 2024.

Following the team’s decent start to the 2021 season, team principal Mattia Binotto, who arrived at the team ahead of the 2019 season along with Leclerc, may have taken a subtle shot at Vettel when he noted that he can “finally” count on “both” of the team’s two drivers.

And he specifically highlighted Sainz’s success in his Ferrari debut.

"“I’m really happy with the drivers, I’m happy to be able to count on both of them finally. Carlos did a very good job with the pace. … We chose Carlos because we knew that he is strong during the race, he proved that today. He’s gaining confidence with the car, he’s settling in with the team very well, he’s working very well with Charles. Charles yesterday after the qualifying thanked Carlos for pushing him to do the best possible lap. So, I’m happy with both of them.“Knowing that we can count on both of them is really important. The most important thing is to be motivated to keep growing.”"

Vettel, meanwhile, seemed to have picked up where he left off at Ferrari at Aston Martin, as his debut for the team was a disaster from start to finish.

He qualified in 18th place but was set to the rear of the field for the start as a result of a qualifying penalty for ignoring the double waved yellow flags, and he was penalized for causing a collision with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon during the race before ultimately finishing in 15th. He was also issued five penalty points on his superlicense for these incidents.

Aston Martin sit in sixth place in the constructor standings with the one point scored by Lance Stroll via his 10th place finish.

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The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is the next race on the 2021 Formula 1 schedule, and it is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 18. This race is set to be broadcast live on ESPN from Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET.