Charles Leclerc ignored Ferrari team orders in Bahrain

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MANAMA, Bahrain -- Ferrari team radio messages, which were not broadcast during the race, have revealed Charles Leclerc ignored orders to remain behind teammate Sebastian Vettel for two laps at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Leclerc finished third after engine trouble in the closing stages of the race, but took the lead from Vettel on lap six with an overtaking move at Turn 1. Team radio on the lap prior to the overtake revealed his engineer asked him to remain behind his teammate for two laps.

"I'm quicker guys," Leclerc said.

His engineer responded: "Copy. Stay there for two laps. Stay there for two laps."

Vettel appeared to be struggling with the handling of his Ferrari prior to the overtake, and got a worse exit than his teammate from the final corner on lap five. Combined with a DRS advantage and a head wind into Turn 1, Leclerc was able to pass his teammate on the outside before holding him off on the inside of Turn 2.

Asked about the radio exchange after the race, Leclerc said: "I was just letting them know [I was quicker]. Then I think I had an answer, saying to me 'OK, stay like this for two laps' but then on the next straight I had the opportunity to go for it, so I went for it and it was a successful pass and then I was just quicker, so then I did my race."

The exchange in Bahrain follows a radio call at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix when Leclerc was told to hold position behind Vettel. Ferrari defended that team order and Vettel said ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix that it had been overplayed in the media.

After being criticised for not favouring Vettel in a battle with teammate Kimi Raikkonen at last year's Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari has been open about its priorities in 2019. Ahead of the season, team principal Mattia Binotto said Vettel would be given priority in 50/50 situations, but that the two drivers were still free to race.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who is no stranger to managing drivers and issuing team orders at his own team, expects the situation at Ferrari to cause his rivals headaches as the season progresses.

"You can see that already," he said. "I don't know if I see all the calls but there was one call which said, 'stay behind for the next two laps,' so I'm really looking forward to seeing how that pans out. I was there many years ago [with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg]."