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Vettel still priority, says Ferrari boss as Mercedes' Bottas leads practice

Vettel still priority, says Ferrari boss as Mercedes' Bottas leads practice

Sunday's Chinese GP is live on the BBC Sport website and 5 live from 07:10 BST on SundaySebastian Vettel will continue to be given priority as Ferrari's number one driver, team boss Mattia Binotto says.The policy had been questioned after team-mate Charles Leclerc dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix until a late engine problem cost him a maiden victory.During the race, Leclerc ignored a team order to stay behind Vettel.
Binotto said Vettel's four years at Ferrari meant he would be prioritised "if there is any 50-50 situation where we need to take a decision".Binotto added: "He won four championships and certainly for us he's the driver who has most probability to challenge for the title."But Binotto, who took over as team principal at the start of this year, said that the policy, which he introduced for the start of the season, could potentially change in the future.
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"Something we agreed with both drivers is, in a few races' time, things may chance for whatever reason - bad luck or whatever could be the situation - we may change our position, no doubt," he said. "But on the track, they're free to fight. On the track I think if there is one driver who is certainly faster, he will get the advantage. "I think that Charles, as a matter of fact, he had an opportunity to be in pole in Bahrain, he had the opportunity to fight for the win and he had position in Bahrain."
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Leclerc had looked certain for a maiden F1 victory in Bahrain until he suffered an engine problem in the closing stagesLeclerc, who joined Ferrari for this year after his debut season with Sauber in 2018, leads Vettel by four points in the championship after the first two races, in both of which Ferrari have imposed team orders.At the opening event in Australia, Leclerc was ordered to hold position behind Vettel when the Monegasque caught the German in the closing stages.In Bahrain, Leclerc took pole position but lost the lead to Vettel and second place to Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas thanks to a poor start.But after passing Bottas at the start of lap two, Leclerc quickly caught Vettel.He told the team over the radio that he was quicker and was told to stay behind for two laps, but he passed the German at the start of the next lap.Leclerc said on Thursday: "As I showed in Australia, the interests of the team is extremely important, but in this particular situation I had quite a big pace advantage a this moment and I had the opportunity on the straight and I just didn't see myself lifting and staying behind. "I went for the opportunity - it was a safe pass and I went for it."Vettel said: "I'm not surprised. It is quite clear that he was quite a lot faster at that point. I could have passed him back on the next straight but I judged that it's going to lose me more time and him more time. "The race was very long from that point onwards. It didn't go my way on that Sunday so at that point it wasn't about holding Charles' Sunday back."
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