Charles Leclerc has confirmed that he was ordered not to attack Sebastian Vettel by Ferrari in the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix. Leclerc pulled up to the back of his teammate with 10 laps to go in Melbourne, but was immediately ordered to drop back by his race engineer.
The move is noteworthy given Mattia Binotto's pre-season vow to prioritise Vettel in the early stages of 2019 in an attempt to boost the German's title hopes.
That was likely predicated on expectations that Ferrari would be the team to beat following an impressive pre-season, but Mercedes dominated in Melbourne and Valtteri Bottas took a superb victory for the Silver Arrows.
With Vettel struggling badly in Australia, he was effectively given an extra two points as a result of Ferrari's decision.
"I asked [if I could overtake], but we had to keep positions," Leclerc told Sky Sports.
Leclerc made a strong start, but was squeezed out while trying to get up the inside of Vettel at turn two, which hampered any progress he could make.
Although Ferrari finished more than half a minute off Mercedes' pace, Leclerc does not believe it is fully representative.
"Not the greatest race, fourth and fifth," he explained.
"We expected better, but on the other hand Australia is a very strange track and that's not the reason why we need to panic now.
"Obviously we need to do some work because Mercedes look extremely strong quite frankly.
"But I think we are closer than what we have shown today.
"The race… the start was pretty good from my side, Seb didn't see me and I had to go on the grass.
"Unfortunately I then lost Seb's position and Max's position, so then I was fifth and we finished there."