Former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger is the latest to come out in criticism of the Scuderia's decision to issue Charles Leclerc team orders, in favour of Sebastian Vettel, at this early stage of the season. Leclerc has twice obeyed instructions this season, although they have been given to him in all three races of 2019 so far.
Leclerc stayed behind Vettel in Australia when commanded to and also let the German take third pace off him last time out in China, to his own detriment and he ultimately lost another place to Max Verstappen as a result.
Berger, who drove in 96 grands prix for Ferrari across two spells in his career, says new team principal Mattia Binotto has made his first mistake in giving Vettel "priority" at this early stage of the year.
"I think it's an open game at the moment," said the Austrian at a launch event for the DTM Series, which he runs.
"As much as I like Sebastian, and as much as I rate him, here's a boy [Leclerc] who is capable to win the world championship.
"I don't think it's enough to say, 'This one is experienced, this one is not experienced, so we take the card of experience.' I think they got it wrong."
Mercedes deployed team orders last year later in the campaign to aid Lewis Hamilton's title push, something Berger thinks Ferrari actually should have copied in that instance.
"Saying this, you always have to discuss this point in a different way – it depends where you are in the season," he said.
"Last year, when we were in Monza, when [Maurizio] Arrivabene said we let everything run open, when the championship was already going into the final stage, it was clear that if somebody has a chance it's not [Kimi] Raikkonen, it's Sebastian.
"So there I would react the other way. It's a question of when it is, and is it really giving somebody not even a chance to win the championship? And if you do it in the first or second race, I don't agree."
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