In Brief

F1: Vettel still Ferrari’s No.1 driver and has priority over Leclerc

Lewis Hamilton expects Red Bull threat at the Chinese Grand Prix

Vettel is Ferrari’s No.1

Scuderia Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto has confirmed that Sebastian Vettel remains the team’s No.1 driver despite the emergence of Charles Leclerc as a contender at the front of the grid.

Vettel is a four-time Formula 1 world title winner from his days at Red Bull and Binotto says that the German’s experience means he provides Ferrari a better chance of winning the championship.

Speaking at the Chinese Grand Prix Ferrari team principal Binotto said: “As I said at the start of the season, if there is any 50-50 situation where we need to take a decision, then the advantage would be given to Sebastian simply because Sebastian has got most of the experience with the team in F1.

“He won four championships and, certainly for us, he’s the driver who has the most probability to challenge for the title. We agreed with both drivers.”

In Friday’s two free practice (FP) sessions at the Shanghai International Circuit Vettel set the pace with the fastest time in FP1 and was second in FP2 behind Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.

Saturday’s third practice session in Shanghai starts at 4am and qualifying begins at 7am. Sunday’s F1 Chinese Grand Prix starts at 7.10am. All times UK.

Red Bull staff celebrate Max Verstappen’s third place at the 2019 F1 Australian Grand Prix

Will Taylor-Medhurst/Getty Images

Hamilton: Red Bull will be a threat

Mercedes and Ferrari may have set the pace on Friday but Red Bull Racing were also in the mix with Max Verstappen fourth fastest in FP1 and third in FP2.

Speaking before practice in China Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton predicted that Red Bull and Verstappen would be contenders this weekend.

Reigning world champion Hamilton told F1.com: “At the moment it’s clearly not just me and Sebastian [Vettel]. So, I don’t see that changing any time soon. At the moment it’s at least four of us and the Red Bulls, you definitely can’t count them out.

“They’ve had a bit of a slower start, but I think if you look at last year for example they won the race here and they particularly finished strong. I anticipate it could be something similar.

“On the straights they’ve been really good so they are clearly, whereas they usually have a really strong car and not so strong engine, it’s the other way this year. They’ve got not as strong a car. But they’re one of the teams that can develop at a similar rate to Ferrari and us so it’s far too early to say.”

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