Sebastian Vettel would have rather seen Ferrari keep hold of Kimi Raikkonen than bring in Charles Leclerc ahead of the 2019 F1 season. That is the verdict of former driver Christijan Albers, who believes the four-time champion does not like having a team-mate who can compete with him.
Vettel and Raikkonen spent four years together at Ferrari after the German moved from pit-lane rivals Red Bull.
Vettel finished ahead of the veteran Finn, who now drives for Alfa Romeo, in each of those seasons, twice finishing runner-up to Lewis Hamilton.
The 32-year-old experienced a shock to the system in 2019, however, with Raikkonen replaced by the highly-rated Leclerc.
A battle for supremacy played out as Leclerc proved he could not only contend with Vettel but also beat his team-mate.
Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto has been forced to rethink his stance on the pair since Leclerc finished last season a place above Vettel in the drivers’ standings.
The duo will start the 2020 campaign on equal footing and Albers believes Vettel would never have wanted it to be this way.
“Vettel has the speed, but gets irritated when someone is just as fast,” Albers told Dutch outlet Formule 1. “That’s why he wanted to keep Kimi Raikkonen as a team-mate – for safety reasons.
“The Vettel-Leclerc fight was one of two drivers on the same level. If you look at the performance, it’s just not good. That struggle has caused many problems and cost points.”
Leclerc was rewarded with a new long-term contract by Ferrari over the winter, tying him down until the end of the 2024 season.
Former Minardi, Midland and Spyker driver Albers is not fully convinced by the 22-year-old though.
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“He is the first driver I can’t estimate,” Albers said. “I think Leclerc always overdrives his car. It is a mystery to me how he constantly squeezes those times out while he drives so wildly.
“This year is going to count for him. Now we are going to see if he stays strong and consistent under pressure.”
Vettel and Leclerc will get their 2020 season underway next weekend when the Australian Grand Prix takes place in Melbourne.
Ferrari look set to be trailing Mercedes Down Under, with the reigning champions showing good form during pre-season testing in Spain.
Red Bull are also poised to make a quick start to the campaign, with Max Verstappen impressing in the new RB16.
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