Ferrari says Charles Leclerc will be allowed to fight teammate Sebastian Vettel for victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, as long as he does not take any unneccesary risks doing so.
Leclerc, 21, claimed his maiden F1 pole position on Saturday evening, comfortably beating Vettel in qualifying in just his second race weekend with Ferrari. At the launch of its 2019 car, Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto said Vettel would get the priority in any 50/50 situations early in the season and at the Australian Grand Prix Leclerc was told he could not pass the four-time world champion in the closing stages of the race.
Speaking after qualifying, Binotto insisted there will be no restrictions on Leclerc at the start of the race this time around.
"Charles is allowed to go as fast as he can," Binotto told Sky Sports after the race. "He's allowed to go for pole, he's allowed to stay ahead. We are not stopping him doing that.
"I think it is important that our two drivers are not fighting and taking any risks battling together."
Team orders used to be synonymous with Ferrari, as the team used them on numerous occasions to help Michael Schumacher during its dominant spell of the early 2000s. An incident at the Austrian Grand Prix in 2002, when Ferrari told Rubens Barrichello to move over for Michael Schumacher, led to team orders being banned, a regulation the Italian team fell foul of in 2010 when it used coded messages to tell Felipe Massa to let Fernando Alonso pass him for victory at the 2010 German Grand Prix. The resulting debate over the issue resulted in team orders being allowed again from the start of 2011 season onwards.
However, last year the teams outlook to prioritising one driver over another was questioned. The team dithered over team orders on several occasions, notably after securing a front row lock out at the Italian Grand Prix, prompting a change in approach for the 2019 campaign. That decision was made easier by the departure of Kimi Raikkonen, the last man to win a drivers' championship for Ferrari, and the arrival of Leclerc, a product of the Italian team's driver academy.
When asked the inevitable team orders question in the post-qualifying press conference, both Vettel and Leclerc refused to be drawn on what might happen on Sunday. Vettel said teamwork will be crucial if the red cars want to keep Mercedes at bay off the line on Sunday.
"We have a very, very tough race ahead of us tomorrow," he said. "We need to work as a team and try to make sure we stay first and second. We'll see how it goes. I think it is pretty clear, Charles starts ahead. He has the advantage of pole position."
Leclerc said it will not be clear what the team is planning until it meets ahead of the grand prix.
"To be completely honest we haven't done the pre-race meeting yet, so at the moment I don't know - if you ask me I will do absolutely everything to keep my first place but we're a team also and we need to work together."