In the latest episode of the battle for supremacy within Ferrari, an apparent pre-race agreement was ignored by Vettel that was laid out to secure a one-two in the race.
Speaking to media in Japan, the four-time champion admitted his decision to renege on his agreement was a mistake.
“I got the message at the radio to change the places and did not do it. That was certainly not right,” he said.
After ending qualifying behind both Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, a plan by Ferrari to secure a one-two after the second corner was hatched, with the pole-sitter providing a tow to Vettel to beat the Mercedes driver into second.
Vettel took the lead into Turn One, and after being requested to swap the position back as planned, he refused to do so much to Leclerc’s dismay.
Speaking in the FIA press conference on Thursday ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Monégasque driver admitted that there had been no talks between the two ahead of Japan to clear the air, but separate meetings had taken place with team principal, Mattia Binotto.
“Unfortunately I had some things happening on the day he [Vettel] was in Maranello, so we didn’t have the chance to meet-up together – but I had a meeting with Mattia and he had one with Seb the day earlier. Yeah, everything is fine, as I’ve said.
“I think that’s clear from the beginning of the season, we need to obey team orders and what is clear is that the situation wasn’t clear for both of the drivers, starting the race, and I think that’s the most important (thing).”
Russia was just the latest instalment in the fight between Vettel and Leclerc that has risen to another level as the SF90 finally hit a performance spike.
Throughout the first few rounds, team order disputes played out over team radio, with Australia and Bahrain lighting the touch paper between the two.
After the summer break and with newfound competitiveness, Ferrari has had more headaches in the form of their drivers clashing.
Leclerc’s refusal to give Vettel a tow at Monza during qualifying was almost immediately paid back as the 21-year-old lost the Singapore Grand Prix on strategy to his team-mate.
Russia was just the latest episode and there is likely to be further headbutting as both vie for number one treatment within the Italian team.