Leclerc (right) was quicker in qualifying but Vettel was faster in Sunday’s Sochi race until he retired with a mechanical failure. Picture: REUTERS
Leclerc (right) was quicker in qualifying but Vettel was faster in Sunday’s Sochi race until he retired with a mechanical failure. Picture: REUTERS

Ferrari put two roosters in the same henhouse when they paired Sebastian Vettel with Charles Leclerc and now they are facing the fallout.

Vettel, a four-times Formula One champion once seen as the successor to Michael Schumacher, would have expected to be the main man in his fifth year in red overalls but Leclerc, Ferrari’s youngest winner, has made short work of that.

The 21-year-old Monegasque has made his presence felt and the pressure cooker is starting to whistle, as heard in “team orders” radio exchanges relayed to a global audience in Singapore two weeks ago and Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

Leclerc has more points, more podiums, poles and wins in 2019 than Vettel, who is on the brink of being mathematically ruled out of the title chase.

The youngster has out-qualified his team mate for nine consecutive races, taking four successive poles — the first Ferrari driver to do so since Schumacher — and winning in Belgium and Ferrari’s home race at Monza.

On Sunday, the commotion came when Vettel was instructed to hand back the lead gained through slipstreaming Leclerc as part of a prerace pact. The German’s response was to speed up, pointing out that Leclerc was too far behind and saying he would have passed him anyway.

Leclerc’s response, emphasising that he had been “put behind” and expected redress, suggested the gloves were coming off.

Vettel was quicker than his upstart teammate in Sunday’s race, though it all came to nought when his Ferrari retired with mechanical failure. Leclerc finished third, behind Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

More flare-ups can be expected, even if Ferrari publicly doused the flames this time, as the elder statesman contends with a self-assured youngster who has much pace and threatens to steal his throne.

“It shows you that it’s not trivial at all to manage two drivers that have the aspiration to win,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who had to manage the fallout of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battling for wins and titles from 2013-16.

In Schumacher’s day, Ferrari had a clear number one while Fernando Alonso left no doubt about who held sway during his years at Maranello before Vettel slotted into the role.

“I’ve always said that I don’t want two roosters in the henhouse,” former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said in 2012 when speculation ran wild that Vettel would leave Red Bull to partner Alonso.

“I don’t like that and it creates instability in the team.”

Leclerc and Vettel could be truly in the mix next season for the team’s first title in more than a decade. The stakes are rising and neither is about to stand back and wave the other through with a smile on their face.

Reuters

Kyalami gets ready for nine-hour revival

The revival of the Kyalami 9 Hour race will commence at 1pm on November 23 at Kyalami raceway.

BMW vs Bentley will be one of the rivalries in November’s Kyalami Nine Hour international. Picture: SUPPLIED
BMW vs Bentley will be one of the rivalries in November’s Kyalami Nine Hour international. Picture: SUPPLIED

About 30 international teams — from Porsche, Ferrari, Audi and AMG to BMW, Bentley, Honda and Aston Martin — will be on the start line when the lights go off for the Pirelli-sponsored Intercontinental GT Challenge season finale.

Among them will be 15 SA Pro drivers.

The event is a last throw of the dice to score points for teams competing in the global championship. Mercedes-AMG, which leads the series, will hope to secure the title on African soil on the last calendar race of the series.

The renowned endurance race was last held in this original format about 37 years ago and returns to a SA that’s markedly changed in complexion.

Supporting events to the 9 Hour race will include the VW Polo Cup as a curtain-raiser, with stunts from the Soweto Spinners, a classic car parade, and karting for all ages.

As part of the festivities over the November 21-23 event, 18 of SA’s biggest DJs, bands and artists will perform a Kyalami 9 Hour concert. They include Black Coffee, Shekhinah, Sun El Musician and Prime Circle.

Tickets can be purchased at www.kyalami9hour.com

Electric Hyandai Veloster gears up for racing

Hyundai Motorsport is ready to compete in the new ETCR (Electric Touring Car Championship), a new series based on the popular TCR (Touring Car Championship).

The ETCR adds a new dimension to Hyundai’s extensive race car portfolio. Picture: SUPPLIED
The ETCR adds a new dimension to Hyundai’s extensive race car portfolio. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Veloster N ETCR unveiled recently at the Frankfurt motor show will be among the first of the new cars at the start line of the new ETCR series in 2020.

Speaking at the launch, Marcello Lotti, head of World Sporting Consulting (WSC), promoters of the TCR and ETCR series said: “In the wake of the global success achieved by TCR and being aware of the automotive market’s current trend towards a new and responsible mobility, two years ago WSC Technology embarked on this ambitious project with the aim of educating the motorsport community in making contact with these new technologies that represent the future reality.”

The ETCR series has so far received entries from Hyundai and Seat’s Cupra high-performance division.

ETCR uses twin-electric motors positioned over the rear axle and with outputs of up to 500kW with a regenerative braking system on board.

The Veloster N ETCR is based on the road-going Veloster N model and is fully electric, rear-wheel driven with a midmounted motor and a claimed 0-100km/h time of about 3.2 seconds.