Leclerc and Vettel will start 2020 as equals, say Ferrari

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel will start the 2020 Formula 1® season as equals, according to Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.

Binotto accepted the picture has changed after a campaign that saw Leclerc finish ahead of the four-time world champion in the drivers' standings, claiming seven pole positions and two race victories.

Vettel, by contrast, had two poles and one race win, finishing 2019 in fifth place, 24 points adrift of his younger team-mate.

Tension between the two drivers over strategy simmered during the season and flared up as recently at the penultimate race of the year in Brazil, where a collision between them led to a double retirement.

But Binotto vowed they would be free to battle each other next year, praising Leclerc for his superb start to life with the Scuderia.

"Obviously now we just finished the season and there will be time from now to Australia, but when we started this season, the situation was quite different," Binotto told Sky Sports.

"We had a rookie and an experienced driver. If you look at the last races they were free to race and I think that is where we start from [in 2020].

"Charles surprised everybody, not only myself. He is very fast, he has proved to manage the pressure and proved to manage the entire season.

"He's good in battling, he's good in racing, so we are very happy with him. His season has been outstanding. 

"Starting seven times on pole, two victories, on his very first year and finishing ahead of Sebastian in the championship, it's still an achievement."

Ferrari finished second in the Constructors' Championship, but only three race wins seemed like a low return for a car that was quickest on multiple circuits, as emphasised by their qualifying results.

"We did our best each time but obviously we are unhappy for the performance of the car and unhappy for some mistakes we did, for reliability problems we had, and maybe some decisions," said Binotto.

"We've now got some time ahead and we are trying at least to create some solid foundations with the team, with our organisation, and eventually try to challenge the others in a better way next year."

The first of 22 races on the 2020 schedule is the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2020 on 12-15 March.

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