Sebastian Vettel is “surprised” by suggestions that Ferrari uses team orders in its Formula 1 team, believing teammate Kimi Raikkonen is pushing as hard as possible to win races.
Vettel has spearheaded Ferrari’s charge through 2017, claiming four race wins to sit at the top of the drivers’ championship heading to the team’s home grand prix at Monza this weekend.
While the rival Mercedes team has operated with a joint number one driver policy between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari has been accused of backing Vettel over Raikkonen, believing the German to be its best bet for a first title since 2008.
Raikkonen has struggled to match Vettel for form this year, scoring 92 less points, but saw opportunities for victory in Monaco and Hungary pass by, losing the former thanks to Ferrari’s strategy call.
Vettel knocked back the suggestion when asked about team orders during Thursday’s FIA press conference ahead of the Italian Grand Prix, making reference to Raikkonen’s failure to pass him in Hungary despite struggling with a handling issue.
“I’m a bit surprised by the way things are put. Kimi and myself, I can’t speak for other people, but we’re racing each other the whole year,” Vettel said.
“I read or heard after the Hungarian Grand Prix that he was protecting me. I think if you speak to him he’ll make it pretty clear. He wasn’t leaving anything behind. If he had the opportunity to properly pass me, I think he would have tried.
“That’s fair enough. I think it would have been the same the other way around. We’re racing for the team, we’re trying to do our best. You’re racing for yourself, but you’re also racing for the team.
“It’s something you need to keep in the back of your mind. I don’t know what other teams are doing, but for us I think we both go flat out and see what happens.
“You can always talk about scenarios and so on, but it always turns out to be a bit different.”