Rivalry with Leclerc unsettling Vettel, and Ferrari - Villeneuve

© XPB 

Jacques Villeneuve says the rivalry between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at Ferrari has unsettled the German driver and is having an adverse effect on the Scuderia's performance.

Leclerc, Maranello's new recruit has outpaced his four-time world champion team mate on several occasions although Ferrari has yet to defeat this season its dominant Mercedes opponent.

Villeneuve contends that the inner team competition has disrupted the Scuderia and is weighning on its results.

"If you listen to any fan or go on the forums, even the qualifying accident [in Baku], Leclerc doesn't get criticised," Villeneuve told Motorsport.com.

"If it had been Vettel, he would have been destroyed by the media and everyone, for the same mistake.

"Ultimately I think that's having a negative effect for the team. Seb's spin in Bahrain came because of that, then the team orders in China, it all comes from there.

"And Leclerc's accident in qualifying also, wanting to prove that he's the number one of the team. Ultimately that's damaging the whole team," added the 1997 world champion.

"I hope it re-balances out, because they should have been the one that's being chased by Mercedes, and instead they've got three podiums, and that's it. It's not had a good positive effect on the team, that's all."

Ferrari kicked off its campaign as the clear favourite and while it stumbled in Melbourne, Leclerc was on course to conquer his maiden F1 win in Bahrain when an engine issue sidelined the Monegasque in the closing stages of the race.

Ferrari's SF90 is generally seen as a faster car than Mercedes' W10 but contrary to the Silver Arrows squad, the Scuderia has failed to execute properly.

Villeneuve believes that Ferrari would have been better off preserving its stability from last season by keeping Kimi Raikkonen on board.

"Leclerc is quick, he personally is ready," Villeneuve said. "It's Ferrari that's not ready for this kind of situation.

"If you take Leclerc's perspective, it's great to be there this year, for him it's amazing, and he's shown that he's super quick.

"But if you take Ferrari as a team, you have to look at Vettel's past, and you have to remember Ricciardo when he joined Red Bull. Seb needs to know that he's loved by the team, and by the fans, and that's gone this year.

"They already had Leclerc, so they could have given him a contract for 2020 and 2021, and kept Kimi for just one year, because this was the year to fight.

"Then everybody's happy, because you give them time in advance, it doesn't unbalance anything."

Villeneuve pointed to Mercedes' decision to opt for a status quo with regard to its line-up this year despite the availability of Esteban Ocon.

"Look what they did at Mercedes, and look how strong it is this year," added the Canadian.

"If they had put Ocon there, Lewis would have reacted the same way – he would have wanted to eat him alive straight away, and destroy him.

"But there's respect with Bottas, and even if they both have two victories, Lewis doesn't seem to be upset about it.

"That wasn't the case with Nico [Rosberg] for example, and that really allows the team to perform at a level that it almost hasn't performed at before."

Gallery: The beautiful wives and girlfriends of F1 drivers

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter