Hamilton: Vettel 'clearly' no longer Ferrari's number one

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Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton says the events that took place at the Russian Grand Prix have led him to believe that Sebastian Vettel is no longer Ferrari's number one driver.

Vettel's under-performance versus teammate Charles Leclerc in qualifying this year coupled with the Monegasque's back-to-back wins at Spa and Monza have called into question the hierarchy among the drivers at the Scuderia.

But Hamilton views the Italian outfit's management of team orders in Sochi a clear indication that the winds of change are blowing over Maranello.

"It's an interesting dynamic they have there because obviously Seb was number one and now clearly not," Hamilton said in Suzuka on Thursday.

"From the energy, the outlook, they're trying to ramp Charles up.

But Hamilton doubts whether putting wind in the 21-year-old's sails is the right call by the team.

"Is that good for a team? I don't think so. But that [having a number one] is the philosophy they've had for forever."

Ferrari's team orders in Sochi applied to a pre-race agreement between Leclerc and Vettel by which the former would tow the latter into the lead to help them put some breathing space between themselves and their Mercedes rivals.

But when the time came for Vettel to cede back the top position to Leclerc, the order from the Ferrari pitwall fell on deaf ears.

Hamilton suggested that Leclerc had perhaps been naïve to put his full faith in his teammate.

"I think Charles said, 'I'll let you take the tow' and then didn't move to defend, which he should have done.

"You don't give up the place and expect to get that back. I wouldn't give it back."

Hamilton compared Ferrari's current shift of power among its drivers to his 2007 rookie season in F1, when he started his year in the shadow of Fernando Alonso.

"When I was with Fernando, obviously he was number one but then mid-season they changed that to make it to equal," he remembered. "Then that dynamic shifted.

"There are drivers who always wanted that number one status and it's easier for them.

"I like to earn that. Start on an equal platform, then either of you can get that number one status on that weekend - weekend in, weekend out, rather than [over] the course of the season.

"If you already know you're number two that's kind of defeatist."

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