Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto has denied that Sebastian Vettel is now Ferrari’s number two driver in the wake of the Belgian Grand Prix and ahead of this weekend’s all-important Italian Grand Prix on home turf.
His denial comes after the Italian media said Charles Leclerc’s first win at Spa last Sunday marked a turning point in the Ferrari hierarchy.
“Vettel must clear the way for Leclerc,” declared La Repubblica newspaper.
Corriere dello Sport added: “After 13 grands prix, Ferrari has realised that Leclerc is the right man to take over Maranello’s legacy.”
And La Gazzetta dello Sport said: “Charles waited for this day after so many unfortunate moments, but in Belgium he took over the role of team leader. The future is in Charles’ hands.”
Even the German press got in on the narrative, saying Vettel had played a mere “assistant role” in Belgium.
“Vettel’s humiliation now seems final,” Die Welt newspaper added.
When the hierarchy shift was suggested to Ferrari boss Binotto, though, he responded: “No, no, no. Simply if you are faster and if you are ahead, the interest of the team comes in. And that will not change.
“There will still be opportunities for Seb. We go race by race and the best will be in front,” he added.
However, it is still being rumoured that Vettel could escape from his 2020 contract in order to either retire or return to Red Bull.
Helmut Marko has reportedly told Sky Deutschland that he has sat down with Vettel’s lawyers, even if he acknowledges: “Vettel has a contract for next year.”
Binotto commented: “That’s all nonsense. Seb still wants to become world champion with us.”
Big Question: Has the balance of power shifted at Ferrari?