Ferrari have had a very disappointing start to the 2020 season. Their car has proved to be uncompetitive in qualifying, and, although Charles Leclerc claimed an excellent second place in last weekends Austrian Grand Prix, they are already playing catch-up to great rivals Mercedes and Red Bull.
However, things reached a new low on Sunday when their two drivers, Leclerc, and Sebastian Vettel drove into each other on the first lap. Vettel was forced to retire immediately with a damaged rear wing, whilst Leclerc limped around the circuit for five laps until he too had to pull into the garage.
The two men may be teammates, but they have previous.
When Leclerc joined the team last year, it was regarded by many aa a dream partnership matching up the four-time World Champion with one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in the sport. It was expected that one would mentor the other, and together they would help propel Ferrari back to the World Championship again.
However, Formula One is an extremely competitive sport, in which beating a teammate is often seen as key to deciding who gets the best parts, and choice of strategy. And, right from the start, Leclerc made it clear that he was not prepared to accept number two driver status, often out qualifying, and outperforming his more illustrious colleague on the track.
The incidents and the politely disguised animosity between the duo began to mount-up, and Ferrari began to realise they had created a problem for themselves.
Towards the end of last season, it boiled over several times.
First, in Singapore, where Vettel won the race, after pitting before Leclerc. That was despite Leclerc being in the lead at the time, and that the Ferrari avowed tactic was to give precedence in terms of pit strategy to whichever driver had the advantage. Leclerc said that the team had been unfair, whilst Vettel claimed it had been done for the benefit of Ferrari as a whole, and Leclerc should just accept it.
A few weeks later, at the Brazilian Grand prix, they crashed into each other again on the 66th lap, forcing both cars out of the race. Vettel said that it was Leclercs fault; most commentators disagreed and argued that it was the German driver who had driven into the side of his rival.
At least after the latest incident, Leclerc has taken full responsibility for the error, although Ferrari have promised to hold an internal inquiry.
They will be glad that Vettel is leaving the team at the end of the season so the pair can be separated.