In Russia, the four-time world champion took the lead at the start of the race after a pre-race agreement that dictated pole man Charles Leclerc should tow his teammate, and not second qualifier Lewis Hamilton.
However, when asked later to swap positions with Leclerc, Vettel didn’t do so and the Monegasque driver was left frustrated.
Vettel and Leclerc had separate meetings with team boss Mattia Binotto in Maranello last week, but the German played down the significance of his chat with him.
“Generally, everything is clear,” said Vettel. “Of course you talk to each other. There was a conversation, but there were also other conversations. I wouldn’t make such a fuss around the whole story.
“I think there were positive things in Russia as well. For the first time this year we had a very, very good pace in the race to hold up against Mercedes.
“In the other races we might have been in front here and there, but in general we were a bit slower. So there are positive and not so positive things.
“What agreement there was or wasn’t, or who is right and who isn’t, is perhaps not so important.
“But of course I got the message at the radio to change the place, and did not do it. And that was certainly not right.”
Asked if the rules on team orders were now written in stone he said: “I don’t know, there’s some stones but we didn’t write anything in stone, I don’t think it’s necessary.
“Obviously there are probably certain things we could have done better looking back. In the end we look forward to this race and the next races, so I’m not worried too much.”
Vettel denied that Leclerc’s performances had put pressure on him and contributed to his decision to stay ahead in Russia.
“No, not at all. Obviously I’m not happy if I’m slower, whether it’s practice or qualifying or race, that’s been the same not just this year, but the years before as well. There are certain things, obviously this year I struggled here and there with the car, which I think didn’t allow me to maybe extract my best.
“I don’t think it would have been any different of anybody else had been in the other car. Charles is doing a very good job, but I generally believe it’s first of all a race against yourself and then the others. In that regard I struggled as I said to extract what I know I have in me.”
Like Vettel, Leclerc was also keen to downplay the team order situation, insisting that it had now been sorted.
“Obviously there was some misunderstanding from the car,” he said. “But I think we’ve had a discussion and everything is clear now.
“Obviously it felt like it was a huge deal from the outside – which it definitely wasn’t, but now everything is fine.
“I think that’s clear from the beginning of the season, we need to obey team orders and what is clear is that the situation wasn’t clear for both of the drivers, starting the race, and I think that’s the most important [thing]. So we spoke about it and we’ll make sure that this situation doesn’t happen again in the future.
“I think as a team it’s always a priority to do good for the team but then as [in] every team, Seb wants to beat me, I want to beat him as much. But the priority is to do good for the team, which we all do.”
Leclerc stressed that their schedules did not allow them to have a joint conversation with their team boss in Maranello last week.
“No, unfortunately I had some things happening on the day he was in Maranello, so we didn’t have the chance to meet-up together – but I had a meeting with Mattia and he had one with Seb the day earlier. Yeah, everything is fine, as I’ve said.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari walks the track
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Sutton Images