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Raikkonen plays down Vettel-Ferrari rift

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Spielberg (Austria) (AFP)

Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday played down talk of a seriously damaging rift between Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel and rejected suggestions that the Italians would give preference to Charles Leclerc this season.

The 40-year-old Finn, who was team-mate to the four-time champion at Ferrari from 2014 to 2018, having been with the team from 2007 to 2009, said he could not envisage the scarlet scuderia doing anything that was not fair to both men.

Speaking during a series of controlled official video news conferences ahead of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix, he said he was certain they would be treated fairly and equally.

"I’m certain they get exactly the same treatment," he said. “It’s in their (Ferrari) benefit to try to get the best result in both cars, so I don’t see why they’d do anything."

He added that he had spoken to Vettel shortly before last weekend's season-opening Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, which this week becomes the first circuit in F1 history to host two races in succession.

"I spoke to him last weekend quickly, I think it was before the start. That’s all what I know. I don’t know what’s going on there, it’s none of my business and I think it’s unfair to comment if somebody is treated badly or not because I don’t know what’s going on.

"I doubt that they have as bad a relationship as people are making out. Sometimes it goes this way that you leave the team or you choose to leave, whichever way it is and we’ll see what happens in his future."

Vettel told reporters last weekend that he was surprised when Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto told him he had decided not to renew his contract for 2021.

Binotto said he was aware that Vettel was upset and remained unhappy, but said he believed their mutual respect meant that their relationship was not damaged beyond repair.

Binotto was more concerned last Sunday by the team’s overall lack of pace and performance – a disappointment that they hope can be partly rectified this weekend with the introduction of a new set of front wings.

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