Double World Champion Mika Hakkinen believes Ferrari has to stop “playing games” with team orders and concentrate on beating Mercedes, after another disappointing outcome in China.
Ferrari has yet to win in 2019 after lacking pace compared to Mercedes in Australia and China, while an engine issue denied it victory in Bahrain, where it held the fastest package.
Ferrari has also issued team orders at each event, with Charles Leclerc instructed to allow Sebastian Vettel through during the early stages of the most recent event in China.
That decision contributed to Leclerc slipping behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen through the first round of stops, with the youngster coming home fifth, two places behind team-mate Vettel.
Hakkinen, World Champion in 1998 and 1999, praised Mercedes’ “strength” so far in 2019 but cast criticism on Ferrari for how it has handled matters of late.
“[Mercedes] helped to show how much work Ferrari still has to do – developing a car quick enough to dominate qualifying, having a clearly defined race strategy and eliminating any potential for conflict between their drivers,” he wrote in his Unibet column.
“Charles made a better start to the race than Ferrari team mate Sebastian Vettel and should really have been allowed to get on with it and take the fight to [Valtteri] Bottas if he could.
“Instead he was asked to slow down and let Vettel past, which looked like a mistake.
“When you have a team as strong as Mercedes to beat there is no point playing games; Ferrari needs to stop focusing on themselves and start concentrating on beating the competition.
“In the battle to beat Mercedes no one should care whether it is Leclerc or Vettel who wins the race.
“I think Leclerc was right to be upset, because the subsequent strategy managed him back into fifth position, behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
“Forget about team orders, concentrate on the team winning.
“Three races into 2019 and, in spite of Ferrari having the strongest engine and a good package, Mercedes continues to dominate.
“The mistakes of the other teams are helping them, and we must hope that Ferrari and Red Bull Racing can deliver a more consistent challenge in the races ahead.”
Ferrari trails Mercedes by 57 points in the Constructors' Championship.