• Hamilton finished the Monaco Grand Prix in seventh place after starting in 13th.
  • Ferrari denied employing team orders to ensure Vettel finished ahead of Raikkonen.

Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari have already chosen to back Sebastian Vettel for the title and appointed him the team's de facto leader in terms of chasing the Formula One drivers' championship.

The Briton was speaking following the Monaco Grand Prix in which Sebastian Vettel, who was second for the first-half of the race behind teammate Kimi Raikkonen, went on to win the race after he jumped the Finn during the first and only round of pit stops.

The Ferrari driver's victory in the Principality and Hamilton's seventh place finish sees the three-time world champion trailing his title rival by 25-points and he is certain that Ferrari will favour Vettel for the rest of the season.

Hamilton has a 29-point lead over his teammate Valtteri Bottas despite finishing three places below the Finn, but has made it clear that he will not ask his team to throw their weight behind him in a bid to have an advantage in the title race. He is keen for both drivers to work as a team and put as much pressure on Ferrari to overcome the 17-point deficit the Silver Arrows team have in the constructors' championship.

"It's very clear Ferrari have chosen their number one driver and are pushing everything to make sure Sebastian will maximise his points," Hamilton said after the race in Monte Carlo, as quoted by BBC Sport.

"It is very hard for the leading car to get jumped unless the team decide to favour the other car.

"I haven't spoken to the team and I don't really plan to. Valtteri has been doing a great job and I don't currently feel we have to favour one or the other.

"It is really important we collectively work as a team more than ever before, as we have been, because our work is to beat the Ferraris in the constructors' but there might be some things along the way positioning-wise that might become valuable.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton is not interested in asking Mercedes to back him over Bottas like Ferrari are doing for Vettel Getty

"Who knows what will happen? It might be the other way. We might need to give him the upper hand. We just need to make sure we are ahead of them so we are not in the same scenario as we are today," the Briton explained.

'Drivers are free to race'

Ferrari have denied all claims with regards to team orders and made it clear that their drivers are free to race each other. Speculation was rife after the race about the Italian team's strategists planning the entire routine, which saw Vettel over-take Raikkonen during the pit stops.

Raikkonen led for the first 35 laps of the race with Vettel following close behind, the lead car generally gets preference on stops and the former was called in first for his first and only stop of the race. The Finn came out behind some back markers and lost time, while the German took advantage of the open track ahead of him and set some quick laps to open the gap to his teammate.

Sebastian Vettel
Vettel won the Monaco Grand Prix after teammate Raikkonen had led for the first 35 laps of the race Getty

Vettel came into the pits five laps later and comfortably emerged ahead of Raikkonen, which did not sit well with the 2007 world champion. The Finn was visibly annoyed after the race, while the four-time world champion was also adamant that there was no team orders involved.

"The drivers are free to race. There was no plan whatsoever to get Sebastian ahead," a Ferrari spokesman was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.

"There was no plan of any team orders. I can understand Kimi is not happy. I would feel the same," Vettel added.