Mattia Binotto explains the strategy decisions in F1 British GP which affected Charles Leclerc, while Carlos Sainz was fine with it.
It was another disappointing result for Ferrari’s Leclerc in F1 British GP after a late safety car left him high and dry when he was left to defend on the hard tyres while others were on the soft compound. The team had 11s to decide and chose Sainz over the Monegasque.
Before that, Leclerc’s pace was limited initially due to broken endplate, but by midway he managed it well and was back on pace to lead the grand prix – which even involved team orders as Sainz started to struggle when Lewis Hamilton caught them well.
But the late safety car for Esteban Ocon changed the course and gave the advantage to Sainz in terms of strategy. Post-race, Binotto was seen talking to Leclerc in parc ferme but the Monegasque was too disappointed at that juncture to have lost the race and podium.
While explaining to media, Binotto noted that their idea was to use Sainz as a shield at that time to allow Leclerc to move ahead, where they thought the soft tyre would degrade faster and the Monegasque will be helped to be on the hard compound, but they eventually made a mistake as the Spaniard insisted to let him through to have the best chance to win the grand prix.
“As first, it has been a very intense race,” said Binotto to media. “I think you saw it. And we knew it would have been very intense, because the fight is very tight. I think at some stage of the race, we were leading with both of our cars. Charles got a bit more pace. Carlos started degrading some tyres, that is why we pitted him earlier compared to Charles, and we let Charles outside.
“But we are always monitoring the gap to Hamilton to make sure that whenever Hamilton was stopping and coming in, he would have been behind us, and that is what exactly happened. So we had the right pace on hard tyres with our two drivers. We keep monitoring it. And when we saw it was marginal, we simply asked to swap the cars. We swapped the cars because we saw it and we believed, and I think we were right at that time, Charles had some more pace.
“And it would have been nice, ahead of Carlos as well, DRS in the slipstream could stay up somehow with the pace. I think we did well, very well as a team. They did very well as drivers. There were no discussions. I think it is not easy to do that, I think we do it properly, and I think it is well done to the entire team and the drivers, so we swapped. At that stage, Charles was ahead. Then we were clearly leading the race. Obviously somehow disappointing for Charles, for the safety car at the end with Ocon stopping in the middle of the track, when I think he could have stopped somewhere else because there was time to swap somewhere else.
“And here what happened, our two cars, in our view certainly, were too close to stop both of them. So we had to take a decision. We were the only one outside there having the two cars fighting for the good positions. The other teams got only one car, so certainly it was a lot easier. In our case, we got the two cars and we thought there was not a sufficient gap to stop both of them, because the second would have lost time at the pit stop and would have fallen back on-track.
“Why then by deciding to stop only one, why we decided to stop Carlos, because Charles got the track position, he was leading, so he would have remained the leader of the race. Because his tyres were fresher compared to the ones of Carlos. He had I think six or seven laps less laps to the one of Carlos in a better shape. And Carlos, by stopping and being second, he would have protected at least in the first couple of corners where we knew that starting on the hard, it would have been a bit more difficult.
“That was the reason why we decided. Then we were hoping for more tyre degradation on the softs, to give Charles, yeah, maybe a difficult three or four laps initially but then recovering later on, but the soft didn’t degrade as we were hoping,” summed up Binotto. The Italian was further pressed on to explain his chat with Leclerc.
Binotto stated that he tried to explain Leclerc about the situation and what was happening in the race. “First, I knew that he was disappointed and frustrated, which is understandable because he was leading clearly the race and he was comfortable going very fast at the time when the safety car came out,” he started.
“And for him today was a great opportunity in terms of championship because he was leading while Max had some problems. So then the safety car came out, he had a difficult let me say end of the of the race and no doubt that he was disappointed. So when I met him, I knew he was disappointed. But what I told him is you did a fantastic race once again, because you did a fantastic first lap of the race battling.
“And then after the restart behind the safety car again, the way he was driving and protecting position is amazing and outstanding. So I told him simply to stay calm, because the way he drove was fantastic. He has been once again unlucky today, because a safety car when you are leading a few laps to the end, is somehow bad luck. And I think that overall that’s why the reason I think we simply tried not to be too disappointed,” summed up Binotto.
Despite the pep talk, Leclerc was still visibly disappointed and he let it know to media as well. “Nothing at the end say much, it’s more Mattia that tried to cheer me up because I was very disappointing with the result and not winning the race and the race strategy,” he said. “He just tried to and cheer me up and that was it.
“He tried, but then of course I mean the disappointment is big for me today. It’s been a rollercoaster of a race. The first lap I broke the front wing and then I thought that was over, there was quite a lot of understeer then I managed to play around with my toggles and manage to have a bit more a strong front and then the pace came back and we were very strong. And then the win was feeling more and more possible and then obviously safety car and that was it, it’s frustrating,” summed up Leclerc.
While Binotto and the Monegasque were a bit down on this side of the garage, Sainz felt that the decision on his side was fine, even the earlier call to let Leclerc pass. “Honestly, I think today the team managed the race really well,” he said. I have nothing to say. At one point we switched positions when we were both at risk at getting overcut by Lewis.
“I think we did it and executed it perfectly and then they asked me to do this ten metres, but I tried to explain to them, you know, like I had behind probably the fastest man on track today. If I drop ten metres, I might lose a bit of slipstream. And if he passes me then Charles is going to be dead meat also, so my decision to get in the lead as soon as possible, because I knew I was going to get in the lead before Turn 6, with the grip I had on the Soft and go from there and try to not affect his race by getting in the lead.
“So I asked the team, ‘look, leave it to me I’m going to handle it as clean as possible’. And actually Charles did a great job to nearly stay in P2. Sometimes the driver feeling is there and sometimes the team might tell you something that you don’t agree with and you just do your own thing because you really believe in it. But I trust the team a lot and today we executed a very fine race and we trust each other in this kind of scenarios as you saw. And going forward, the same. I think today we did it well so we keep doing it that way,” summed up Sainz.
Here’s Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc on