Ferrari is under the pump for not helping Charles Leclerc, and an awkward photo of the star driver with his team boss says it all.
One of his drivers may have won the British Grand Prix, but Ferrari’s team strategy is becoming increasingly critical as the championship race intensifies.
Carlos Sainz claimed his first F1 win at Silverstone on Monday morning (AEST) in its 150th race.
While it was a deserved result for Sainz, the conversation immediately turned to the elephant in the room – how Ferrari once again screwed up the race strategy of their world champion contender Charles Leclerc.
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Sainz led the first half of the race, but Leclerc was hot on his heels and asked over team radio to overtake his teammate, arguing that he was holding him up.
At the time, Leclerc had a better pace than Sainz, but Ferrari refused his request to overtake his teammate.
It was a puzzling decision that allowed Lewis Hamilton to overtake the Ferrari duo while Leclerc could have built a big lead had he been let through.
Ferrari also chose not to pit Leclerc late in the race during the safety car period to switch to soft tires.
It proved costly as Leclerc was passed by Sergio Perez and Hamilton forcing him to miss the podium and settle for fourth.
Many commentators believed Ferrari butchered a possible 1-2 finish and missed an opportunity to help Leclerc claim valuable points and overtake Max Verstappen – who finished seventh with a damaged car – in the drivers’ championship.
Leclerc is currently third in the standings – 43 points behind Verstappen with Perez in second.
The Monagesque driver was loud on the team radio and was clearly frustrated when he returned to the garage.
After the race, TV cameras caught Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto having a stern word against Leclerc, wagging his finger at his star driver as if telling him to stop.
But Binotto later dismissed suggestions the two were battling, saying he actually congratulated Leclerc on a solid race.
“There is nothing to resolve internally,” the Scuderia boss told Sky Sports.
“I think it was just to say to him, ‘I understand your disappointment, but you did a fantastic race today.’ Fighting in the beginning, fighting later when he was on the hards and the others on softs.
“I think the way he rode there to take positions was great, so being happy is difficult, but staying calm and positive is important.
“It was clear to us that we shouldn’t stop Charles, watch position and stop Carlos because he was the only one who could have stopped. We hoped for more tire degradation on the soft tires, but that didn’t happen.”
“First of all, I knew he was disappointed and frustrated, which is understandable as he was clearly leading the race and he was at ease when the safety car came out.
“And for him today was a great opportunity in terms of the championship as he led while Max had some problems.
“So then the safety car came out and he had a difficult, shall I say, end of the race and no doubt he was disappointed. So when I met him, I knew he was disappointed.
“But what I told him is that you did another fantastic race because you fought a fantastic first lap of the race.”
But F1 fans said the sight of Binotto appearing to be berating Leclerc was not a good look.
Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert believes Ferrari not helping its No. 1 driver is becoming a problem and in stark contrast to Red Bull, who have let Verstappen pass Perez several times this season.
“Their (Red Bull’s) strategy is a little risky at times, but my, my, my, they make some absolutely brilliant phone calls to enable their driver to take advantage of getting that race win, which then means you get the points get,” Herbert said. Air sports.
“It seems that Ferrari is still missing there. And it’s been a bit historic for Ferrari to make these mistakes, especially this season, but it’s happened a lot in the past.
“Even when I was standing on the side of the track with a few people, even they thought it was a crazy call.
“If this is a race fan who thinks it’s a crazy call, how can they not see it themselves when they have all the information in the world in front of them. They still make the same mistakes. That’s the incredible thing and that’s the strength of Red Bull and Mercedes.
“They have to somehow regroup at Maranello, really bang their heads and somehow have a good idea going into the race weekend so they don’t end up in this situation.”
But some disagreed, claiming Ferrari got its strategy right and letting Leclerc pass Sainz, robbing him of a first win, would have been even more disastrous.
F1 writer Hazel Southwell tweeted: “Honestly I thought Ferrari had it right today, demoralizing Carlos would have sabotaged the team result more, Charles losing the podium was crazy but it would have looked crazier if they had lost the win too. Sometimes you have to control your own failure tendencies.”
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