Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says the team will ‘never’ regret telling its drivers to push to overtake the car in front, after Charles Leclerc lost out on valuable points at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix due to overly exuberant driving.
The championship leader took an aggressive second pit stop onto soft tyres when running in third in an attempt to catch and overtake Sergio Perez in the Red Bull, having been passed by the Mexican at the start of Sunday’s race at Imola.
Once Perez himself had stopped to cover the strategy, the Monegasque was quickly onto the back of the Red Bull’s gearbox, but spun on entry to the Villeneuve chicane after taking too much kerb on the inside and sliding towards the barriers.
Leclerc managed to keep his left front tyre out of the wall but needed to pit again to change his front wing, which dropped him down the order significantly. Eventually he was able to pass Kevin Magnussen, Sebastian Vettel, and Yuki Tsunoda in order to finish sixth.
That result meant race winner Max Verstappen was able to cut his rival’s lead in the drivers’ standings to 27 points, and having seen the title race go down to the wire between the Dutchman and Lewis Hamilton last year, Ferrari will know how costly the loss of a third-place finish could be.
Binotto, though, insists the aggressive strategy was the right call, and says that the team will not hesitate to ask both Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz to push hard in future races.
‘I think there will never be regret to ask a driver to push,’ the Italian explained. ‘I think that is part of our job, and it’s part of their job trying to drive to the limit. Mistakes can happen. I think with this year’s cars, obviously, the cars on the kerbs are a lot more stiffer and somehow, if you make a small mistake, you’re paying for it quite a lot. So no regrets. I think we made the right choice and that is it.’
Binotto says the Scuderia were determined they could pass Perez and maximise their result in front of a home crowd of adoring Tifosi in Italy, and believes that Leclerc would have passed Perez had he not made the uncharacteristic error.
‘We were not running out of front tyres,’ Binotto added. ‘At that time of the race, the pace with Sergio Perez was very, very similar or slightly better. But, because we believed that there was no opportunity for us to attack and overtake Perez with those tyres any more, we did the pitstop.
‘We hoped that they would have stopped as well, which was the case. So they were both on new tyres. It was like resetting the race, 15 laps to go, and on soft tyres. I think it worked somehow pretty well because Charles was very close to Sergio and he tried to attack before he made the mistake.’
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