Ferrari explain Charles Leclerc call to let Sebastian Vettel by in China
"If Charles is upset, he is right to be upset. We should accept it," says team boss Binotto over latest pitwall instruction to driver
Last Updated: 14/04/19 8:39pm
Ferrari insist they made the right decision at the time ordering Charles Leclerc to drop behind Sebastian Vettel in the Chinese GP.
Team principal Mattia Binotto says the Scuderia were simply trying anything they could to reel in the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas ahead.
Leclerc moved aside for Vettel on Lap 11 when running third, but he finished fifth after being overtaken by Max Verstappen through the pit stops.
"It was not to give an advantage to a driver. It really is the team trying whatever we could," Binotto told Sky F1. "It was an early stage but an important moment of the race.
"I understand the feeling of Charles. It's a shame for him but at that stage of the race Mercedes were slightly faster and we simply tried to give Sebastian a go and see if he could keep the pace of Mercedes.
"If Charles is upset, he is right to be upset. We should accept it, it's a shame for him and next time maybe it will be to his advantage."
Vettel was unable to pull away from his team-mate after being let through, locking up several times, and he ultimately had to settle for third, nearly 14 seconds off the lead.
Immediately after the race, Leclerc told Sky F1 that he wanted speak with his team to get a greater understanding about why the decision was made as he did not want to make "any silly comments" before then.
Several hours later, at Ferrari's post-race media debrief featuring the team's two drivers and Binotto, Leclerc said: "We had the meeting.
"It was not an easy situation. I was obviously struggling with the tyres, we both were, and at the time it just felt like Seb was quicker.
"But obviously being behind me for some laps he also damaged his tyres and when he went in front his tyres were probably also damaged."
Asked if he was satisfied with the team's explanation, Leclerc simply replied: "Yeah. I mean, yeah."
Leclerc added: "Being In the car it was a bit frustrating but, on the other hand, I'm well aware that being in the car you don't see much of the full picture of the race. So I just accepted it, did it and just focused on my race."
Binotto said: "There will be a time when the situation will maybe be simple inverted. As a team we need to always maximise the team points and in that respect I think we did the right choice."
Vettel defended Ferrari issuing team orders for the third race in a row, feeling the decision was "fair" given the pace advantage he felt at the time.
"I felt I could go faster [than Charles] but it was a bit difficult for me to find a rhythm and locked up, losing the advantage I gained," he said.
"I think it's fair if you see the whole race that we were just not able to stick with Mercedes. It's a shame he couldn't catch Max at the end."
Analysis from Sky F1 pundits
Nico Rosberg: "I think it was the right thing because it appeared like Vettel was quicker. In hindsight he wasn't, it was just the DRS that was allowing him to stay so close with Leclerc.
"It was the right thing to do to try it. But they then really compromised Leclerc's race afterwards as he completely lost out to Verstappen and fell way off. That was not nice for him so it's a really tough one for him."
Karun Chandhok: "At the end of the day, he had the first part of the race and he was clearly dropping back from the Mercs.
"It was worth a go and I think Ferrari made the right call. It was clear from Mattia's body language that they were very focused on Mercedes and very focused on what they needed to do to catch them.
"They didn't really pay much attention to what was going on with Max. From their standpoint, whether they finished third and fourth, or third and fifth, they didn't seem to care so much. It was worth taking that chance to try and do something with Mercedes."
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