Ferrari admit they 'screwed up' end to Abu Dhabi GP qualifying
Team principal Mattia Binotto explains how and why Charles Leclerc missed out on a last Q3 attempt as Ferrari were outperformed by Mercedes and Red Bull
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 30/11/19 7:32pm
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto admitted they "screwed up" their end to Abu Dhabi GP qualifying after Charles Leclerc ran out of time for a final lap.
Behind Mercedes and Max Verstappen's Red Bull after the first Q3 laps on a difficult weekend, Binotto says they deliberately left their drvers' exit from the pits for the final laps as late as possible in order to maximise track conditions.
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But, as cars ahead slowed down through the final corners to prepare for their decisive last efforts, Leclerc missed out completely before the chequered flag, while Sebastian Vettel, who was ahead of his team-mate, did not have sufficient tyre temperatures for his lap.
"We knew we were not too competitive today, especially losing a lot of time in the last sector," explained Binotto to Sky Sports F1.
"On the last attempt we tried to do whatever we could, taking some risks. We saw as well the track at the very last minute with track improvement so being the last going out of the garage [was the tactic].
"Going out we knew it was already tight but that was a conscious choice. But then too tight for the traffic we found, and we screwed up."
Put to him by Sky F1's Nico Rosberg that strategic calls appeared to be a weakness of Ferrari on the evidence of 2019, Binotto replied: "I don't think so. I think here we were completely aware and conscious of what could have been the risks. So it was a risk we knew we had taken, but it didn't work today."
Over team radio, Leclerc said to Ferrari's pit wall through the final corners: "We're not going to make it. Seb is slowing down."
Ultimately, Leclerc did not lose a position in the order - staying fourth on the timesheet, which becomes third on the grid owing to Valtteri Bottas' back-of-the-grid penalty. Vettel will start alongside in fourth on an all-red row two.
"It's life sometimes, it happens," said the Monegasque.
"I don't know whether the situation was unlucky or if we could have done anything better but we will analyse it and understand for it to happen again because it's a big shame."
Leclerc, who starts one place ahead of Vettel, can still finish third in the Drivers' Championship - but must outscore Verstappen by 12 points in Sunday's race to do so. The Dutchman starts ahead in second place.
"I will take quite a bit of risk at the start," said Leclerc, who added that he still believes he can win the race. "I need to take some risk and finish in front of Max for the championship, So I will give it all and see what happens."