Scuderia Ferrari team Principal Mattia Binotto said that he views having two top drivers as a “luxury” amid the latest controversy between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc in Formula 1’s Russian Grand Prix.
Tensions rose at the Scuderia in Sochi as Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to allow polesitter Charles Leclerc back ahead after the Monegasque had let his four-time world champion teammate into the lead at the start of the race.
Charles Leclerc insisted he had followed a pre-race agreement in the team’s bid to try and secure a second consecutive one-two finish, but Sebastian Vettel wanted to remain ahead. The German ultimately retired from the race shortly after his first pit stop when he suffered an MGU-K failure.
The incident resulted in a Virtual Safety Car period that ironically enabled Mercedes to take advantage as Lewis Hamilton headed an unlikely one-two for the team to land its first win since F1’s summer break. Asked how he will deal with having the toughest management job in F1, Mattia Binotto replied: “I still believe it is a luxury. “I still believe it is a luxury because we have two fantastic drivers.”
Mattia Binotto insisted both drivers stuck to the team’s pre-race agreement and denied that Scuderia Ferrari had stopped Charles earlier than Sebastian to ensure he leapfrogged the German.
“Looking at the start, our judgement that the start went as planned, and therefore we thought it was right to ask Seb to swap the positions,” Binotto explained – “Eventually the two drivers may have different opinions by driving the car, but that is something which we may discuss with them. We initially asked Seb to give the position back, but fair enough to say at that stage in the race that maybe Charles was not close enough, and we would have lost some time on track. Later on, Seb was quite fast and gained some track advantage on Charles. So we knew that we could decide to do it later on. The undercut was not for the reason for giving back the position to Charles,” he added. – “The undercut was as well because Charles stopped because he had worn tyres, his left-rear was starting to be worn, so it was the right moment for him to pit. We knew as well that if we had stopped both our cars there, we would have been vulnerable on Safety Cars by giving the lead to Hamilton, so we tried to stay out as much as we could with Seb, simply to protect in case of Safety Cars later in the race. Again, Seb’s tyres were worn, it was the right moment to pit. As a matter of fact, Charles was ahead, Seb was behind, but the race was still not over and there would have been plenty of opportunity to decide with them what would have been the best option later on.” – he concluded.