Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Binotto stands by timing of Ferrari driver swaps during race

2019 Spanish Grand Prix

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Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto believes the team made the correct calls on when to swap their drivers during the Spanish Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were each called on to let the other by at different points during the race. However both also appeared to lose time waiting for the team to decide whether to switch the running order.

Binotto said the changes of position were justified because the drivers were on different strategies for much of the race, and believes the team timed the swaps correctly.

“It’s never an easy decision but we’ve proved as a team since the start of the season that we our trying to optimise our team result at the end,” he said. “We swapped in the past we tried to swap as well today especially as they were on different strategies at that start.

“Should we have done it earlier? I think by the time that you do it you need to make sure that the driver behind has got faster pace otherwise you are swapping and not having any result. It may take a few laps at first to assess that.

“On the other side Charles was fighting for the third place with Verstappen because he was on a different strategy with the hard tyres, a single pit stop. So it was as well important for him not to lose any lap time at that stage of the race.

“I think we simply waited [for] the right moment and I’m not sure we should have done it earlier.”

Both drivers also lost time during the team’s pit stops. “We had cross-threaded left-hand-side rear corner [wheel nuts], both pit stops,” Binotto explained. “It’s as simple as that.”

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20 comments on “Binotto stands by timing of Ferrari driver swaps during race”

  1. Binotto’s toast.

  2. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    12th May 2019, 19:49

    Binotto cost them both time. Leclerc should have stepped aside the moment Vettel reached him, could have caught Max. Same for the first case.

  3. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    12th May 2019, 20:03

    They didn’t time any of it correctly – if anything they undermined both their drivers with slow reactions and naff strategy? Do better. That said given the pace of the car they weren’t going to be bothering Mercedes anyway even if they played every strategy choice perfectly.

    1. @rocketpanda, whilst Mercedes were unlikely to be troubled, Ferrari were in a position where they could have tried to co-ordinate their strategy between their two drivers to pressure Verstappen.

      In the first stint of the race, releasing Leclerc earlier would have meant he was close enough to potentially threaten Verstappen in that opening phase. Meanwhile, if Vettel had been allowed to pass Leclerc sooner, he could have also been close enough to Verstappen to put him under pressure, especially given the difference in strategies (Leclerc’s single stop strategy against Vettel’s two stop strategy).

      The former option didn’t work, as by the time they let Leclerc go, Verstappen had built up a reasonable gap – in the latter case, Vettel’s strategy meant he was going to have to get past Leclerc in order to chase Verstappen, and it made no sense to let Vettel sit behind Leclerc and lose time. Now, the late safety car perhaps rendered that moot, but in both cases Ferrari didn’t really execute their strategy that effectively.

  4. Sure, sure, everything went according to plan, right.

    Now, on the one hand we should feel gratefull that the Ferrari boss actually does defend his team and doesn’t throw someone under the bus for these almost comically inept strategy calls. But the reality is that no one sane would plan to do it this way.

    We have seen it work in the past with teams like Force India etc where they thought out the strategy up front. Both drivers knew what to expect – that one would be put on a one stopper and get harder tyres, the other pit early and have to overtake in the race. But that also means that both drivers are IN on the plan and know to move out of the way of their faster teammate.

    Had Vettel done so immediately when Charles was behind him, clearly faster (because not on flatspotted tyres), I am sure it would have been far more smoothly executed when it was Charles’ turn to let Seb past. Because both would know that it made sense and would help the team maximise points.

    In this case the team let 1. Vettel get away with holding up his teammate in order to save his pride. 2. Never made it clear to Charles that they were supposed to be on differing strategies. And 3. given the last couple of races, it is only fair that Charles is somewhat less than convinced that Vettel and the team are really playing open cards with him.

    What it resulted in, is that both lost far too much time before they changed over the cars. And that meant they lost a very usefull chunk of tyre life needlessly pushing their teammates. Both of those might have helped get a car ahead of Max. Once again.

    1. pastaman (@)
      12th May 2019, 20:34

      Agreed. I think Binotto’s logic makes sense in a normal situation (same tires, same strategy, no damage), but it seemed pretty clear with Vettel’s flatspotted tires and then Leclerc on the slower tires that the swaps should have happened immediately.

    2. @bascb, I am not sure that it was a case of “saving Vettel’s pride” by letting him hold position, as Ferrari gave Vettel multiple radio messages telling him that he had to pick up his pace.

      There is a particular Youtube channel that records and uploads some of the radio broadcasts that don’t go out on the main feed, and they did manage to grab some of the transmissions between Ferrari’s pit wall and their drivers in that race.

      Those radio transmissions give a different picture – Vettel was initially instructed to push and told to close the gap to Verstappen, which he was unable to do. After getting a few messages to that effect, Ferrari then gave Vettel the message to let Leclerc by on the next lap – Vettel promptly acknowledged the order, before asking the team to tell Leclerc that he’d let him go by on the main straight.

      Now, it’s true that those were still only snippets of the conversation, but there was nothing in the radio transmissions suggesting Vettel was lobbying the team to let him stay ahead of Leclerc – he seemed pretty happy to let Leclerc by as soon as they sent the instruction.

      It was also the case that, even in that first stint, they were telling Leclerc that they were thinking of putting him on a different strategy to Vettel. That, in fact, seems to have resulted in Leclerc suggesting that Ferrari should let him through, which they eventually did.

      1. Vettel just wanted to pit, you can see that in multiple conversations, where the team sometimes seems oblivious, Feerari shot their selves in the foot, and the drivers tried their best to handle to situation, the drivers are the only ones in the team that aren’t clowns

  5. Johan Tolemans
    12th May 2019, 20:18

    If the old man were alive, Vettel would have been out the door, replaced by Verstappen with equal status to Leclerc, and Hamilton would not have those Sunday drives anymore. (NB not a VES fan, even although he seems to have stabilised now that he is not racing RIC anymore)

  6. So Ferrari are happy with their strategies, but I doubt if their fans are. The fact that they unwilling to acknowledge they could have done better probably means not much learning is taking place and so we can look forward to a season’s worth of botched ‘Team Orders’.

  7. No Mattia, they were terrible calls. Everyone except you can see that.

    Sometimes you make 50/50 calls on strategy that don’t work out.

    Rarely, you make senseless calls that slow both your drivers down.

    Today you chose the latter. Just ridiculous.

    Ferrari are getting nothing right this season. Bad strategy, bad driver management and regressive car development. I hold them more responsible for Mercedes dominance than Mercedes themselves.

  8. Why is Binotto even trying to justify this?

    Leclerc spent 6 or 7 laps on Vettel’s tail at the start of the race, we could see the Ferraris losing ground to Verstappen with every lap Leclerc was behind. The entire audience watching the race figured out Leclerc had more pace at that time… They didn’t need 7 laps to confirm it.. Especially considering they have a team of strategists and all we have is armchairs.

    Similarly, when Vettel caught up to Leclerc, he was obviously quicker. He had a softer compound of tyre on. Even a novice viewer of the race could have noticed that Sebastian was quicker at that point. Yet, Ferrari needed 9 laps to confirm it.

    What kind of duffers sit behind the Ferrari pitwall? And why on earth can’t Binotto just admit they were indecisive and confused about their race plan from the get go.

    1. Indeed, they also didn’t let Vettel pit, with his worn tyres while he was shouting to get in, sometimes they didn’t answer, The team is full of clowns and the drivers can do nothing but do their best

    2. And unless the one stop was sacred, LEC should had pitted early – into a two-stop strategy.
      This would allow to get closer to VER, even overtaking him by the pit stops.
      Even AWS graphic had shown the overtaking prob. dwindling by each sector.
      Again, I’m not sure how important the onestop strategy was, nor if Ferrari would accept that, as would certainly relegate VET to 5th.
      But it would be a possible call missed.

  9. if they were on differents strategies, what’s the doubt about not making one race the other?

    just like germany last year, when they took ages to take raikkonen out of the way and lost vettel a ton of time.

  10. NeverElectric
    12th May 2019, 22:00

    Watching the farce at Ferrari now, and under Arrivabene, I am beginning to wonder whether Ferrari have in fact been given, over the years, far more credit than they deserve once the Schumacher years were over. It appears that the outfit is a complete shambles, team management seems almost a joke, and decision-making is not something they work on with any level of professionalism. Anyone wouild have seen that Leclerc needed to get past Vwettel pronto, nut it took Ferrari forever to make that call. The reverse is also true.
    What a mess!

    1. Their advantage during the Schumacher era was incredible. Unlimited testing at Fiorano to get the best possible car out. Incredibly efficient and politically aligned top management in Todt and Brawn. A driver who made the most out of his #1 status in Schumacher.

      1. And special Bridgestone tyres for Ferrari alone (we all know how important tyres are as a performance differentiator, a distinctly unfair advantage).

    2. In fact, for long time fans, Ferrari MSC period looked like an exception from the usual technical/strategy chaos Ferrari shown along many years.

  11. I will echo my fellow racefans here and say that it is shocking that Binotto would come out with a statement like that. What an absolute farce allowing team mates to lose time racing each other as the competition disappears into the distance.

    Ferrari are never going to win another championship until they sort out their race strategies and their ability to make split second decisions as variables change. Either they need to find some world class strategists to replace theirs, or they need to find the faith to give their world class strategists the power to make decisions.

    They looked like idiots today. If they are hiding their embarrassment – okay – but if they are not embarrassed with that performance, well, it simply is unfathomable.

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