Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019

Leclerc would have passed Vettel without team orders – Binotto

2019 Belgian Grand Prix

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Charles Leclerc would have overtaken Sebastian Vettel even if Ferrari hadn’t ordered his team mate to let him through, according to team principal Mattia Binotto.

Vettel let Leclerc overtake him for the lead on the 27th lap of yesterday’s race after the team told him to move aside for Leclerc, who had led the opening 20 laps of the race. Binotto explained the decision saying Vettel had got into the lead by pitting six laps earlier than Leclerc and running on fresher tyres sooner.

“There were not many choices today,” said Binotto. “We had to anticipate Seb’s call and Seb’s pit [stop] to protect him from the Mercedes. Otherwise Hamilton would have stopped, they were ready for it and would have overcut.

“Second, because staying out longer put Charles in a better position with tyres. Seb was certainly faster at that stage and [Leclerc] would have overtook him at some stage simply because of the different strategy.”

Vettel’s earlier pit stop meant the pair were “on different strategies”, said Binotto, which made the team orders necessary. “We thought we are losing time, [it] would have been the best for the team and for Charles in that occasion.”

Ferrari previously intervened in favour of Vettel on several occasions at the beginning of the season.

“At the start of the season, when we at least tried, it was not always very well accepted from the outside,” said Binotto. “But since the very start of the season we always said that the first priority is the teams and the team points.

“Race by race we normally discuss with the drivers what may be the situation. It’s something that we discussed at least with both of them in the morning.

“No doubt that after a few races things become more straightforward even when discussing with drivers and drivers somehow understanding it. It’s never an easy call, I have to say, because drivers are in the car to drive as fast as they can and to do as much as they can for themselves.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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Posted on Categories 2019 Belgian Grand Prix, 2019 F1 season articles, F1 news

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  • 40 comments on “Leclerc would have passed Vettel without team orders – Binotto”

    1. Pretty obvious that Charles would have had Vettel on the next lap irrespective of team orders – so at least Binotto admitted that. For Binotto to claim he was setting up Leclerc for a favour after all the times he and Ferrari have stuff up Leclerc’s race is a bit too much though – the sort of disingenuous rhetoric we expect from Christian Horner.

      …think China when they let Vettel overtake him and hung him out to dry, think Australia where they didn’t allow Leclerc to overtake Vettel even though he was way faster, or think Bahrain where they told Leclerc to not overtake Seb, but he still did. Or think Canada where they left Leclerc out on his old tyres when he was losing seconds per lap and then “forgot” to inform him that Seb had a 5 second penalty. Or think Baku when they needlessly left Charles out on used tyres so he would not have a chance to fight Seb. I could go on…..

      I would say it was clear Seb had no chance to win the race based on pure pace, because Charles was much too fast. However after 14 laps Seb was holding up Lewis and this was certainly helping Charles. So why did they pit Seb now, if Seb was supposed to be “helping” Charles. This was bad. Because prior to this, Seb being in Lewis’ path meant that Charles was extending his lead, but once Seb pitted it allowed Lewis clean air to try to catch Charles. So it was certainly not in Charles interest to see Seb being pitted now – it also meant more confusion and options in terms of strategy – again not favoring the person leading the race who would want the strategy variables kept to a minimum.

      At this stage Seb could see if the medium tyres lasted with limited wear, then he himself would have a shot of victory as others would be required to overtake him, otherwise he could go to the two stop strategy and again give himself a shot of victory on soft tyres at the end. By running a different strategy to Charles he at was at least allowed a shot to win the race even though he had less pace than Charles.

      1. Most media outlets are reporting that Vettel was pitted earlier to cover off the threat of either Merc undercutting them. Also I think generally his tyres were in worse shape after the lockup at the Source at the restart.

      2. If Lewis had pitted before Vettel then he would have had a clear shot at the lead . He would have ended up on Leclercs gearbox at worst, at best he would have had the lead and I think it’s fairly easy to see that if that happened we would be talking about how Ferrari blew another one and let Lewis beat them again. It’s obvious that Hamilton was faster. With clear track it woulda been game over. He closed on Leclerc twice. Without Vettel and without the slow pit stop Merc wins again.

        1. @motogpfan

          In that case, Lewis would have pitted after 14/15 laps, and would have had a long way to go on the medium tyres. Then it would have been Ferrari’s call as to pit Leclerc before he relinquished the lead, or stay to his strategy to pit after around 25 laps – in which case with the superior straightline speed of the Ferrari and DRS he would have had little problem in reovertaking Lewis. The other option was to pit Leclerc straight after Hamilton and change over to a two stop strategy and finish with the soft compound. Without full access to live timing and the practice long run times, it was perhaps a little difficult for me to make that call.

          The point I was making, was that Ferrari gave Sebastian a shot at winning the race due to his alternate pit strategy. As soon as Lewis overtook him, he had to go into the pits to bring it home on the soft tyres. Whoever gets the tow in qualifying will have a big advantage. Will be interesting. However, the reality is, Ferrari by and large are still favoring Vettel. They should just allow both drivers a fair crack at the race instead of engaging in all these team orders designed to make it appear to the public they are being fair with both drivers when instead they have advantaged Vettel throughout the season.

    2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      2nd September 2019, 8:30

      Feels like the changing of the guard. Ferrari will surely now support their faster driver.

      1. @rdotquestionmark
        I sort of agree with you. In my view, it’s less of a changing of the guard and more of a change of approach. Early in the season, Ferrari tried to keep Leclerc behind Vettel, because they had good reasons to believe that, while Leclerc was occasionally faster, Vettel was still their safest bet in the drivers’ championship.
        However, Ferrari’s chances of clinching the drivers’ title are deader than dead, a race-by-race approach to maximise their chances of winning races makes much more sense. And for once, they executed this strategy masterfully. They pitted Vettel early enough to cover a possible undercut by Mercedes and discourage any attempts to put pressure on Leclerc via alternative strategies, forcing them to adhere to the optimum strategy, as that was the only way for them to catch up to Vettel with a significant tyre advantage. And even then, Vettel ended up costing them 4 laps and a couple of seconds that proved crucial at the end of the race.
        Long story short: Ferrari’s pit strategy was absolutely on point for what they were trying to achieve.

        However, I wouldn’t expect them to favour Leclerc consistently from now on. I have little doubt that they’ll do whatever it takes to get one of their drivers on the top spot of the podium at Monza, regardless of whether that’s Vettel or Leclerc.

    3. Sebastian did not pitch at Ferrari’s post-race media session. Make of that what you wish.

      1. He was there sir, just at the back row and even Leclerc called him up to the front of which Seb indicated to him, “it’s your moment”.

        1. He was there sir, just at the back row and even Leclerc called him up to the front of which Seb indicated to him, “it’s your moment”.

          You’re talking about a group photograph, Dieter is referring to the interview session the team holds with the media after the race.

      2. Well, according to rumors his daughter had a birthday yesterday. And he’s waiting third kid. I’ll make something out of it.

      3. He also hung at the back row with his mechanics during the team photo despite Binotto and Charles gesturing him to come to the front, he was smiling but he declined to. He’s hurting.

      4. This has not happened at Ferrari in a very long time if we appreciate the context.
        It is indeed rare for Ferrari to have their number one driver, and also ahead in points, to move aside for the supposed number two. If I was in Vettels shoes, I’d be throwing up the following morning. Vettel is crumbling under the weight of expectation. I really do feel for him.
        But one must also applaud Ferrari for being pragmatic as any other decision would have cost them this win as they had done many a time.

      1. I assume this was aimed at @dieterrencken due to the comment above.

        People keep questioning whatever Vettel does, when he’s one of the most genuine drivers out there.

        1. Genuine? ?? Nonsense

          “I’m going home” “When did I do dangerous driving? ”

          There is nothing genuine about vettel

      2. Don frika del prima
        2nd September 2019, 10:49

        https://mobile.twitter.com/FiftyBucksss/status/1168240897424801793?s=20 a still only gives you part of a story. Here’s a clip that says so much more.

    4. I am impressed that Ferrari played that game. There was two other races (Baku is one of them) when they sacrificed Leclerc’s race to help Vettel, but no win came out of that.

      I believe the kid would have to just follow order’s till the end of Vettel’s contract.

      One thing pop up regarding the tyres: Ferrari can’t seem to turn the rear ones on, due to the lack of downforce and thinner threads.

      But they were gone at the end of the race. Much earlier than Mercedes’.

      Does that mean you waste more your tyres because they’re cold? No blisters, but at the same time more ware?

      Help me out here, somebody.

      1. There was two other races (Baku is one of them) when they sacrificed Leclerc’s race to help Vettel

        Baku? How so?

        1. They kept Leclerc out for a good five laps after his tyres were gone just so that he could be a moving chicane for the Mercs.

          1. @wsrgo
            The tragedy was Charles was so fast at Baku, and had negated the grid disadvantage with a great first stint, that if Ferrari had brought him in at the right time, he would himself have had a chance to win Baku. Ferrari should just let their drivers race and have a fair crack instead of the rubbish they do.

      2. With less downforce, the tyres slide more.

      3. Does that mean you waste more your tyres because they’re cold? No blisters, but at the same time more ware?

        Yeah, that’s one possible outcome. Blisters occur when tyres overheat as a whole, and they mostly affect the rears. However, it was too cold for that in Spa. The opposite phenomenon, graining, occurs when the tyres’ core temperatures are too low, and the resulting loss of grip leads to sliding, which overheats the tread (and only the tread) and causes it to shed small chunks of rubber that cling to the tread and further reduce the grip, making matters even worse.
        However, I don’t think Vettel was affected by either phenomenon. In his case, the lack of grip and consequent sliding just led to ‘normal’ excessive tyre wear. It’s a consequence of the track’s characteristics, with its plethora of mid- to high-speed corners: All is well as long as your car is stable through them. But as soon as a lack of grip or an imbalance forces you to negotiate them at an angle, the track underneath them becomes as sand paper, chafing away your precious rubber.

    5. This is the kind of thing they could never do with Kimi – he was always in P5 battling the slowest of the Red Bulls.

      If they can get that 0.3% improvement for next year, these 2 will be a formidable force.

      1. @ho3n3r And yet in 2018 he scored just about as much on average for each race finished as Vettel did. Since it was actually Vettel who was the often finishing in P4/P5 after crashing into someone or going off track.

        1. Gotta hand it to you – I’ve seen stats bent in all kinds of ways to somehow back up a convoluted argument, but this is a first.

          Vettel spends hours at the track with the engineers after practice is over, working on the car. Kimi… doesn’t. I’m sure you can work the rest out all by yourself.

    6. It was the most sensible thing I’ve seen Ferrari do all season. Let the faster car through to maximise points and get the win. Could you imagine the storm if the two Ferrari’s were fighting each other? Hamilton would’ve just rubbed his hands.

      1. First time this year I can recall that Ferrari got it right while Mercedes got it slightly wrong.
        With their pace advantage, they should have forced Ferrari on the medium earlier… But they were probably worry not to have the pace to overtake, always easy to comment afterwards.

    7. I’m wondering if the “silly season” is not quite yet over.

    8. It is weird to see a team ruining a driver’s career. I don’t like Vettel but, anyway nobody deserves this kind of retirement, especially after 4 WDCs. Fault is mostly on Vettel actually, yes, but all in all he is a driver who can win 4 WDCs and Ferrari should have used him much better.
      On the other hand, look at Mercedes and Red Bull. They are having fun of what they doing. Drivers are smiling, feeling free, living their own lives. Ferrari has a oldfashion style, not good to be successful in modern era. Mercedes (I don’t like them as a brand) shows a good example of how to be classy and social at the same time.

      1. This is not about driver treatment. This is about winning most points possible on every race. Ferrari failed so much in the past regarding actual objectives, trying to cater to their #1 driver, failing to get most points out of the race.

        This race however team orders were used well, even if #1 drivers was orderd to let #2 pass. Finally Ferrari are putting their money on the correct horse so to speak. They need to be flawless in this concept. It was painfully obvious Seb was way off pace. If Ferrari would have stumbled with the team order it could have cost them a win.

      2. Nobody is ruining vettel’s career other than vettel himself.

        1. I think Vettel himself is not even just one WDC worthy driver, but somehow RBR made him a winner (4 times). What I mean, Ferrari took this man and by doing everything wrong, compared to RBR, made him a loser (or just set him to factory settings).

      3. @bnwllc3 If Vettel simply had kept his car out of trouble a bit more, then he could possibly have landed the 2017 and most surely the 2018 title. The fact that he didn’t do that is what is killing his career. Being trashed by Ricciardo in 2014 didn’t help either of course and now getting beaten/out shined by Leclerc neither.

        1. 2017 impossible….. 2018 i agree… between vettel.. the team, the useless kimi and arrivabene…they lost the championship

    9. Obviously, leclerc was smoking vettel in practice, qualy and the race. The only good thing Vettel did was hold Lewis back and he only did that for like two laps. Atleast Vettel knows what it was like for kimi last year

    10. Without the team order which to me probably hurt Vettel’s pride more than we know, Lewis would’ve been on Leclerc for more than what he was at the end and likely would’ve stole that one away.

    11. Here’s the think. If Charles was obviously going to over take Vettel, they should have just left the two drivers to come to that realisation.

      Now Charles is in debt to Vettel for the next time he is asked to step out of the way of Vettel. On the other hand, the fact that this comes as team orders allows Vettel to save face, he was the slower driver, but Charles only got by him because he was ordered to make way.

      That’s not to say Mercedes hasn’t done something similar, just the fact Ferrari hasn’t been criticised for it.

      1. They were on different strategies. Plus if anyone is indebted to the other than it would be Vettel to Leclerc. Leclerc has had half a dozen races ruined by him being asked to aid Vettel’s cause and forego his own race.

    12. It’s a simple, at the beginning of the season there was a hope that the car would have more downforce at the back and in this case Vettel would be much faster then Lecler. Now they can do nothing with the car and Lecler could manage that car better then Vettel, that is why we see what we see.

      So, the question is can Ferrari amend the car and be closer to Merc ? If yes – then Lecler a king for a day, if not – until end of this season, like DR was in RB with Vettel.

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