Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Leclerc not Ferrari’s ‘number one’ after Vettel’s exit – Binotto

2021 F1 season

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Charles Leclerc has not been elevated to a ‘number one’ role within Ferrari’s line-up following the departure of Sebastian Vettel, team principal Mattia Binotto has said.

Carlos Sainz Jnr has joined the team from McLaren in place of Vettel for the 2021 F1 season. Binotto confirmed they will begin the season as equals.

“There is nothing written in the contract of Charles being the leader,” Binotto confirmed. “The two will be free to fight on track.

“I think it’s important that they are not damaging themselves, that’s clear. But they will have equal opportunity certainly at the start of the season.”

Leclerc scored almost three-quarters of Ferrari’s 2020 points haul. Binotto expects Sainz’s contribution will help the team perform better in the championship, after they slumped to a 40-year low of sixth in the standings last year.

Charles Leclerc, Mattia Binotto, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, 2020
Sainz joins Leclerc at Ferrari for 2021
“It’s important to have two drivers which are delivering or doing very well in the race in order to do as many points as we can for the constructors title,” he said. “I know that by doing well in the constructors it means that the two drivers are doing well in terms of drivers classification.

“I’m hoping and I’m pretty sure that Carlos will help us in doing better in terms of constructors and overall as a team.”

Binotto has been impressed Sainz’s gains in recent years, particularly with his one-lap pace in qualifying.

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“He is a fast driver, he is very strong. If you look at the 2020 season he made, it was really a very good season. He has been even faster in qualifying which, I think if you look at the past years, he was not so fast in the quali. In 2020 he has been very strong in quali as well.

Drivers, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
2021 F1 drivers and teams
“He is a very strong racer. I think he’s one of those drivers that is finishing races very often and normally in the race he is improving his position compared to the quali.”

Sainz arrives at Ferrari following stints at Toro Rosso, Renault and McLaren. Binotto expects Ferrari will benefit immediately from Sainz’s experience at other teams.

“He’s [had] many seasons now at different teams – different methodologies in terms of working with the engineers, approaching the set-up – so he will certainly bring us a different experience which we are, again, very open to hear, to listen and eventually to learn where possible.

“I’m expecting him to be a great team mate as well for Charles. I think that the two will find each other very well, as well. I’m expecting he’s a hard worker. I’m expecting he is a leader. I’m expecting him to help develop the team and the team become stronger in the future.

“And that’s already in 2021 – I don’t think we need to wait for the 2022, I think 2021 is where already I am pretty sure we will get benefit from him joining Ferrari.”

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44 comments on “Leclerc not Ferrari’s ‘number one’ after Vettel’s exit – Binotto”

  1. Great attitude. Leclerc doesn’t need a reargunner or wingman as teammate.

    1. Let’s wait and see how that goes though Dean. The last time Ferrari went out of they way to stay how a driver was not their no. 1 driver and both would be equal they told Leclerc to let Vettel by several times within the first few races already, when there was no real reason to do so apart Vettel having been no. 1 from the start.

      1. @bascbn Different circumstance though. When CL first joined Ferrari, and with Ferrari well known to lean towards a clear one-rooster philosophy, of course they were going to give the nod to their senior driver and the one who has actually earned wins and WDC’s x4. Pretty sure most of us would have done the same thing if it were up to us. And all they said was that if it came down to a questionable scenario, they would lean towards SV initially. Of course as we saw it didn’t take long for CL to assert himself, and that is exactly what any driver must do on any team they are joining that has a driver already there, engrained on the team.

        Obviously CL is the engrained one on the team and Saintz will have the steeper learning curve initially, but let’s just see how well he and the car are suited together and that will determine how long it might take him to catch up. But for me the main thing is that unless they will have taken a huge step in performance over 2020, and are actually fighting for wins and podiums, they won’t need to worry about a driver status. They will both be needing to work their cars and the team towards better performances. Driver status should become secondary while they are building things back up at Ferrari. They needn’t take away anything from one driver’s ability to compile points in favour of the other when their work will need to be focused otherwise.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          4th January 2021, 19:00

          @robbie exactly. And what Carlos has learned from McLaren over the last two years, collaborating with the other driver to get faster performance improvements will be an eye opener to Ferrari. I don’t think number one or two driver will matter for a year or so. Not until they’re back at the front. It’ll be all hands on deck and Carlos has some serious insight into how that works.

        2. @robbie, we clearly agree that it was wholly expected of Ferrari that they would put Vettel first. So why then the hypocritical “there is no number 1, maybe later” message?

          Clearly a driver like Leclerc ignored it as soon as he felt he could go faster than Sebastian, and rightly so. But until then the reality had been clear enough to see, and it was that they were NOT seen as equal and were not treated equal (just look at the strategy choices that were made, for example) by the team, despite the team saying they would be treated equal and despite everyone expecting Vettel to be the no. 1 priority from the start.

          This time the biggest difference is that they are incredibly unlikely to fight for any titles in 2021, so maybe the team will treat them more or less equally. But I wouldn’t put too much into the team saying they will.

          Ferrari has had problems being able to handle giving both drivers a good strategy for years now, so I do not expect them to be able to give both the same strategical options in races. And given that, as you mention, Leclerc is well established and on a long term deal, the team can be expected to focus on his needs before getting to see what Sainz needs.

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            4th January 2021, 19:40

            @bascb Disagree. What Sainz brings to the team is a collaborative philosophy learned in his two years at McLaren. Ferrari will be very interested in that approach as they fight back to the front. The number one / two status will be determined on track not anywhere else. I expect Leclerc to win that fight but Sainz will earn respect in Ferrari and they need his input.

          2. From what you write, I don’t even think we disagree @davewillisporter!

            Off course Ferrari will want to learn from Sainz’ experience and would be happy to take that as impulse to build a more cooperative team that will finally work better than they have been doing for most of the last decade.

            But until they do that, they will find themselves unable to really treat both equally, if only because Sainz comes in as a bit of an unknown, so they will have had to focus on imput from Charles for development of this years car, making it more likely that Leclerc is expected to lead the team from the start until Sainz beds in.

          3. @bascb Your claim that CL is the natural number one just for being the engrained one is one I have made too, in the sense that Sainz just naturally will start off on his hind foot as the newbie on the team. But that to me does not make Ferrari hypocritical for claiming there is no number one or two status. That’s just a natural thing that happens when a driver comes to a team that already has an experienced (on the team) driver there. I’m envisioning that Binotto was asked a question about driver status, and has given his answer, but that he hadn’t even necessarily put much thought into it before being asked, because it is a non-issue. CL will be the defecto leader as the senior driver, but Sainz will have equal equipment and opportunity to do just as CL did to SV. I think you might be selling CS short in that he might be providing valuable input right from the getgo and not need the time you seem to think he will to at least provide that, even if he is off CL’s pace as the newbie there. He can still communicate his needs and desires and those might benefit CL too for all we know.

            In comparing last year to this (or especially take 2019) you say that the only difference is they won’t be fighting for any titles in 2021, but I say no there was a difference when in 2019 the were deferring out of respect to SV that he would be the number one if questionable scenarios arose. CL quickly turned that around. But CL is still no proven Champ and as such, and given the status of the car until otherwise proven, there is simply no need to clarify a status between CL and CS like there was between CL (a virtual rookie at the time not just new to Ferrari) and SV.

            Oh but is Ferrari capable of going back on what they have said and to determine a driver status? Of course they are, but I get the sense that with these two drivers and given their car placing on the grid, they will not have to determine a defined status unless it is for a race here and there based on a certain strategy or what have you. But nothing malicious to the other driver. Nothing conspiratorial. Just common sense that both drivers would likely agree with.

            No I see no hypocrisy at Ferrari for saying they will allow their drivers to race each other as long as they keep it clean. I see no skewing towards either driver until the car is much better. Until then they simply will need all the points they can get from both drivers and they will do what teams do all the time…try to maximize both drivers chances by trying to make them both as at one with their cars as possible.

      2. Wrong, Binotto literally outlined before 2019 season start that Vettel would be their number one driver at least in the beginning.

      3. Drivers like Vettel, Alonso write in their contract that they want to be the No. 1 driver in the team.
        Lewis Hamilton said this in an interview in Graham Bensinger show. If u don’t believe, then watch it.

        1. Bottas was compromised to benefit Hamilton 2017-19 more times than Massa ever was, Webber ever was, Barrichello ever was.

    2. Marcus Hardung
      5th January 2021, 12:24

      no lies Binotto may not even be there to answer the #1question revisited later in the year if his young guns do not collect 300+points in 2021.
      Fact is : Ferrari is really supporting their Ferrari young driver programme members ,especially Leclerc and Schumacher.Jock Clear as the coach is well connected inside Ferrari and has the
      expert knowledge to guide R&D towards a car design and setup strategies suiting Charles capabilities.Astonishingly this kicked Seb and his engineering team completely off the rails and they more or less never found a setup direction allowing Seb to dig into the last second
      of the cars potential with confidence.
      Sainz is not part of Ferraris driver support programme he will work with Adami , Sebs race engineer …who often looked weak supporting Seb in his journey.Carlos has no standing in this thats my fear.

  2. Ferrari? Eventually learn?
    Early F1 Oxymoron of the Year entry!

  3. Leclerc is fast. But He lacks experience by way of years in the sport. Maybe Sainz experience will help catapult ferrari to the sharp end of the grid. So its only natueal that they would not want to stifle any potential now. Its a wait and see approach

    1. Because Seb lacked experience?

      And Ferrari have more experience in F1 than half the teams combined. I don’t think that is what is holding them back…

    2. Marcus Hardung
      5th January 2021, 12:29

      Charles has Jock Clear as a coach mentor , nuff said.Jock was raceengineer
      already when Michael Schumacher arrived in F1…Charles warehouse of experience is right there ready to support.This,is not available to Seb or Carlos .

  4. In other news, Mercedes confirm that Lewis Hamilton does not have number one status in their team.

    1. Mercedes doesn’t need to specify Lewis as their 1st driver. They already do that by giving Valterri ‘The Ultimate 2nd driver’ Bottas one year contracts.

      1. @knightameer at least Bottas HAS a contract. hahaha

      2. @knightameer That’s exactly right. Right up there with Ferrari with a clear no. 1 and 2, although we’ve seen cases with Binotto that Ferrari is not really Ferrari in this regard anymore.

        But the ‘good at finishing races’ -comment here probably confirms the suspicions that Sainz was chosen to be good rear gunner and to rack up the points without troubling Leclerc and have the need for more.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          4th January 2021, 19:26

          @balue When Charles joined the team in 2019 Binotto publicly stated that Seb was the defacto number 1 and Charles would have to accept some team orders. Within a couple of races Charles has put that to bed. Driver performance always dictates who leads the team. If Valtteri consistently beat Lewis in the way Nico did, there would be no team orders. I can recall twice during Nico / Lewis partnership. I think Malaysia 2013 and Hungary 2014 where the team gave instructions. Malaysia Ross Brawn laid down the law to Nico not to pass to maximise the finishing points to which Nico replied “Remember this!” and Hungary Lewis fired back at the team and said I’m not slowing down for Nico.
          Can you imagine a situation with Valtteri where he does a Seb and says “we’ll do it later, lets just extend the gap” or with Charles when he was clearly faster in Bahrain 2019 and is told to stay behind?
          The driver dictates who is number one, not the team. The team just reacts to reality and makes decisions to maximise results. It’s unlikely I know as I think Charles is one of the best new drivers on the grid but if Carlos is in the mix and consistently performing around Charles level, there will be no number one.

      3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        4th January 2021, 19:06

        @knightameer I think it’s Bottas’s performance that dictates his number two status which also determines his continued one year extensions. It is not a determination by the team that he should be, it’s just the reality of the situation. Don’t forget this team had Rosberg and Schumi then Rosberg and Lewis. Bottas is neither a Schumi or a Rosberg, fast as he may be. I am willing to bet George will sign in 2022 for longer than one year. The driver’s skill always dictates the number one / two status. Bottas has allowed himself to be labelled as such. Rosberg didn’t and neither will George.

  5. That’s just a load of talk, Bianchi and Leclerc have been Ferrari’s golden boys since it was clear they had talent.
    The dream line up at Ferrari was Bianchi – Leclerc, until that was made impossible.

    1. Marcus Hardung
      5th January 2021, 12:34

      and now it is Mick and Charles until Arthur Leclerc is found to be even mote shiny …
      Ferrari do really support their young drivers ,thats a given.

  6. So this is like Red Bull saying that Max isn’t n.1 next to Checo. He has a very long contract with them to be their next star and they are saying that he isn’t n.1.

    Is it because they don’t want to add too much pressure to his shoulders or to give Sainz a chance fighting him. Or am I reading too much to this and all this is just a press talk.

    1. Teams are talking about a specific “number one” contract where the other driver must always let them pass.

      I dont think any team has such a contract, but most teams still have a preferred driver, a senior member.

      LeClerc quickly became the top driver at Ferrari, and is probably expected to be the top driver this year.

    2. @qeki Inevitably it is going to happen, and does so all the time, that a driver comes to a team that already has a senior, or engrained driver on the team. Of course that driver already engrained is the number one in the sense of having the more experience on the team, and the team with more data on him, so the new driver is going to always be starting on his hind foot. Sainz would know this.

      I’d be surprised if Sainz, and many drivers, would have signed to be number two to CL, and why would Ferrari want or expect a driver to do so, especially when the team has just come off their worst season in 40 years? There would be absolutely no point in Ferrari designating a status on the two drivers at this point. In their situation a decision such as driver status should come down to being made only if necessary, like the odd race when on different strategies, but particularly as the season winds down and if it somehow makes more sense to favour one driver over the other by not taking points away from the one driver. As is done by most teams, as is simply prudent due to the math and the odds as the season winds down.

      No, at this point there is no reason to doubt what Binotto is saying. He doesn’t need a demotivated new driver on the team. He needs them working well together to progress the car. Driver status will come in once they are once again fighting for the WCC and WDC, or otherwise on a race by race basis depending on circumstances.

      1. It makes sense as you say @robbie that they won’t focus their attention to those driver contracts because where they are. I still have a gut feeling that it is in Ferrari’s DNA that no matter what they will have clear n.1 and n.2 driver even though they would fight for 19th and 20th. I hope I’m wrong and they will put politics behind them.

        1. @qeki Fair comment. I personally see no point in designating a driver status if they’re fighting for 19th and 20th, and for now let’s just hope they are more competitive than that and provide some exciting racing and competition in 2021. I see both drivers working well together.

  7. This is just Ferrari’s way of keeping Sainz motivated. No one wants to enter a team against a lesser experienced teammate and be deemed a #2 driver. It’s not like Ferrari are going to be fighting for a championship for the next couple of seasons either… so why add this layer of dissatisfaction between drivers? Let them race and move the team forward together.. and when they actually start fighting for wins, then favour the driver who shows more promise.

    1. @todfod, indeed, as others say, Hamilton and Verstappen probably also don’t have anything in their contract (well, Hamilton doen not have anything in his signed contract for now period ;) about being nr.1, but that won’t make much of a difference.

      I guess it will be illustrative what happens when

      I think it’s important that they are not damaging themselves, that’s clear.

      needs to be applied to the aftermath of a collision – if nothing is changed when Leclerc does it (al seemingly last season w. Vettel), well, that’s clear. Or maybe they will tell him it costs points and his bonus, as well as stern words in the Italian press?

    2. The last time they said the same Leclerc was told to make way for Vettel pretty soon in the first races already, showing how much value to put in those kind of words from Ferrari @todfod, bosyber.

      I do agree htat they should just let them race and get the best possible results, there is no reason to think that either will be fighting for a position in the championship anyway, apart from the team standings where both count together.

      1. @bascb And the thing is, even though they verbally deferred to SV when CL first joined, what we saw was that nothing held CL back from asserting himself. Binotto’s words were valuable in ensuring both drivers knew they were free to race, and CL himself would have completely understood Ferrari, of all teams, deferring to their engrained driver with the wins and Championships he has behind him. But CL just went about his business and changed the narrative. Sainz will be free to do the same. I wouldn’t have expected any other wording from Binotto than he has stated, and I’m sure driver status only came up because he was asked, but not because they’ve had meeting after meeting about it, struggling with what to do about driver status. Imho there was never any doubt, they need both drivers progressing the car and they need them stoked to do so.

  8. I dont understand how in 2021 companies think untrue PR talk is still the way fwd, rather than choosing transparency.

    1. Yes this.

      I will believe PR when they tell LeClerc to move out of the way for Seinz on different strategy.

      Also last year Vettel. Was not #2 driver, it just so happened, that his stategy would have more errors in it, his car was not prepared as good, etc.

      There is a lot more to see than just contract and team orders.

      1. @jureo

        I will believe PR when they tell LeClerc to move out of the way for Seinz on different strategy.

        Indeed and that race will come one day

        1. @jureo Unless Ferrari makes a leap in performance and has to immediately start thinking about one driver getting the lion’s share of the points for the WDC implications, depending on where the other drivers are in the standings of course, then yeah I would fully expect Leclerc to move over for Sainz if they are on different strategies and that is the prudent thing to do. If they find themselves still struggling to get out of the midfield then it would make no sense for Ferrari to fear asking one driver to cede to another on a different strategy. Then the next question is whether said driver, in this case CL as your scenario has been presented, would heed an order. I say CL would let Sainz by if they were on different strategies and it would have little effect on his (CL’s) WDC status, but would be a help to the team in the WCC. And if CL were to refuse such an order, so be it, that would be him throwing down the gauntlet and making a statement. The question would be what kind of a statement that would be, and that very much depends on where the drivers and the team are in the standings. It really has to be one race at a time and they simply have to take each race’s circumstances in stride as they unfold. Just as they had to do even when they stated SV would be favoured if debatable circumstances arose between he and CL.

  9. János Henkelmann
    4th January 2021, 20:19

    In other words: “They are free to fight for P12. No team orders.”

    1. Ahah, fun indeed! Hopefully ferrari will get back to a more dignitous level and at least lead the midfield home, behind red bull and mercedes, I think they can’t do more than that after such a 2020.

  10. I think leclerc is a pompous boy and does not deserve the number 1 I think Vetted was far better and if the team had backed him he would have made a far better run at Hamilton way over leclerc

    1. This is a point so many vave already forgotten.

    2. Come on you all keep bashing leclerc wait and see he will show his caliber once ferrari have a good car

  11. Ferrari showed during the years a diabolic skill to destroy pilots. The last one was Seb. I think the next could be Leclerc.

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