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Binotto explains Ferrari's Sochi tactics

NEWS STORY
29/09/2019

Mercedes could barely believe its luck today, when Ferrari, despite having the faster car(s), and having made the perfect start, gifted the German team victory.

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were both quick off the line at the start, with the German passing Lewis Hamilton in the kink that is Turn 1, and subsequently getting a slingshot past his Ferrari teammate.

However, in the moments that followed it became clear that, not for the first time, a pre-race agreement had been breached.

As Vettel pulled away from his teammate, Leclerc was informed that the German would be instructed to allow him to pass, though to fans watching the race it was unclear why.

Though Vettel appeared to agree to the order, he warned that Leclerc wasn't close enough, the German fearing that any slip-up would allow Hamilton to take advantage.

As the radio messages went back and forth, just days after Leclerc had said, following what happened in Singapore, he would keep his thoughts to himself, it became clear that the Monegasque had given Vettel a tow at the start, thereby allowing him to pass Hamilton, but the German had then used the tow to take the lead. Vettel claiming that he made a good enough start and would have passed his teammate anyway.

As the race, and the radio calls continued, Ferrari appeared to be doing what it is so good at, shooting itself in the foot.

Opting to pit Leclerc on lap 22, the Italian team left Vettel out for a further four laps, even though the German was complaining about his tyres.

Just two laps after finally pitting, Vettel reported an MGU-K issue, and as his car slowed he was told to park it in order to prevent further damage.

As the German parked, the VSC was deployed, and shortly after the safety car proper was sent out after George Russell went off in the Williams.

The VSC and safety car effectively turned the race on its head, and after Leclerc pitted for a second time on lap 30, he rejoined behind Bottas, who spent the remainder of the afternoon keeping the Monegasque at bay.

"Looking at past races in Russia, we know that it is important to be ahead at the first lap," Binotto subsequently told reporters, "because normally if you start first, you may finish first.

"As a team, obviously, the victory was key," he continued, "so we decided that the most important thing for us was to be first and second on the first lap, because by being first and second we would have somehow control and manage the pace and control the positions, which is what was happening. We were first and second, and as a matter of fact we were controlling the race, and without our reliability issues, we would have kept the positions after the pit stops.

"We agreed together that the best way was not to give any slipstream to Hamilton at first, because giving a slipstream to Hamilton would give him some advantage, at least some possibility," he explained. "Therefore Charles would give the slipstream to Seb, that was what we agreed and discussed.

"But by giving the slipstream to Seb and not giving the position, it would give an advantage to Seb which later on in the race we could give back by swapping the cars. So that was the deal.

"What happened, is exactly as I explained, we got a good start, both drivers, they both had very similar starts, we were on the soft tyres. We got a good speed, Charles stayed on the left, Sebastian jumped initially Hamilton and very soon was in the slipstream, naturally I would say in the slipstream of Charles.

"Looking at the video, looking at the start, the start went as planned, and therefore we thought it was right to ask Seb to swap positions. Eventually the two drivers may have different opinions by driving the car, but that's something which we may discuss with them.

"We initially asked Seb to give the position back, but fair enough to say at that stage of the race 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."

Binotto was keen to make clear (!) that the decision to pit Leclerc earlier than his teammate was not about trying to undercut him.

"We knew that we could have decided to do it later on. The undercut was not for the reason for giving back the position to Charles, the undercut was 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 stopped both our cars we would have been vulnerable on safety cars, by leaving the lead to Hamilton. We tried to stay out as much as we could with Seb, simply to protect in case of safety cars at that period of the race.

"Then again, Seb's tyres were worn, he called for it, it was the right moment to pit, he pitted and 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 then what would have been the best option later on."

Asked if this meant Vettel would have been allowed to challenge his teammate, he replied: "I think yeah."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Sochi, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by nonickname, 30/09/2019 19:27

"Mmm I remember exactly the same happening with a certain Aussie team mate.
Leclerc should simply refuse to obey any team orders at all.If the team bitches, hell move on.He is still a youngster
Ferrari can ruin your career, ask Alonso"

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2. Posted by Toffeecup0, 30/09/2019 11:14

"That bloody German does like it if things do not go his way"

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3. Posted by klmn, 30/09/2019 8:20

"Poppycock"

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4. Posted by imejl99, 30/09/2019 7:30

"The thing is, Leclerc should be no.1 since Australia. "

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