Ferrari explains decision not to release Leclerc

17/03/2019
NEWS STORY

If Valtteri Bottas' post-flag radio call left few in any doubt as to its meaning, the exchange between Charles Leclerc and his team was even more obvious.

As Sebastian Vettel struggled on his mediums in the closing stages of the race, Leclerc was closing at a rapid rate of knots, clearly faster than the German.

"Should I stay behind Sebastian, yes or no?" asked the youngster.

"Yes, and back off to have some margin," came the reply.

"OK," agreed Leclerc.

While team boss Mattia Binotto admitted before the season got underway that in the opening stages of the year priority would be given to Vettel, there was widespread disbelief that as he was so clearly struggling, the team couldn't allow his quicker teammate to pass or at least pit for fresh rubber and attempt a bid for fastest lap.

"When Seb pitted, and put the medium tyres on, he didn't have the grip he was expecting," explained Binotto at race end. He was attacked by Verstappen, having been in the position to hold his position on track, so we decided to bring the car home.

"He was managing the tyres to the end," he added. "I think, ten laps to the end, we decided not to take any risks and hold positions, to bring the cars home and score points.

"Sebastian was managing his pace because of poor grip, and bringing the car home," he insisted. "Charles did a great second stint, but with ten laps to go, there was no reason to take a risk, they were not fighting for the first position."

Asked why the team didn't at least pit the Monegasque for fresh rubber and allow him to go for fastest lap, Binotto said: "We had the window to pit Charles for new tyres and go for the fastest lap, but, as I said, at that late stage, whenever you pit it may be a risk. It was more important for us to bring the car home, score the points.

"Sometimes races where you are not the best, it's still important to score points," he added. "That was our choice. We will review the race and eventually the decision, but it was for that reason."

Meanwhile, with just two weeks before Bahrain, Ferrari needs to find the answer to another question, that asked by Vettel himself: "Why are we so slow?"

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Published: 17/03/2019
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