Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has defended his team’s decision not to pit Charles Leclerc under the safety car.
With the race approaching its closing stages, Ferrari looked poised to wrap a 1-2 finish until Esteban Ocon stopped on the run down to copse bringing out the safety car and giving Carlos Sainz a chance to box for fresh rubber and at the restart, the Spaniard got past into the lead holding on for his maiden Grand Prix victory whilst a dejected Leclerc came home fourth.
Later on, in a post-race media session, which Motorlat attended, Binotto explained why Sainz pitted, and Leclerc didn’t.
“It’s been a very intense race, and we knew it was going to be very tense as the fight is very tight. At some stage of the race, we were leading with both of our cars; Charles got a bit more pace. Carlos’s tyres started degrading; that’s why we pitted him earlier compared to Charles, and we left Charles out, but we were monitoring the gap to Hamilton, so whenever Hamilton was stopping, he would have been behind us, and that’s exactly what happened so we had the right pace on hards with our two drivers we kept monitoring it and when we saw that it was marginal we decided to swap the cars.”
“Why we decided to stop Carlos was because Charles had track position and was leading, so he would have remained the leader, and his tyres were fresher than Carlos’s.
"By stopping Carlos, he remained second; we were protected in the first couple of corners when we knew that restarting on the hards was more difficult, and that’s the reason why we decided we were hoping for more tyre degradation with the softs to give Charles a difficult three-four laps but recovering later on, but the soft didn’t degrade as we were hoping.”
In parc ferme after the race, Binotto went over to Leclerc to console him and try to calm him down after losing more ground in the championship fight to Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
“I knew he was disappointed and frustrated, which is understandable as he was clearly leading the race, and for him, it was a great opportunity in the championship as he was leading whilst Max was having some problems.
"Then the safety car came out he had a difficult to the end of the race and no doubt he was disappointed so when I met him I knew he was disappointed but what I told him was that he did a fantastic race once again and told him to stay calm because the way he drove was fantastic, but once again he was unlucky because the safety car when you’re leading with a few laps to the end is bad luck.”