Redemption day for Charles Leclerc: the Monegasque driver returned to the top step of the podium at the Austria GP, after several races that put him to the test and after losing a safe podium last weekend Silverstone due to a team strategy error.
During a media session, which MotorLAT attended, with both Leclerc and Mattia Binotto, Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, we got the views of the two about the race.
A first observation was made about the race pace. The F1-75 seemed to be much faster than Red Bull on track this weekend and when asked if he perceived this too, Leclerc replied:
“I think Barcelona was one of those races where we’re very strong, Monaco too, but since those races it’s been the first time when we were actually quite a bit quicker. It is not a surprise because we’ve been working very hard, but probably the surprise is coming from yesterday to today because yesterday Red Bull seemed to be very strong too, but today we seem to have picked up a bit more pace compare to them. It's a good surprise, though.”
Mattia Binotto added: "In terms of pure speed, very similar. The qualifying sessions proved it.
"I don't think there is much difference between the two cars, if any it was in terms of tyre degradation and maybe a read to that in the sprint yesterday. We had a bit more advantage on tyre deg, which was even more evident today because we start pushing pressure on Max from the very start and forcing him to have more pace, and then degradating more the tyres.
"So what we saw yesterday in the sprint has been more obvious today because we put more pressure on him.”
The team principal was also asked about the strategy adopted especially during the VSC, which was a massive talking point in Silverstone when they didn't box Leclerc under the Safety Car. This time the decision was to pit Leclerc under the virtual safety car, proving to be the best choice.
“The situation was certainly completely different to Silverstone” - said Binotto - "The main reason is that we knew Max would have stopped; the reason why he would have stopped because one stop was missing in terms of tyres usage.
Knowing that Max was stopping and we're ahead, stopping would maintain the track position. It was a no-brainer today."
About the “It’s okay we got them tomorrow”, said by the Monegasque just after the sprint qualifying, that showed a very confident Leclerc for the race and of which we definitely had proof, the new Austrian GP winner commented: “I was quite confident. The pace has been strong in the last five races and obviously I had quite often said that on the Saturday night, but not only to say it, I believed it in all five races.
“It’s good to finally show it on the Sunday and having a clean weekend, but thinking about yesterday I think the pace was there, even though at the end of the sprint qualifying it was difficult to know how much Max [Verstappen] was pushing. I had a feeling that we had a bit the upper hand at the end of that sprint race, so that’s why I was confident."
During the closing laps, Leclerc has a throttle problem with the car: moments of panic for the driver and the team, but Leclerc managed to handle it perfectly and earn the win.
In this regard, Binotto was asked for some clarification on the type of issue: “I think we need to confirm, [but] from what I heard it’s more a mechanical one, but I cannot give you more details than that.”
Finally, when asked what his feelings were at the end of the race and especially in those last few laps, the team principal replied: “I have to admit I was very nervous, disappointed as well for what happened to Carlos, but so nervous that I stopped watching the race in the last three laps.”