Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto is encouraged by the strong start Charles Leclerc has made to life at the Scuderia despite the car’s disappointing level of performance in Australia.
The opening race of the season saw Ferrari underperform compared to the pace the team had shown in pre-season testing, with Sebastian Vettel leading home Leclerc nearly a minute behind race winner Valtteri Bottas in fourth and fifth respectively. While much of the focus has been on how Ferrari will bounce back in Bahrain, Leclerc delivered a strong race to close on Vettel and be told to hold position in the final stint, something Binotto says was impressive.
“I’m happy,” Binotto (pictured in middle, between Vettel and Leclerc) said. “I’m happy with the way he’s behaving as a team player, not only as a driver — he’s very helpful for the team but as well he has a very bold claim to do his best, pushing hard on the engineers to try to prove himself and for a better car.
“I think if you judge the entire (first) weekend it’s a very strong one. His qualifying wasn’t perfect, he’s aware of it, but I think he drove well also in Q1 and Q2; maybe not perfect in Q3, but generally speaking he had a very good weekend.
“I think that his second stint was a strong performance as well, so I’m happy with the way he’s approaching the first race and if that’s the starting point, then it’s a good starting point.”
Vettel took pole in Bahrain last season as Ferrari quickly improved the car that had struggled in qualifying in Australia, and Binotto is keen to see the impact of the work done since Melbourne on the SF90 this weekend.
“In Bahrain, as a team, we will have to ensure that we have understood and rectified the areas where we were weak in Australia, which therefore meant we were unable to fully exploit our car’s potential.
“In Bahrain, we expect to see the effect of the corrections we have made, although we are well aware that our competitors will once again be very strong. With that in mind, we are keen to get back on track and face up to them.”