Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto hosted an unplanned press conference in order to explain how his team made the error that resulted in Charles Leclerc being eliminated in Q1 at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Leclerc was kept in the pits towards the end of the first part of qualifying and started dropping down the order when other drivers made late improvements. With no time to react, Leclerc slipped to 15th and was finally knocked out by Sebastian Vettel after Ferrari miscalculated the lap time it needed to get through to Q2.
“It is not a good day for us certainly,” Binotto said. “I think we made a mistake because of the way we made call, nothing more. It has been a misjudgement, a wrong evaluation of what we call the cut-off time. The cut-off time is the threshold when we believe we are comfortably into the next session, and the cut-off time is calculated real-time based on what we see on the track, based on the real-time sectors of all the competitors.
“When the cut-off time is calculated, we normally add a margin on top of it and the margin is good enough to afford for any tolerances, uncertainty, whatever might happen during the session normally. Certainly what happened today was, the margin we applied was not sufficient.
“The first [reason] is the track improvement has been very significant and important by the end of Q1, and the second is that probably our margin did not consider enough variability due to drivers’ confidence increasing by driving through Monaco. Certainly in Monaco, that margin needs to be increased in future, no doubt.
“It’s not sufficient to just calculate a cut-off time, [you have] to apply a margin. But in Monaco, the lesson learned today is that the margin needs to simply be bigger. As simple as that. They are the basics.”
Binotto dismissed a suggestion that Ferrari had been distracted by Vettel needing his own final lap to advance after touching the barrier late on, but admitted that the team was taking some risks by trying to save tires for later in qualifying.
“We may argue that as Ferrari, it’s a mistake that should not happen. As Ferrari, we are facing a situation where we need to catch up points in the championship, we need to catch up compared to our competitors, and when you need to catch up, you need to take some risks as well.
“By taking margin on everything we are doing, in the case of today, taking margin would mean to use a second set of tires; to lose a set of tires for Q2 and Q3. For us certainly today, taking some risks is key to performing as well as we could in Q2 and Q3 to somehow be challenging our main competitors in Q3 together with Charles and Seb.
“But no doubt, when you look at that, the implication of getting into Q2 is even bigger than trying to challenge them in the final part of qualifying in Q3.”