Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says there is no obvious reason for the performance gap between Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Leclerc took pole position by three quarters of a second on Saturday and then was comfortably quicker than Vettel on Sunday, leading from pole and later being let past by his teammate after the first round of pit stops. With Leclerc going on to take his first victory and Vettel needing to pit twice as he finished fourth behind Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Binotto says there is no clear factor as to why Vettel found the going more difficult at Spa-Francorchamps.
“I would not use ‘big’ (difference),” Binotto said. “Certainly Sebastian suffered a bit more from degradation this weekend, both on Friday and then in the race. It’s certainly down to the setup as well. Seb normally is very good in managing tires, especially in the very first laps somehow to use the tires later in the stint.
“So it’s something on which we will take care, try to understand and analyze, and certainly something that if we may learn it would improve ourselves in the future. But so far, no answer.”
Binotto says it was never the intention to two-stop Vettel during Sunday’s race, with the difference in first pit stops leading to the situation where team orders were required to put Leclerc back in the lead.
“At the start of the season when we tried (team orders) it was not always very well accepted from the outside. Since the very start of the season we have always said that the first priority is the team and the team points. So race by race we have normally discussed with the drivers what may be the situation and (it was) something I discussed with both of them in the morning (of the race).
“No doubt that after a few races things become more straightforward, even when discussing with drivers and drivers somehow understanding it. It is never an easy call, I have to say, because drivers are in the car to drive as fast as they can and to do as much as they can for themselves.
“But (at Spa) I think there were not many choices. We had to anticipate Seb’s pit stop to protect himself from the Mercedes, otherwise Hamilton would have stopped and would have undercut. Second, because staying out longer put Charles in a better position with tires.
“Seb was certainly faster at that stage and he would overtake him at some stage simply because of the different strategy. So they were on different strategy and early on we thought we were losing time and that would not be the best thing for the team on that occasion.
“The strategy we did not split; I think we simply had to react to what Mercedes was doing at that time. If we could have gone longer with Seb, we would have done it, so we were prepared to go as long as possible, but as soon as we saw Mercedes ready for the pit we had to react.
“Charles got some advantage, some gap, so he could stay out without putting his track position against Hamilton at risk and again, when it was the right time to stop, we simply stopped. But it was not an intended two-stop strategy and therefore it could not have an intended two different setups.”