Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says his team was brave to make a late pit stop with Charles Leclerc in the Belgian Grand Prix and that it is sometimes unfairly criticized.
Leclerc was running fifth late on when Ferrari brought him in for a set of soft tires starting the penultimate lap of the race. There were no new sets of softs left for Leclerc after a team mistake in qualifying, and on the used set he lost position to Fernando Alonso out of the pits.
While Leclerc did re-pass the Alpine, he failed to set the fastest lap and then received a pit lane speeding penalty that cost him a position, but Binotto says the call to pit was the right one.
“Obviously there is always a need to improve and there are lessons learned which we are looking into and reflecting,” Binotto said. “But if I look back at the season I think there is a lot of perception from outside about what are the truth and the reality, sometimes we are not doing mistakes which have been perceived as mistakes.
“More than that if I look at and focus on [the race], I think the call to stop was the right call. You need to be brave in F1. There was an opportunity for us to get the fastest lap and there was the margin on Fernando to stop and to try to go for it I think was the right decision.
“We knew it would have been very close to Fernando, it was just losing the position, but we knew we could have overtaken him back – we had the fresher tires and that could have helped in terms of DRS and top-line speed on the main straight.
“Once again I think it was the right decision. Then we overspeed in the pit lane. The reason we overspeed is simply we were borderline, I think it was 0.1kph of the average speed in the pit lane, just to be aware that… It was unlucky.
“We were not using our normal sensors measuring the speed because they had been failed during the overheating of the front-right due to the (tear-off) of Max.
“Our back-up strategy maybe was not so accurate. I think overall it has been an unlucky situation and we should not stop deciding to be brave to go for a fast lap when conditions are there to go for it.”
Leclerc’s strategy had been hampered by the tear-off that got stuck in his brake duct early in the race, but he was still over 0.6s off Verstappen’s fastest lap despite the late stop, as Red Bull showed impressive performance.
“I think there has been a true difference between us and the Red Bulls this weekend. If you look back, I think they have been slightly faster in Hungary on a tighter track with high downforce.
“So overall, I think that simply the Red Bull is a faster car compared to what we’ve got in terms of efficiency, because at Spa you need efficiency from the aerodynamics and the power unit, but also we had tire degradation that we need to look into because they were stronger in terms of tire degradation. So I don’t think it has been an outlier, they are faster than us.
“What I am hoping is that the certainly the gap we have seen we will not see at the next races, because Spa has always amplifying the gaps because it is a long track and whenever you have an advantage in terms of efficiency it is amplified and very obvious in such a circuit.
“So, yes, we hope to be back in the next races to be closer while we still believe they have a slightly faster car. But tire degradation has been the most element affecting the performance, which we need to understand and address because it is very important for the next races.”