‘Charles doesn’t need us’: Ferrari defend Leclerc for making costly mistakes

Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have won four races between them this season.

Ferrari sporting director, Laurent Mekies, has affirmed that there are plenty of smiles at Maranello amid the team’s improved form this season.

The Scuderia spent a large of portion of last season working on this year’s car ready for the turn of the new technical regulations, as they were not in title contention with Red Bull or Mercedes.

The Silver Arrows fell backwards as they introduced a concept that worked on paper, but they are still figuring out how to make it work consistently.

READ: Mattia Binotto explains why he’s ‘not surprised’ by Ferrari’s engine failures

Red Bull are still a front-runner, but Ferrari have returned to the front this year, with the work done last season paying off for the Italian side.

Charles Leclerc won two of the first three races, but upgrades for Red Bull saw them take the pace advantage in Imola, and they won six in a row between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Leclerc and team-mate Carlos Sainz were guilty of one or two mistakes in that time, but more glaring were the reliability failures and strategic nightmares that befell the 16-time constructors’ champions.

Both Leclerc and Sainz have suffered two failures each in the back of the F1-75, denying them victories and crucial points in the championship hunt, while errors on the pit wall have cost the Monegasque three wins.

Leclerc finished off the podium in Monaco, Silverstone and Hungary having been leading when his team made some bizarre decisions, and this has opened the side up to ridicule.

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Team principal Mattia Binotto has always moved to defend his team after those errors, and he has also stood by Leclerc and Sainz when they have made mistakes on the track too.

Because of this leadership and the togetherness of the team, there are no long faces at Ferrari despite their title challenge falling apart recently.

“The mood in the camp is as high as it gets, because people like Charles, Carlos, Mattia, these guys are driving the team in all situations,” Mekies told Formula1.com. 

“You have the good moments, you have the bad moments, and I think the difference comes from this sort of leadership.

“They are able, whatever happens, to press the reset button, to bring everybody together, to look back at what happened, to learn from it and to go and look to the next race with a smile and with more motivation than the race before.”

Sainz joined Ferrari from McLaren last season to replace the departing Sebastian Vettel, and his four podiums helped him finish ahead of Leclerc in what was an outstanding debut year for the Spaniard.

Mekies observed why the 27-year-old was able to hit the ground running as convincingly as he did.

“It comes from Carlos’s ability to analyse what the car does and what he needs from it,” he explained.

“And then not only is he able to feel it, but he’s able to communicate it to the engineers, and slowly we have been able to transform that into actions in terms of the way we set up the car, and in terms of the way that perhaps we tweak some of the developments, and that’s how it happened.

“You are never sure it’s going to produce the results you hope until you actually see these trends coming, so it’s good positive information for us to see that the trend seems to be there.”

However, Leclerc has very much been the man on top of the intra-team battle this year, out-qualifying his team-mate 11 times in 13 races, winning three in the process, with Sainz taking the win in Silverstone.

It might have been more had it not been for reliability and strategy, but he will be the very first to put his hand up and say that his mistakes have also been a detrimental factor at times.

But Ferrari are not concerned by the errors made in Imola and Le Castellet, because his good moments far outweigh the bad. 

“Charles doesn’t need us to understand where he needs to go in terms of closeness to the limit, let’s start from the speed,” added Mekies.

“He’s been showing such outstanding speed this year again that you don’t want to go and touch that aspect. 

“Charles doesn’t need us, as a great racing driver, to understand where he needs to go in terms of closeness to the limit.

“He is a master of that and, as we all do, mistakes can happen.

“I think we don’t look at single mistakes, we look at the strike rate, we look at how extraordinarily you’re able to do things compared to stuff that you do not as good.

READ: Ferrari accused of forcing Charles Leclerc to lie about crash

“And I think his strike rate this year has been very, very impressive and we don’t want him to change anything.”

Leclerc trails Verstappen by 80 points in the Drivers’ Standings, with Ferrari 97 behind Red Bull in the teams’ fight.

*Hi James, could you take this one please? 🙂