Ex-F1 champion casts doubt on Charles Leclerc ‘story’

It has been rumoured that Charles Leclerc’s breakdown in relationship with Mattia Binotto was a key reason for Ferrari axing him.

Ferrari have endured a tough season under the new regulations that came in at the start of the year, limping to a second-place finish in the championship after struggling to fend off Mercedes in the latter stages of the season.

The Scuderia got off to a perfect start in Bahrain with a one-two finish, followed by a flurry of strong results for Charles Leclerc, while Mercedes and Red Bull struggled.

The team got out developed by Red Bull, meaning that by the end of the season, Max Verstappen has racked up a record shattering 15 race wins on his way to the drivers’ championship, while the energy drink giants cruised to their first constructors’ title since 2014.

It was also strategy mistakes that cost Leclerc dearly over the course of the season, with the team pitting him onto the wrong tyres in Monaco and Hungary, as well as making him pit to attempt a fastest lap attempt in Spa only to see him overtaken by Fernando Alonso.

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After another tactical blunder cost the Monegasque driver a shot at a race win at Silverstone, Mattia Binotto was seen in a heated conversation with his driver, with Leclerc obviously unhappy that the team’s refusal to pit him under the safety car saw him finish P4, while his teammate was allowed to pit and went on to win the race.

Following Binotto’s resignation from his role at Ferrari, rumours have emerged that it was Leclerc’s entourage that put the pressure on the team to replace the team principal.

Leclerc did post a farewell and thank you post following the news that Binotto would be leaving the Scuderia after near 30 years with the team, however it is still reported that the pair were not even on speaking terms in Abu Dhabi.

Former F1 champion Mika Hakkinen has jumped to Leclerc’s defence, suggesting that there is an unwritten level of respect in F1 that makes the rumours highly unlikely.

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“It doesn’t matter whether you like them or not. That doesn’t interfere with your success. You have to work in a team, you have to respect the people’s talent, knowledge, their commitment to the sport, so I doubt it’s a true story,” explained Hakkinen.

“I always thought when I was racing, it’s not a question about whether you like somebody, it’s a question of how good they are, how committed they are, how intelligent, how clever they are – that’s what matters.”

Fred Vasseur is the current favourite to replace Binotto at Ferrari, which will come as music to the ears of Leclerc, who worked with the current Alfa Romeo boss during his time at Sauber as a rookie.