Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has confirmed that the throttle issues Charles Leclerc reported after his crash in France had nothing to do with his mistake.
Having started on pole, Leclerc fended off Max Verstappen in the opening laps before the Dutchman pitted, and the Scuderia were aiming to extend their drivers’ stint.
However, he lost the back end at Turn 11, slamming into the wall before saying that he would not apply the throttle to reverse out of the wall and letting out a scream of anguish.
Despite the accident, Binotto is pleased with the way his team performed over the course of the weekend.
“It didn’t go to plan but I think we had a good performance,” he told Sky Sports.
“Tyre management, tyre degradation again, I think we had a bit of edge on the Red Bulls.
“After 15 laps, Charles was going somewhat well and was gaining a couple of tenths, three tenths on Max and he [Verstappen] had to stop very early.
“We would have extended certainly the stint so just a mistake, it happened as we may have reliability issues.
“I think what I said to Charles is only we make our life a bit more difficult but I think it will be even better… we will enjoy more in the future.”
The Italian stated that Leclerc was at fault, and detailed the nature of his throttle comment.
“It was a genuine driver error,” conceded Binotto.
“When he put the reverse and tried to move back from the barriers, there is a strategy, without going into the details, that somehow he felt that the throttle was not of the torque or somehow the engine was not responding.
“[It had] nothing to do with the mistake.”
The other car of Carlos Sainz was forced to start from the back after taking an engine penalty following his second reliability failure of the season in Austria a fortnight ago.
The Spaniard made his way back up into the points in the opening stint, but Leclerc’s crash worked against him, as the Safety Car was deployed too early to make his strategy work having started on the Hards.
The 27-year-old had to go onto Mediums to use the mandatory tyre, which were unlikely to make it to the end, forcing him into a two-stop while everyone else went for one.
To make matters worse, he picked up a five-second penalty when he was released straight into the path of Alex Albon, so the Maranello side had a choice between taking the penalty at the end or serving it during a stop.
Sainz had just passed Perez for P3 when he was told to pit and serve his penalty, instead of trying to open out the gap to the Mexican and finish ahead.
However, the team did not feel as though he would have made it to the end, and might have ended up further back than P5 after he cleared Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso to take fifth and the fastest lap on Sunday.
“We don’t feel it’s the right choice, we are pretty sure it’s the right choice,” affirmed Binotto.
“Because at the time, he was short on life with the wear and tyres, so it would have been really risky to go to the end.
“We don’t think he would have had the pace still to open up the gap to five seconds because he had a five-second penalty at the time.
“And by stopping, he did as well the fastest lap which is certainly a point which was somehow granted so I think that was the safest and the right decision to take.”
Verstappen went on to win the race after Leclerc’s crash, while his team-mate Sergio Perez suffered a disappointing day as he ended up behind the two Mercedes cars of Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, as Mercedes grabbed their first double podium of the year.