Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, has moved to put out a fire caused by the comments of chairman, John Elkann.
Elkann made a rare public appearance when he gave an interview to La Gazzetta dello Sport ahead of Ferrari’s home Italian Grand Prix.
In the discussion, he asserted that he has full belief and trust in Binotto to lead the team to glory, but he warned him that the frequent mistakes we have seen from the Scuderia this season must not keep occurring.
Charles Leclerc has won three races this season, two of them materialised in the opening three rounds of the season, but Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez have won 12 between them this year for Red Bull.
Having arguably started the year with the quickest car on the grid, the Scuderia have ultimately been outdone by Red Bull, who have upgraded their car magnificently since the start of the campaign.
Combined, Leclerc and team-mate, Carlos Sainz, have started on pole 10 times this year, but seven of them have been overturned by Verstappen and Perez.
This has been down to a variety of reasons, the most glaring one being mistakes on the pit wall, which has put pressure on Binotto.
The Italian has spent much of the year smoothing out some rough edges, and Elkann has seemingly provided another one for the boss to iron out.
When speaking out his driver pairing, Elkann argued that Ferrari have “probably the strongest” one on the grid at the moment, but he indicated that Leclerc was the clear number one driver.
Indeed, the Monegasque leads the qualifying battle 12-4 after 16 rounds of this season, and he is comfortably ahead in the championship.
However, Sainz has finished ahead in seven races, and he has managed as many podiums this year to Leclerc’s eight, so his Sunday performances have been a lot more reflective of the driver the Scuderia signed last year.
Therefore, Elkann’s words were not meant to belittle the Spaniard.
“No, it doesn’t mean that,” Binotto said, per GPFans.
“What our chairman said, if you look at the current season, Charles on average has been faster than Carlos and has most often been on pole position.
“But the ambition of the two drivers, the final ambition, is to win the championship and I think Carlos is a strong racer.
“He proved it last year, in the past seasons and is still proving this season that he’s a good racer.”
Only when it is absolutely necessary will Binotto choose to favour one of his drivers, which is the philosophy adopted at the start of last year when Leclerc and Sainz started working together.
“He [Sainz] is scoring a lot of points on Sunday, he’s a good learner and he’s fast as well,” explained the 52-year-old.
“So I think it’s fair, as a team, to give them equal chance, certainly at the start of the season and through the season.
“If necessity will be there, we may designate who’s got the most opportunity to win.”
Verstappen is 116 points clear in the Drivers’ Standings, and he is set to wrap up his second title in the next two weeks.