Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, has no regrets after Charles Leclerc picked up a penalty while trying to go for the fastest lap of the Belgian Grand Prix.
Leclerc entered the weekend with a grid penalty that would see him start 15th behind Max Verstappen, but Red Bull’s pace at Spa was, for everyone not of am energy drinks persuasion, scary.
Verstappen had taken pole by six tenths of a second from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz before the Dutchman’s penalty was applied, but he recovered through the field to pass the Spaniard and take the lead.
Sainz was also cleared by Sergio Perez, and Ferrari had absolutely no answer to the imperious pace of the four-time champions, who claimed their fourth one-two of the season.
Some shenanigans at the start of the race involving Sir Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso had caused a Safety Car and, under that, Leclerc was forced to pit early on.
This was because a tear-off from Verstappen’s visor had, made its way into the Monegasque’s brake duct, causing the brakes to overheat.
In the process, a sensor got burned out when the front corner got too hot, affecting the pit lane limiter.
Ahead of the final couple of laps, Leclerc, who had recovered to fifth, was called in to bolt on a fresh set of Softs and pump home the fastest lap, but he sped in the pit lane due to the faulty sensor.
The 24-year-old was awarded a five-second penalty as a result and, having been forced to pass Alonso on the final lap, he did not get the fastest lap either.
Leclerc therefore ended up in sixth at the end, and he now trails Verstappen by 98 points in the Drivers’ Standings.
Binotto affirmed after the race that faulty sensors were not going to deter his team from trying to collect an additional point at Spa.
“It was really, really borderline,” he told Motorsport.com.
“We were not using our normal sensors measuring the speed because they have failed during the overheating of the front-right due to the tear-off of Max, and our recovery [system], maybe it was not such accurate.
“I think overall, it has been an unlucky situation, it’s not because of that we stop deciding and being brave, to go for a fastest lap when conditions are there to go for it.”
The Scuderia are now 118 points adrift of Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship so, as far as the 52-year-old is concerned, pitting to try and take at least one point from their rivals was the right decision.
“It’s the opportunity to try to get the fastest lap, and there was the margin on Fernando to stop and try to go for it,” added Binotto.
“I think it was the right decision, and we knew it would have been very close to Fernando, it just tight losing the position.
“But we knew as well he could have overtook him back because he had the fresher tyres, and that could have helped in terms of DRS and top line speed in the main straight.
“Once again, I think it was the right decision.”
Binotto believes that some of the criticism of his team has been a little unfair in 2022, and he reiterates that boxing Leclerc at the end was the right decision to make.
“Obviously there is always a need to try and improve, and there are lessons learned which we are looking at and reflecting,” he explained.
“But if I look back at the season, I think there are a lot of perceptions from outside compared to what are the true and the reality, I think sometimes we are not doing mistakes when it may have been perceived as a mistake.
“More than that, if I look at today, and I focus on today, I think that the call to stop him was the right call, you need to be brave in F1.”
Sainz’s podium finish was a crumb of comfort for Ferrari on Sunday, and they travel to Zandvoort this weekend in the hope of a stronger performance at the Dutch Grand Prix.