Scuderia Ferrari‘s team principal Mattia Binotto believes the stewards decision over the race defining move by Austrian Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen on Charles Leclerc was wrong, but respects the call made.
Leclerc was on course to convert pole position to his first Formula 1 win at the Red Bull Ring, having led majority of the race. But on Lap 69, Leclerc lost the lead when Verstappen made the race winning move at Turn 3, taking the inside line and leaving Leclerc little room to take the corner – forcing the Monegasque driver to take the run-off.
The twenty-one year old had to settle for second place whilst team-mate Sebastian Vettel managed to capture fourth place, passing Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap, after recovering from a disappointing qualifying session.
Vettel’s race took a turn during the race as he reverted to a two-stop strategy and switched to the Soft tyres after being passed by Verstappen. This demoted the German to fifth behind Hamilton, but Vettel with fresher tyres clawed his way back ahead of the Brit to finish fourth. During his first stop, Vettel was stationed in his box for six seconds, after Ferrari suffered a radio issue that caught some of the mechanics off guard and weren’t ready with tyres for the four-time world champion.
Binotto says that the display from both Leclerc and Vettel shows his Ferrari team are continuing to improve with a strong weekend, despite the lack of a win and the radio problem that occurred during Vettel’s pit stop.
“Every race has a tale to tell and today’s was a great one, featuring some exciting battles,” said Binotto.
“For our part, we have shown that we are continuing to improve. Charles drove a really strong race from start to finish and indeed he was fantastic all weekend.
“Seb also had an excellent race: on the hard tyres he attacked and pushed to the maximum even if in doing so, they wore quickly. From that, it’s clear his two stop strategy was not planned in advance, but adopted as his race evolved.
“There’s obviously disappointment for the radio problem we had at Seb’s pit stop. Not all the mechanics heard the call and that cost him precious time.”
After the race, both Verstappen and Leclerc were summoned to the race stewards regarding the move the Dutchman did on Leclerc for the lead of the race. After three hours since the race was completed, the FIA decided not to punish Verstappen and leave it as a racing incident.
Ferrari’s hope of the race result changing in the stewards room didn’t fall through and left Austria with second place for Leclerc. Whilst Binotto doesn’t agree with the decision, he respects it and won’t appeal the case for the good of the sport and for F1.
“With regards to the decision of the stewards, we fully accept it, even though we don’t believe it is the right decision. They are the judges and we have to respect that,” commented Binotto.
“However, even though I am first and foremost a Ferrari fan, I think it’s time for F1 to turn the page and to look ahead. As we often say, we should leave the drivers free to fight, as overall this will be good for the sport and good for F1.
“So ‘bravo’ to Verstappen, he drove a fantastic race today as did Charles. There will be new opportunities for us in the future.”