Mattia Binotto said Charles Leclerc’s second place finish in the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday exceeded the expectations of Scuderia Ferrari, especially on the back of their performance during Saturday’s Qualifying session.
Leclerc had qualified a lowly seventh for the opening race of the season, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel missed out on Q3 and was forced to start outside the top ten in eleventh.
Whereas Vettel struggled to tenth in a race that included a spin for the German, Leclerc was one of the race’s stars, staying out of trouble and battling to finish on the road in third, which became second once Lewis Hamilton’s five-second time penalty was applied.
Binotto, the Team Principal of Ferrari, said Leclerc’s run to the podium was mostly down to the Monegasque driver, with Vettel was unable to match his team-mate across the seventy-one lap race.
“A really busy weekend ended with a result that far exceeded our expectations going into this race, especially after the way qualifying went,” admitted Binotto. “Charles drove an amazing race, fighting like a lion from the first to the last lap and making the most of every opportunity that came his way.
“Today’s second place is mainly down to him. At least Sebastian managed to get back in the points, but he struggled more than his team-mate with the balance of the car and now we have to work out why and in time for next weekend.”
“We are behind, more than we could legitimately have expected”
Binotto admits that Ferrari did not have the pace of many of their rivals and their points positions were lucky thanks to the reliability issues of others, and the team has a lot of work to bring themselves into a genuinely competitive position.
He says that they were further behind the pack than they were anticipating, but they will be doing everything they can to turn their fortunes around in the second race weekend at the Red Bull Ring next weekend.
“The 19 points we picked up here in Spielberg were also down to reliability, which is always vital, as well as the work the team has done here at the track and back in Maranello over this past week,” he said. “However, it does not make up for the fact that, in pure performance terms, we are behind, more than we could legitimately have expected.
“That’s why we are pushing as hard as we can to bring updates to the car as soon as possible, although we know that no package can be a magic wand that radically changes the hierarchy among the teams.
“Having said that, we have seen in this first race that a few tenths more or less can make a big difference in terms of grid position, so we must leave no stone unturned.”