Ferrari release a statement: Why Charles LeClerc is not being prioritised

Ferrari have released a statement the day after the Formula One race at Silverstone in reaction to media criticism over their strategy decisions. Yet it is no wonder the team is repeatedly questioned about race strategy and driver prioritisation as the pit radio messages give the impression there is confusion within the team as to the exact strategy.

In that statement team boss Mattia Binotto makes it clear LeClerc is not being prioritised over Sainz, regardless of their positions in the drivers’ championship.

But back to the race. After Verstappen picked up damage the Ferrari duo were running P1 and P2 with Sainz ahead of LeClerc, yet it appeared LeClerc would be quicker if he was allowed to pass. LeClerc told the team he was losing time, yet the response was “copy that”.

Each Ferrari driver’s radio engineer at times gives the impression that they are merely a middle man between the driver and the team’s strategist. 

LeClerc again questioned the team’s priorities suggesting he should receive priority given it is he who is fighting for the drivers’ title with Max Verstappen. The response from his engineer Xavier Marcos Padros was indecisive and muted.



Despite having incurred damage from a collision on the first lap after the red flag with Perez it appeared that LeClerc was indeed quicker than Sainz but the team merely told Sainz to “pick up the pace” setting him slightly faster target lap times.

Sainz was called in to pit from the lead on lap 20 at which point LeClerc took over the lead of the race until he too was pitted for the same hard tyres on lap 25. He returned behind his Spanish team mate.

Lewis Hamilton then ploughed on in the lead trying to establish just over a 19 second gap to Sainz to allow him to pit for tyres and return to the circuit in the lead.

Hamilton was increasing the gap slowly lap by lap until the call finally came from Ferrari to Sainz stating “we’re switching the cars”.

Carlos replied “OK” and he allowed his team mate smoothly by down the Wellington straight.

Hamilton by now was close to establishing the gap he needed to pit and return ahead of the Ferrari duo, though LeClerc’s improved pace now past his team mate held the gap just short of 19 seconds.



On lap 33 Hamilton was called in and also switched to the hard tyre. He should have returned in between the Ferrari pair ut a poor tyre change saw him lose an extra 1.5 seconds and again return to the circuit in P3.

Perhaps the biggest criticism levelled at Ferrari was their decisions following the safety car caused by Ocon stopping on track towards the end of the old pit straight. It was obvious to all the Sky commentators this would cause a safety car for several seconds before race control issued the command.

So Ferrari had plenty of time to pit LeClerc and even double stack their drivers for the soft tyres with just 13 laps to go.

They left LeClerc out on hards, Sainz and Hamilton pitted for the soft tyres and came out behind the doomed Monegasque Ferrari driver. 

Inevitably at the restart LeClerc was swamped by those behind on fresh faster rubber and finished the race P4.



Ferrari has a tradition since the Michael Schumacher era of running their team with a driver prioritised based on his position in the drivers’ championship. 

Heading into the final third of the German GP, Fernando Alonso was close behind Felipe Massa, with Vettel just a few seconds back. After a half-attempt to pass his teammate while lapping back markers and some intense discussion on the Ferrari pit wall, Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley uttered those now-infamous five words: “Fernando is faster than you”.

At the time team orders were banned.

Yet the new Ferrari regime under Mattia Binotto appears not to be following their historical preference for one driver over another as the Ferrari statement makes plain. It takes the form of a Q&A with Binotto responding to questions on

Q: “Even if Charles was happy for Carlos and celebrated with the team, it was clear that he was frustrated. Can you understand his disappointment?”

Binotto: “For sure I can understand his frustration. When you’re comfortably leading a race with just a few laps to go and you don’t win, then it’s natural to feel disappointment. But Charles’ disappointment is also our disappointment – we win together and we lose together. We’re as frustrated as he is about his result, because the way he drove yesterday was amazing and showcased once again how strong a driver he is. Charles thoroughly deserved to win the race, if it wouldn’t have been for the safety car.”



This clearly implies the team were happy for events to take their course but the team had had initially refused to intervene during the first tyre stint to allow LeClerc’s request to be handed the lead.

Q: “A lot of questions popped up and led to misperceptions after the race. One question being, why Ferrari didn’t ask Carlos to give up his position to Charles  during the first stint already?”

Binotto: “The answer is quite simple: it was not necessary to do it at that point and there was still a lot of time to make that decision. Our priority is always to maximise the situation in order for the best team result. Only when this goal is under threat do we need to act. We did this during the second stint and swapped cars when Carlos was not fast enough and our opponents were catching us.”

So LeClerc who had used the reasoning that he was the championship contender and should be allowed to pass was not considered by Ferrari. They only ordered the switch eventually to protect their race win they asked Sainz to let LeClerc through.

Q: “The safety car caused a lot of controversy: why did we pit Carlos but not Charles?”

Binotto: “At this moment it was common sense to prioritise the lead car by protecting track positions. There’s nothing unusual in this strategy, we always prioritise the lead car and therefore Charles in this situation. He was on fresher tyres at that point, and if he had pitted, our opponents would have done the exact opposite and gained track position on almost new hard tyres. Just think of Lewis Hamilton at last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi when he stayed out on track.

At the same time we decided to put Carlos on the opposite strategy in order to cover all opportunities. If we wouldn’t have done that split strategy, we would have risked losing the race and handing the win to our opponents.”



Whilst behind the safety car Sainz behind LeClerc was asked by the team to allow his team mate the 10 lengths allowable at the restart, but the Spaniard replied “No. This is not right. I’m under pressure from Hamilton. And he did not leave such a gap when the race restarted.

Q: “Why didn’t Carlos accept to give Charles ten cars length distance at the safety car restart? Was he ignoring team orders?”

Binotto: “Absolutely not, Carlos wasn’t ignoring the team – he made it clear to us that he had to protect himself against the pressure from behind and in doing so, he was protecting our goal to stay ahead. As a team we fully appreciate this and we were all aligned. Without this insider information I can see how this could be perceived as Carlos not being a team player. But a few laps before he swapped positions without any hesitation or complaints, clearly demonstrating that he puts the team first.

And this is why Ferrari are regularly question over strategic dithering. Their driver was asked to allow space for LeClerc to warm up his tyres, given he’d been disadvantaged by the pit stop calls, but it wasn’t an absolute instruction.



Clearly it was accepted by the team Sainz negotiated over the issue and was allowed to continue as he saw fit.

Binotto’s reasoning is relatively sound for all the points raised in the Q&A, but it is clear he is only interested in maximising the team’s results rather than one Ferrari driver’s pursuit of the championship.

Ferrari believe by keeping their drivers on equitable footings they will maximise their constructors’ points tally and can challenge for that title instead.

READ MORE: Gasly responsible for Verstappen’s Silverstone disaster

13 responses to “Ferrari release a statement: Why Charles LeClerc is not being prioritised

  1. Brilliant!! Using a proven, loosing strategy (MB did also not pit LH in AD) as defense for your own, loosing strategy. I just can not get my head around the stupidity of this.

  2. Even with the benefit of 24 hours to formulate a response, Ferrari comes up with nonsense. Bad strategy is becoming a habit

  3. Even with the benefit of 24 hours to formulate a response, Ferrari comes up with nonsense. Bad strategy is becoming a habit.

  4. Carlos can ignore all he wants and do as he pleases (Monaco, Silverstone) as long as Banco Santander is happy.
    Time for Leclerc to become the ruthless one again, like when he was Seb’s teammate.

    • Long time Enzo 👍

      Regards Ferrari prioritising one driver over other, whomever wrote this article quite simply doesn’t know Ferrari history pre Schumacher.

      Ferrari never chose one driver over the other until such time they were fighting for a title. In the old man’s eyes, Ferrari won races, drivers lost them.

      Yes the teams screwed up this year, specifically Monaco, but anybody who thinks Carlos is anywhere close to Charles on ability has been living with their heads in the sand. Lest you forget, Charles has lost 50 points whilst leading two races..

      My hope is that Ferrari iron out their processes now rather than next year

      • Charles is just too good for this mediocre management style. Was Christian Horner managing this team, Charles would havw been leading the drivers challenge quite comfortly. If Toto was in charge, some FIA personnel would have been sacked, and Charles on Valium.

  5. Ok let’s do some basic math. The Brits (Ross Brawn & crew) leave ferrari in 2009 and Ferrari have yet to win a drivers championship since. Ferraris had Fernando Alonso, a proven Champion and they cannot seal the deal.
    Sebastian Vettel 4 time champion one of the most talented F1 drivers and Ferrari still cannot win the drivers championship. The math is that Ferrari have a management / strategy problem. It is not a coincidence that Brawn F1 won its championship in its first year and then became Mercedes F1 and dominated for years. Ferrari needs to get their S**t togher or they will a team of lets get them next year again and again… aka losers!

  6. Problem is Ferrari are too Italian. They had their best years with English designers and senior team members 1997-2096.
    They are building castles in the sky, and have silly team processes you would never see at a British based team.

  7. With new red tire hard to defend himself? Look how Charles did with old white and damaged car. Sainz has proven how crappy the driver he is. So Ferrari, you need to prioritize Charles if you want WDC and WCC. If you just want babysit Sainz and Santander bank behind him, you’ll end up with another year saying “We are doing better year”

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