JULY 10, 2022

Binotto defends drivers after Ferrari duel

Mattia Binotto has defended Ferrari's current policy of allowing Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battle it out on the circuit.

Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Austrian GP 2022
© Ferrari

Mattia Binotto has defended Ferrari's current policy of allowing Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz battle it out on the circuit.

In Saturday's sprint race at the Red Bull Ring, championship leader Max Verstappen cruised to victory while the red-clad duo scrapped for second place.

Spaniard Sainz, who is just 12 points behind Leclerc in the wake of his breakthrough win at Silverstone a week ago, defended Ferrari's equality policy.

"The important thing is that we are both in the fight and we will try our best to beat Max," he said after Saturday's sprint race.

Leclerc, who had a clear-the-air dinner with team boss Binotto after the British GP, was less impressed.

"For tomorrow, we probably cannot afford to do what we did today," said the 24-year-old.

Many pundits agreed.

"From the team's point of view, it wasn't very wise," former F1 driver and current Grand Prix Drivers' Association president Alex Wurz told ORF.

"They made life easy for Max Verstappen."

Red Bull is also happy with Ferrari's current situation.

"They have been handicapping themselves for five races," Dr Helmut Marko said. "Either through technology or tactics.

"They were very close today," he told Speed Week, "so it was lucky for us that they fought each other.

"We accept that with slight astonishment but gratitude," Red Bull's top Austrian official smiled.

Verstappen agreed: "I was able to open a gap when the Ferraris were fighting each other. After that I controlled the race.

"In the end our pace was quite similar."

Mercedes' Toto Wolff said he sympathises with Ferrari, remarking "welcome to the club" when considering the dilemma faced by Binotto.

"If they let their drivers race against each other, as they did today, there will be criticism because the drivers are costing each other time," he said.

"If they do a team order, they have to take even more criticism."

Binotto is unapologetic, insisting that both Leclerc and Sainz are "still in the world championship fight".

"As a team, you always have to make the wisest move because the team always comes first. But I am very happy to see my two drivers fight.

"Whatever we choose to do is wrong," he added, echoing Wolff's similar comments.

"If we had only one outstanding driver we would give them priority, but that's not the situation right now. Our strategy is to get as many points as possible for the team.

"We think this strategy also favours our drivers as it takes points away from the opponents, and the opponents should not be Charles for Carlos and Carlos for Charles.

"It should be Max, Lewis and the others. As things currently stand, they are free to race," Binotto said.