Vettel and Leclerc ‘difficult to manage’ from the start
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto had admitted that the problems managing the team’s two highly competitive drivers started early in the season.
The problems only grew more public as the year went on, with Charles Leclerc complaining when the team seemed to be giving Sebastian Vettel preferential treatment in terms of race strategy.
Then when Leclerc hit a purple patch of pole positions and two race wins, it was Vettel who appeared angry and frustrated. Eventually the two clashed in Brazil, forcing both cars into retirement from likely points-paying positions.
But Binotto revealed this week that rather than getting worse as the season progressed, it had been tough to manage the pair right from the start – and actually got better toward the end, despite appearances to the contrary.
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“Believe me, that type of meeting at the very start of the season was full of embarrassments and difficult to manage,” he told Motorsport.com when asked about his early briefings with the pair.
“Both of them are good drivers and need to be respected as individuals,” he said. “Both of them, when starting the race, have one objective – not just beating their teammate, but being first to the chequered flag.
“We are now getting used to it,” he insisted. “By the end of the season it became more and more comfortable, which means that we are getting used to it as a team.
Binotto also held up his hands to times when miscues on pit wall had added to the tension between Vettel and Leclerc.
“In the race we can still make eventually mistakes, but I’m pretty sure that mistakes are part of this process,” he said. “Certainly it was not an easy exercise and everybody can do better.
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“It is often said we should have let them race in the very first race,” he continued. “But we are still very convinced that trying to manage them is the best way in order to score team points.
“If you are optimising the team points at the end as well, you also optimise what may be the outcome for the drivers. So we were trying to manage them in the very first race.”
As for the clash near the end of the penultimate race of the season at Interlagos, Binotto continues to believe that it’s better that it happened when it did, when the 2019 titles had already been decided, rather than simmering over the winter to cause more problems in 2020.
“I believe that we can be stronger next year,” he stated. “We now have meetings with the drivers before the race to discuss scenarios – what may happen, what can be the team’s strategy.”
It remains to be seen just how successful the team is in achieving lasting harmony between its two highly rated drivers when the cars line up on the grid for the next race in Melbourne on March 15.
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