4 Nov 2019
Binotto and Leclerc hit back at post-race comments made by Max Verstappen in Austin after a tough day for Ferrari.
Ferrari has hit back at allegations it was forced to make changes to its power unit in the wake of an FIA technical directive earlier this week following comments from Red Bull rival Max Verstappen after Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s power unit has faced scrutiny for a number of weeks after the team enjoyed a surge in form since the summer break, appearing to make significant gains with its power unit performance and straight-line speed.
Red Bull went to the FIA earlier this week to request clarification over a potential fuel system solution that would have been deemed illegal, resulting in a technical directive being issued by the FIA.
Ferrari struggled for performance on Sunday in Austin as Charles Leclerc finished over 50 seconds behind race winner Valtteri Bottas. Teammate Sebastian Vettel retired early on due to a suspension failure.
Verstappen said after the race that it was “not strange” to see Ferrari struggle, hinting at the technical directive being a turning point, and even said on Dutch TV: “That’s what happens when you’re caught cheating.”
Binotto opened his Sunday media briefing by addressing the comments without being prompted, calling the comments made after the race “very disappointing”.
“I believe yesterday we have been very close to the pole position, as it has been in the last races. I think that Seb could have scored the pole yesterday, maybe [he was] a bit too much cautions in one corner,” Binotto said.
“Charles had a clear problem in the morning, losing completely FP3, a downgrade on the engine we fit in the car, and overall I think that looking at his performance in Q3 and what could have been done without the issue in the morning, I’m pretty sure that as well he was potentially in the pole as well, so I don’t see where is the problem.
“If we look at the race today, we may comment later on, but certainly the speed on the straights was not our issue, while we’ve got clear problems on the grip on the car first stint both drivers.
“Again, it’s the type of comments [that] I feel are completely wrong. It’s not good for the sport and I think everybody should be a bit more cautious. Thanks.”
Binotto revealed Ferrari had not looked at the technical directive “in detail”, and denied any changes had been made to the power unit since Mexico, saying “nothing at all” had been altered.
Leclerc and Vettel were asked for their views on Verstappen’s comments, prompting an angry response from Leclerc. Vettel declined to comment.
“I think it’s a joke to be completely honest. He has no clue,” Leclerc said.
“He’s not in the team. So we know exactly what we are doing and I don’t know why he’s speaking, he doesn’t know anything about us.”
Explaining why Ferrari’s straight-line performance was not as strong in Austin as previous races, Binotto explained that a trade-off had been made to try and find better performance through the corners.
“It’s true that we were not gaining on the straight as much as in the past races, but true as well that I think we matched our competitors in cornering, at least in qualifying,” Binotto said.
“The trade-off between grip-limited and power-limited has been moved this weekend as a test on our side – as simple as that.
“We were competitive in qualifying and now there is something in the race we need to understand and then see what’s best for the next races in terms of the trade-off.”
Additional reporting by Julianne Cerasoli.