In the meantime it looked as if Charles Leclerc would be able to win the Formula 1 race in Hungary and reduce the gap in the world championship to Max Verstappen.
But Ferrari slipped out of the race in the second half. After a supposed mistake in strategy, the Monegasque was only sixth and lost a further 17 points to the leader.
From his point of view, the crux of the matter was the 39th lap. Leclerc was on his second medium stint and was in the lead when Ferrari ordered him into the pits to change tires. That was a clear reaction to a possible undercut by Verstappen right behind him, who had pitted a lap before and gotten new mediums.
But with the change to the hard tires, Leclerc’s crash began. The Ferrari driver had no pace at all on these, was overtaken twice by Verstappen and decided after 15 laps to make an additional stop in order to be on softs in the final phase. But even with that he got stuck in sixth place.
For Leclerc, the switch to hards was a clear mistake: “I made it clear that I wanted to keep the mediums as long as possible, but we went to hards very early, which we have to understand,” he says.
Ferrari team boss Binotto justifies strategy
Ferrari reacted to Verstappen, but because they had driven medium twice before, they had to drive a different mix. It was too early for soft tires with 31 laps remaining so it could only go hard. But Leclerc questions whether the stop was necessary at all: “I don’t think we should have reacted to Max,” he says.
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto tries to justify the change at the time: “We knew that the hard tire has some difficulties warming up and is not as fast as the medium for a few laps. But in the end it would be a stint of 30 laps,” says the Italian.
“We thought they would be quick enough to be in the race and get a good position. But they didn’t work as we expected. The main reason was that the car didn’t work as expected . But we will analyze it and draw our conclusions.”
“We lost all the pace on Hard”
However, Leclerc maintains that it would have been better to extend the stint on mediums in order to go on softs later – also because the Alpines or the Haas had big problems with the pace on hard tires. Ferrari should have recognized that.
“The pace on the medium was very good today,” says Leclerc, “but we lost all the pace on the hard. We made one stop more than everyone else and lost 20 seconds as a result, plus the five or six laps on the Hard, where we lost a second per lap,” he says angrily.
Team boss Binotto would not only attribute the poor result to the strategy, but also to the general performance of the F1-75: “We definitely didn’t have the performance that we expected today,” he says. “No matter what tires we had, whether soft, medium or hard, the performance of our car was not as expected.” That too needs to be analyzed.
Binotto: No fresh blood necessary
For Leclerc, however, it remains to be said once again that it is the next disappointing result. The Monegasse has only been on the podium once in the last eight races – that’s not how you win a world title.
“Such a race is frustrating,” he argues. “We just have to get better as a team. It feels like there’s always something going on, whether it’s reliability, mistakes, whatever. We just have to get the weekend together better. And we’re going to use the days off now to concentrate reset and of course to analyze and understand what we need to do better.”
This should definitely include Ferrari’s strategy department, which has been criticized again and again in recent months. But when asked if Ferrari might need fresh blood there, Binotto dismisses it: “I look at the balance over the season,” he says and sees no problem.
“We had the right strategy in France and also in Austria. We often did it right,” he emphasizes. “Sometimes we make mistakes, but others make mistakes too. The team is great and I support them completely because I trust them.”
Leclerc is already 80 points short
The World Cup is still a long way off for the Scuderia. Even Mercedes has come up to 30 points with the constructors, and Leclerc is already 80 points missing.
Before the race in Hungary he said he had to win the last ten races. That’s a) no longer possible and b) pretty unlikely after this performance today, even for nine races.
Leclerc has to admit that too: “Before I think about the championship, I have to understand what we need as a team to get better, otherwise it will be quite difficult. I think we’ve made an incredible step forward compared to previous years , but we need another one. And we’re working on that.”
“But I am confident that we will make it.”