Charles Leclerc really didn’t look like someone looking forward to his vacation. Disillusioned and blank-eyed, the Ferrari star trudged through the Formula 1 paddock in Budapest after the perhaps decisive debacle of his Scuderia.
“Now we have to see what we could have done better, recharge our batteries during the break and be ready to fight in the second half of the season,” said the Monegasque in Hungary.
The 24-year-old didn’t have much more than perseverance slogans after his deficit in the World Championship standings behind world champion Max Verstappen had grown to 80 points. Although Ferrari currently has the best car, Verstappen also won in Hungary. Eight successes from 13 World Championship races bring the Red Bull star very close to defending the title early on. “Red disaster. Ferrari’s next own goal. The red downfall,” wrote the Italian sports daily “Gazzetta dello Sport” and listed the omissions of the racing team in a tough manner.
At the center of the criticism: Mattia Binotto
The Ferrari team boss is at least counted after Leclerc in sixth place and fourth-placed Carlos Sainz didn’t even make it onto the podium. A bad strategy, including the wrong choice of tires for World Cup challenger Leclerc, led to a disastrous result and perhaps the end of all World Cup hopes. “Overall, everything didn’t work as expected,” said Binotto, but didn’t want to know anything about wrong tactics. The car didn’t work as expected. That will be analyzed, he said.
“I have no explanation,” said Binotto. There will be no personnel consequences in the strategy team, and he himself did not seem to fear for his job in a media round. However, Ferrari gives a disastrous picture to the outside world.
“The Ferrari disaster in the pits is complete: enough! It’s no use just having the best car,” said Tuttosport. “The car was there, the pilot was there. But where was the team?”
The group management will certainly not put up with that for long. “If things continue like this, it won’t be easy for him. He has to perform now,” said Sky expert Ralf Schumacher in the direction of Binotto: “Too many things have gone wrong. If you as a Ferrari have the chance to do it again to go to the World Cup and throw it away, that’s bitter.”
Ferrari’s less than sovereign strategy department
All of this is strongly reminiscent of 2018, when the Reds with Sebastian Vettel also had the best prospects of a world title. At that time, the crowning glory was built in and Lewis Hamilton had to leave the triumph in the Mercedes. After that season, the old team boss Maurizio Arrivabene was replaced by the now 52-year-old Binotto. But the fundamentals don’t seem to have changed. While Red Bull Verstappen maneuvered to victory from tenth on the grid with a tactical masterstroke, the Ferrari command post decided to let Leclerc put on hard tires when it came down to it.
The top driver didn’t want that himself, but had to submit and had no chance of winning because the tires on his car didn’t work. “Of course we will talk about it, but we will do that within the team,” said Leclerc, avoiding open criticism. A week ago he was in the lead at the French Grand Prix and retired after making a driving error himself. Now the strategy department, who was not very confident, prevented him from achieving another top result. In the four-week summer break until the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August, Leclerc can recover from the disaster.
Sainz: “We kept getting worse”
“I think as a leader he will see every race as an opportunity to win again,” said Binotto. The boss is not yet writing off the title: “There is still a lot of potential. We will come back even stronger.” Leclerc’s teammate Sainz analyzed the Budapest fiasco harshly: “We took many steps back, we got worse and worse.” Good practice on Friday was followed by a mixed qualifying session and a poor Grand Prix: “It’s a shame that we’re going into the break with a bad result.”
With nine races left, Leclerc can hardly become world champion on his own. Even if Verstappen no longer wins and always comes second, the 24-year-old can no longer be overtaken. “It’s about a lot of small details,” said Verstappen. Did Ferrari give him the big championship lead? “It’s difficult to answer because nobody makes mistakes like that on purpose. We’ve already dropped a few points and at the end of the day you always have to perform.”