It comes as it must: Leclerc goes swimming mercilessly with it, is easy prey for World Cup rival Max Verstappen. While the world champion – despite starting from tenth place and spinning in the race – celebrates his eighth win of the season, Ferrari’s chances of the title move into the distance with fourth place for Sainz and sixth place for Leclerc.
The Scuderia wanted to fight back after the French disaster last weekend before the summer break. Instead, there is the next strategy fiasco.
The drama in two acts: When Max Verstappen comes to the pit stop on lap 39, Ferrari follows suit with Leclerc in a panic. The problem: Because each driver has to use two different tire components, the Italians are faced with a dilemma: the Dutchman started on soft tires and can therefore strap on medium tires twice at the end. So far, Leclerc has only driven with the medium rubber, so he still has to use soft or hard tires. But the distance to the end is too long for the soft compound. Out of necessity, the Scuderia opts for hard. And with that, Leclerc slides off the podium.
“We had everything under control,” he sighs. “I don’t know why we switched to hard. I actually wanted to stay on Medium for as long as possible.” He even said so to his race engineer over the pit radio. Leclerc: “I was happy with the pace, but the last part of the race was a disaster. I slipped all over the place. We lost the race there.”
After his crash in France, however, the Ferrari star held back with assigning blame: “Of course we will talk about it, but we will do it within the team.”
The conversation is sorely needed, because the command post makes the first mistake even worse with a desperate act: Leclerc is ordered back into the pits in the final phase, and then finally gets soft tires, but this also means that he falls back to sixth place. Sky expert Ralf Schumacher: “The last stop is not entirely understandable. As a result, they gave away two more places.”
The German therefore counts on team boss Mattia Binotto for the first time this season: “I see two people’s jobs in danger. In addition to Daniels (Ricciardo, McLaren driver; ed.) Also Mattias. If you get the gift of being able to drive for the world championship with Ferrari and throw it away so carelessly, it’s bitter and should be difficult.”
Binotto doesn’t cut a good figure afterwards either. “It will be a few hours before we understand what went wrong,” he admits, blaming the car. “Regardless of the tyres, the performance of our car was not as expected. When the car isn’t running well, it’s difficult to have the right pace and to hold positions on the track.”
self-criticism? None! Binotto shrugs his shoulders: “We recently had the right strategy in France, in Austria too, so most of the time we’re right. Sometimes we make mistakes, but others make them too, they just don’t look too closely.”
The air is getting thinner for Binotto. Leclerc is 80 points behind in the drivers’ championship. The traditional team from Maranello is already 97 points short of the constructors. Mercedes is already lurking in third place, 30 points behind. “Our team is great and I support them because I trust them,” whispered the Italian in view of the Hungary disaster and the relentlessly honest World Cup table. The question remains: How long will Ferrari still trust Binotto?