Binotto explains Ferrari's use of team orders at Spa

Race winner Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari celebrates with the team. 01.09.2019.
ยฉ XPB 

Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto was understandably delighted with the team's victory in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, their first win of the 2019 season.

Binotto applauded the race-winning performance of Charles Leclerc, who took his maiden F1 race win in Spa-Francorchamps despite coming under heavy pressure from Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps.

"Hamilton was very fast in the final lap so we knew he could attack and it was important we kept the distance to him," Binotto told Sky Sports F1.

"Lucky for us the race was only 44 laps!" he joked. "It's important as the first win for Charles, and it won't be the last one.

"He did very well today, pushing from the first lap until the end. He drove very well the entire weekend," he said.

"He was very committed and willing to do that. He's had opportunities so far this season and he's missed them," he added, referring to 'lost' wins in Bahrain and Austria earlier in the season.

Binotto acknowledged that this weekend had been a difficult time for Leclerc, racing in the wake of the fatal accident that claimed the life of rising Formula 2 star Anthoine Hubert who had been a good friend of Leclerc's.

"To win here in Spa it's probably not the best time for our first victory," Binotto admitted. "[But] it was important for Charles to win today for Anthoine,"

"It's a mixed feeling, but no doubt we should be happy for Charles and his first victory."

Binotto's feelings about the day were further complicated by the way that the race hadn't turned out to be the dominant 1-2 success that qualifying had suggested it might prove to be.

Sebastian Vettel's campaign was thwarted with tyre degradation issues that forced him into making an early visit to pit lane. Although he briefly subsequently took the lead when Leclerc and Hamilton made their own later stops, Vettel was then told by the team to let Leclerc go in front again.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90.

"We said at the start of the season that team points come first," Binotto explained of the key decision.

"We had to use Sebastian to protect the position against the Mercedes because Hamilton was ready to pit," he continued. "We had no choice at the time."

Vettel was then tasked with holding up Hamilton and Bottas for as long as possible before making a second pit stop for fresh tyres. That hold-up proved crucial in helping Leclerc take victory.

"I think Sebastian has played very well as a team-mate for Charles today and it's good for the team spirit," said Binotto. "I'm sure there will be opportunities for him [Seb] in the future."

Maybe that chance will come as soon as next week, when Ferrari will head into their home race at Monza on a high. As a high-speed power circuit similar to Spa, there's a good chance that Ferrari can consolidate their return to winning ways with back-to-back victories.

"We know that Monza is long straights and speed is required," he concurred. "I still think our pace here [in Spa] has shown that we can be competitive."

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