Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto says his meetings with Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel at the start of 2019 were “full of embarrassments”.
Four-time World Champion Vettel started the campaign as Ferrari’s clear No.1 driver, but Leclerc’s form from the start in his debut season with the Scuderia brought that policy into question.
Vettel was given the preferential treatment in 50/50 situations, something which meant that the early stages of 2019 were “full of embarrassments”.
“And believe me, that that type of meeting at the very start of the season was full of embarrassments and difficult to manage,” Binotto told Motorsport.com.
“But we are now getting used to it.
“By the end of the season, it became comfortable more and more, which means that we are getting used to it as a team. In the race we can still make eventually mistakes but I’m pretty sure that mistakes are part of this process.”
Even after the early-season incidents, such as the faster Leclerc being told to stay behind Vettel in Australia and Bahrain, the incidents if anything only grew in severity.
In Singapore Ferrari would use the undercut to put Vettel ahead of Leclerc and send him to his sole victory of 2019, while in Russia Leclerc gave Vettel a tow to help him move from P3 to P1 at the start, but the German would then refuse to give the lead back to his team-mate.
But Brazil was surely the biggest low when the pair collided and eliminated each other from what could have been a double-podium finish.
It’s no surprise then that Binotto admitted Ferrari could have handled the situation better, but at the same time he doesn’t regret the approach they took.
“Certainly it was not an easy exercise and everybody can do better,” he said.
“But I think the attempt of managing them since the very first time in Australia, is something different.
“It is often said we should have let them race in the very first race. We are still very convinced that trying to manage them is the best way in order to score team points when you get to the end of the season.
“And we believe that if you are optimising the team points at the end as well, you also optimise what may be the outcome for the drivers. So we were trying to manage them in the very first race.
“I believe that we can be stronger next year. “We now have meetings with the drivers before the race to discuss scenarios, what may happen, what can be the team’s strategy.
“And the reason for needing to manage them is high because both of them are good drivers and need to be respected as individuals because both of them, when starting the race, they have one objective – which is not beating their team-mate, but being first under the chequered flag.”