Mattia Binotto clarifies ‘Charles Leclerc is in pole position’ at Ferrari

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz with Charles Leclerc. Monza September 2022.

Ferrari team-mates Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc speak on the grid. Monza September 2022.

Mattia Binotto has clarified Ferrari chairman John Elkann’s statement that “Charles Leclerc is in pole position”, the team boss adamant Ferrari do not have a number one driver.

Elkann recently spoke with Gazzetta dello Sport, the 46-year-old declaring that it is only a matter of time before Ferrari return to former glory.

And he believes Leclerc will be the one to do it.

Asked if the Scuderia had ‘two captains’ in Leclerc and his team-mate Carlos Sainz, he replied: “I believe they are two great drivers and this encourages them to improve more and more.

“I am confident that we will win not only the Constructors’ Championship, but also the Drivers’ Championship and that Charles Leclerc is in pole position.”

That’s in sharp contrast to what Binotto has been saying in the two years that Sainz has been with Ferrari.

Joining the team last season, the team boss promised Sainz would have equal status to Leclerc, Ferrari not wanting a number one on the books as they set about recovering from a win-less 2020 season.

The Italian was asked about Elkann’s statement, saying his words were misconstrued.

“No, doesn’t mean that,” Binotto said. “I think that what our chairman said if you look at the current season, Charles on average has been faster than Carlos and has been most often on pole position.

“But the ambition of the two drivers, the final ambition is to win, for both of them, the championship and I think Carlos is a strong racer.

“He has proved it last year, in the past seasons and is still proving this season that he’s a good racer. He is scoring a lot of points on Sunday, he’s a good learner and he’s fast as well.

“I think it’s fair, as a team, to give them equal chance, certainly at the start of the season and through the season. If necessity will be there, we may designate who’s got the most opportunity to win.”

Leclerc is P2 in the Drivers’ Championship with 219 points, Sainz 32 points behind his team-mate in fifth.

Charles Leclerc grinning after taking pole position. Italy September 2022

Ferrari proved at Silverstone there is no No.1

If ever there was ever any doubt about Binotto’s claims there’s no number 1 driver, that was put to rest at the British Grand Prix when Ferrari’s strategy favoured Sainz, and cost Leclerc the win.

Instead it went to the Spaniard.

Although at the time it was Leclerc who was closest to Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship, Ferrari didn’t give him the preferential strategy and left him out on old hard tyres behind a late Safety Car.

He was attacked by just about everyone including Sainz, the Spaniard doing nothing – as one could say is his right – to protect his team-mate at the restart. Sainz won the grand prix, his maiden F1 win, and Leclerc finished down in fourth place.

Binotto gave the disgruntled Monégasque driver the now infamous finger wag.

It has been alleged that Binotto’s decision not to back Leclerc caused discontent amongst the Ferrari personnel, some not wanting to attend the podium celebration for Sainz.

But while that has been rubbished by Ferrari, what it clearly did do was let Leclerc know he’s not the favoured child.