Toto Wolff says Ferrari cannot win in the court of public opinion when it comes to using, or not using, team orders.
The Scuderia team-mates raced wheel-to-wheel in Saturday’s sprint qualifying at the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, almost colliding at one point.
While Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz squabbled over second place, Max Verstappen scampered off into the distance.
By the time the Ferrari team-mates’ battle was settled, Leclerc ahead of Sainz, Verstappen’s lead was too big for the Monégasque driver to haul him in.
It raised eyebrows in the paddock with Ralf Schumacher going as far as to say “one gets the impression that they really want Red Bull to become World Champion”.
Wolff says no matter the call Ferrari made, they were always going to upset someone.
“I actually found it quite a good call,” he said as per silverarrows.net. “They let them race, that was the only entertainment in the race so it was good to watch.
“You could say that if you were losing massive ground on Verstappen and were fighting for the championship that needs to be considered but in any case, as the team, you always get the blame.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are going AT IT! The battle of the Ferraris 😳😳 pic.twitter.com/mv14ioFdZE
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) July 9, 2022
“You let them race and then everybody is going to say ‘Well, you’re losing ground against the main competitor’.
“If you don’t let them race, you get even more s*** for team orders at that stage of the season. You’re between a rock and a hard place.”
As for what call he would have made, the Mercedes motorsport boss said: “I know what we would have done but I will not say it.”
Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto says as the Championship stands, Ferrari will not back one driver over the other.
Instead he says that will change race on race depending on which of the drivers is fastest.
“The fastest car on track is the one that is prioritised,” he said. “We believe by doing so, certainly at the moment at this time of the Championship, there are things we can do.
“If later in the Championship there will be one of the two drivers who got most of the opportunities, certainly we will try to gain full priority, but it’s not the situation right now. So we need to cope with it.”
Leclerc and Sainz were asked after sprint qualifying if they felt Ferrari needed to lay out the rules of engagement after their near collision.
“Yeah, I don’t know for the rules of engagement,” said Leclerc. “Obviously we are not the ones to decide. It will be more Mattia.”
Sainz concurred: “Mattia will decide, and the team.”
Leclerc went on to claim the win in the grand prix while Sainz retired with an engine failure. Leclerc is up to second in the standings, 38 points behind Verstappen while Sainz is fourth, a further 37 back.
Will Ferrari now prioritise Leclerc?
After Carlos Sainz retired, Charles Leclerc winning in Austria could cement his status as Ferrari's number one.