Binotto says Ferrari’s Paul Ricard struggles stemmed from issues ‘two years ago that we should have addressed’
Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto admitted after a ‘very tiring and difficult’ French Grand Prix that the team’s disastrous result – with Carlos Sainz in P11 and Charles Leclerc in P16 – hadn’t been entirely unexpected, with the conditions at Paul Ricard having exposed a weakness that Ferrari have been aware of for several years, according to Binotto.
The French Grand Prix had started well for Ferrari, with Sainz and Leclerc lining up P5 and P7 on the grid. But despite both drivers being able to hold onto their positions in their first stints, a switch to hard tyres proved catastrophic for both, with Sainz and Leclerc slipping further and further down the order as their races unravelled – Leclerc ending up 16th after a failed attempt to switch to a two-stop.
“I don’t have much to say,” said Binotto after the Grand Prix. “A very tiring and difficult race for us today. We have not been able to get the tyres working as we should have done and I think our performance was really struggling with the tyres.
“I don’t think it’s reflective of the true pace of the car or the performance itself but it’s something we need to learn and address, not in the immediate future but in the medium and long-term.”
Leclerc had finished the 2019 French Grand Prix on the podium in P3. But despite that, Binotto admitted that the origins of Ferrari’s nightmare 2021 race had been evident to the team even back then.
“We knew this circuit would be difficult,” said Binotto. “High-speed corners where you are putting a lot of energy into the tyres, hot conditions. If you are looking at two years ago again, we were really struggling here so I think that these are our car characteristics. It’s not a track that’s suiting us well.
“But in the end it’s two years ago we had the problem. We should have addressed it, it’s not yet the case so it’s why looking at the future is important to use to learn the lessons, to sort it.
“For us it is more important to understand and to address it definitely for next year,” added Binotto. “The main worry for us is it will happen at more races, but not at all tracks. We need to prepare ourselves for this situation.”
Meanwhile, despite Pirelli having issued a Technical Directive ahead of the weekend forcing teams to up their tyre pressures following the issues suffered by Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen in Baku, Binotto denied that this had had an adverse impact on Ferrari.
“No, I can’t think [the changes] have any impact,” said Binotto. “If I look at the prescription, [the pressures] were raised only on the rear and we had the issue on the front with graining. Nothing in the preparation has changed for us. So the answer is pretty clear, no.”
The upshot of Ferrari’s first point-less race of 2021 was that the team lost the third place in the constructors’ championship they’d briefly held after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, falling to P4 behind McLaren, with the gap between the two teams having stretched to 16 points after McLaren’s Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished P5 and P6 in France.