Ferrari’s fear of a potential time penalty was a key reason why they elected to keep Carlos Sainz ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc in the Brazilian Grand Prix, Mattia Binotto has revealed.
Leclerc pleaded with the team in the closing laps to be waved through from fourth place and inherit Sainz’s podium spot in his bid to gain extra points over Sergio Perez in their battle for second place in the Drivers’ Championship.
However, the Scuderia refused the request, meaning Leclerc hauled 12 points for fourth, which, when coupled with Perez’s six for seventh place, has the two drivers locked on 290 points heading to the season-finale in Abu Dhabi.
Post-race, boss Binotto explained how confusion with Yuki Tsunoda meant the team did not feel comfortable in swapping the places amid Ferrari’s own fight with Mercedes in the Constructors’.
Binotto on Ferrari decision
Although Tsunoda was a lap down, the AlphaTauri driver became a central figure in Ferrari’s race when an FIA systems loophole was exposed during a late Safety Car period.
Due to the quirk, the Japanese racer was left unable to unlap himself and was stranded among the top runners for the restart.
Once the race resumed, he quickly pulled over to the left-hand side of the track to get out of the way, but Binotto revealed that the team believed they were under investigation for the incident.
“First, swapping the two cars on the last lap was certainly tricky because Charles had Fernando [Alonso] and Max [Verstappen] just behind,” he explained to media.
“We knew that we were under investigation for what happened behind the Safety Car with Tsunoda.
“We were cleared by race control at the time, so we were quite comfortable, but without having a conclusion on the matter, it would have been risky [to swap the cars].
“Because a five-second penalty, for example, would then mean that Carlos would have lost more than one position, so for the Constructors’ Championship, it was certainly better to stick with the positions and the gaps on track.”
Sainz scooped his first podium visit since third place in Singapore, as Leclerc moved ahead of Perez on countback – by virtue of three wins to two – into second place.
As for the Constructors’, Ferrari enjoy a 19-point lead over Mercedes going into the final race of the season, looking for their best finish since 2019.