Ferrari’s strategy was not the reason Charles Leclerc was unable to win the Hungarian Grand Prix, according to team principal Mattia Binotto.
Leclerc started third and had overtaken George Russell to lead by the halfway stage, using medium tires for each of the first two stints. The expected strategy was for Leclerc to run long enough to fit the soft tires for the end of the race – as teammate Carlos Sainz did – but Ferrari responded to a pit stop from Max Verstappen and opted for hard tires, leaving Leclerc struggling on the unfancied compound and dropping to six after an extra stop while Verstappen won.
“Before we start with why we used the hard tire, I think it is important to say that we believe that the car was not working as expected and we didn’t have the speed we were hoping to, looking back on Friday,” Binotto said. “So (the race) was certainly different conditions and they got cooler, but overall the speed was not great enough and whatever tires we were using, I don’t think we were as good as we were looking for.
“Certainly it was the same with the hard, so when we fitted the hard our simulation was that it would be a difficult couple of laps of warm-up, they would have been slower than the mediums for 10 or 11 laps but then they would have come back by the end of the stint – and it was a 30-lap stint.
“So we fitted the hard tires at the time because it was a 30-lap stint and we were trying to protect position to Max and it would have been too long certainly on the soft. Our choice and our analysis was, yes, it would be difficult at the start of the stint but it would come back by the end.
“Overall, the tires didn’t work. I know they were not working well on other cars, but the analysis we made was based on the data we had and the main reason is not to look into the strategy, but why the car was not as good as we were hoping.
“It was the first time this year that the car was not as competitive as we are normally looking for, and it was the case as well with Carlos because he was on exactly the same strategy as Lewis (Hamilton) and started ahead but finished behind, and Lewis went on to finish second. So the car was not performing well. And when the car is not performing, it doesn’t make the tires work as they should, and certainly not the hard tires.”
Sainz finished fourth and was coming under pressure from Sergio Perez in the closing stages, but Binotto is unsure why Ferrari went from the quickest team on Friday and pre-race favorites to third-quickest overall.
“I do not have an explanation,” he said. “It’s something where we will try to look at all the data before we go to the summer break for holidays. Certainly there was something that was not working properly, because again, if I look at the balance of the first 12 races of the season, it is the first time we are not competitive and not fighting for the win. On Friday the car was looking good, so there is certainly something that is related to the tires that is not clear to us right now.”