Engine change gives Leclerc freedom to attack – Binotto

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says Charles Leclerc is free to attack in the final four races before the summer break after his power unit penalty in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Leclerc retired from the lead in Baku and his power unit was deemed beyond repair, leading to Ferrari taking a full new unit in Montreal.

Starting from the back of the grid, Leclerc climbed through to fifth place and Binotto says the result was a good one in isolation, but the benefit of the new power unit should be felt in the coming races.

“It’s something we decided very soon after Baku, so it was something he was aware of for many days and he had time to digest and be prepared for the race weekend,” Binotto said. “So he started the race weekend knowing he would be at the back of the grid in the race, so even his Friday program and Saturday program was focused on the high fuel runs to make sure he was prepared us for the race itself.

“It’s certainly a frustrating situation for a driver, and the race would require him to control a lot of passion which has been the case, because sometimes you would like to overtake when you cannot because of the speed on the straight or the tires are worn. But we limited the damage starting from the back, and finishing fifth is still a good race result.

“And now we have got a fresh power unit for the next races certainly and the four races before the summer break will be important for him, certainly, where he can attack and let’s try to recover some points where we can.”

Leclerc’s recovery came as Carlos Sainz fought Max Verstappen for victory, and while Verstappen was surprised by the pace of the Ferrari, Binotto had been expecting it.

“Honestly, it was not such a surprise because if you look at the race sim on Friday, Carlos was very strong already and I think we were very close to the Red Bull. We knew it would be a close fight but how close we had no idea after Friday.

“So not such a surprise because we simply know that our car is competitive and it was competitive here again. Carlos is gaining in confidence in the car, he is driving faster and faster and it was good to see that he was as fast, if not slightly faster, compared to Max.

“It has been a very good race and I think race by race he is gaining confidence, improving his driving and getting faster and faster. He is happy, more relaxed and I am pretty sure he will prove in the next races that he is a contender as well for the win in a single race.

“I’m pretty happy and it is important for the Scuderia that we can count on him as well to be very fast and again to be a strong racer on a Sunday.”