Ross Brawn backs Mattia Binotto over Ferrari handling of drivers

Formula 1 chief Ross Brawn has backed Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto’s handling of the on-track dynamic between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Ferrari instructed new recruit Leclerc to allow Sebastian Vettel through at last weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, but the decision contributed to Leclerc slipping behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the classification.

It marked the third straight race in which Ferrari had issued an instruction favouring Vettel, prompting further speculation regarding the dynamic within the team.

Binotto has previously suggested that in a 50-50 situation Vettel would be backed, but emphasised post-race that the decision to swap positions in China was motivated by an attempt to allow Vettel to keep pace with the ultimately dominant Mercedes drivers.

Brawn believes Binotto, who was promoted to the role of Ferrari’s Team Principal in the wake of Maurizio Arrivabene’s exit, has so far handled the situation adeptly.

“Mattia finds himself having to manage what is definitely a new situation for Ferrari, in the shape of two drivers fighting at a very high level,” wrote Brawn in his usual post-race debrief.

“For now, Mattia is managing the situation well, dealing on the one hand with the talented young Leclerc, while managing the valuable resource that is Vettel, who as a four-times world champion has shown himself capable of dealing with pressure in the past.

“This is definitely a tricky year for Sebastian and the podium in Shanghai will have been a confidence boost, while Charles has shown great maturity in accepting team decisions that are not easy to digest.”

China marked the third straight race in which Ferrari was defeated by Mercedes and the reigning champions have already established a 57-point buffer in the Constructors’ Championship.

Brawn, who has worked for both teams during his distinguished career in Formula 1, reckons Ferrari will have to be “perfect” from here on in if it wants to dethrone Mercedes.

“In Bahrain the team had the performance but not the reliability,” he commented.

“In China the performance was not at a level to fight with Mercedes for pole on Saturday or the win on Sunday.

“Thus, having coming away from winter testing convinced it could fight the Anglo-German squad on equal terms, the Italian outfit found itself behind in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ classifications and in the latter, the gap is already quite big.

“The first three races have confirmed that if Ferrari wants to challenge Mercedes everything has to be perfect at all levels: performance, reliability and teamwork.

“That’s what Binotto and his guys have to do and, knowing Mattia, I am sure he is aware of that and will devote all his energies to ensuring it happens.”