Mattia Binotto’s concerns over Ferrari ‘s reliability will sound like sweet music to Max Verstappen after the Red Bull star snatched a lead in the Formula 1 drivers’ standings.
Verstappen trailed his old karting rival by 19 points before Charles Leclerc ‘s retirement in the Spanish Grand Prix last month. The F1 titleholder has since increased that cushion to nine points after Leclerc finished just outside the podium places in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
It was Red Bull who started this season with the lion’s share of car failures, with Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez each failing to finish the curtain-raiser in Bahrain. Ferrari have since pulled level on three retirements per team thus far, however, and Binotto opened up about their ongoing issues.
“Reliability is always a concern,” he told reporters in Monaco. “And when something is happening, it’s never great. So it’s worrying us. We are looking at what happened [in Spain]. And sometimes you’ve got straight explanations. It can be caused by external accidents. It can be caused by exceptional, let me say, circumstances. So other ones may be a true worry and concern.”
Binotto hesitated to delve into the details when pressed on the reasons for Leclerc’s retirement at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier in May: “What can I tell you? Not much! We did the analysis. We failed and damaged both the turbo and the MGU-H, so they will not be repaired. Obviously, we found the root cause; we fix it for Monaco, for the next races, and that’s all the detail I will tell you.”
Leclerc’s bail-out in Barcelona was surprising given anticipation had been built around Ferrari’s upgrades to the F1-75 just prior to the Spanish GP. In the end, it was reported the MGU-H and turbocharger components were at fault for Leclerc’s early exit.
Drivers are only permitted to use three each of said units before they incur punishments, such as a potential grid penalty. Leclerc’s fourth-place finish in his native Monaco was cause for smiles, though more is needed if he’s to recapture the lead from Verstappen in the 15 remaining races.
“So yes, it is a concern,” added Binotto. “It doesn’t mean that we are too concerned, I hope Christian [Horner] is more than myself! But let’s do our best job from now to the end of the season and, hopefully, everything will be smooth and clear.”
Horner will hope for the opposite as Red Bull appear to have overcome their early performance plight, with even Perez now in the title chase following victory in Monte Carlo. Ferrari’s next opportunity to close the gap comes in Baku when the Azerbaijan Grand Prix returns on June 12.