Leclerc received a five-second time penalty shortly after the checkered flag when he was found to have exceeded the pit lane speed limit when entering at the end of lap 42.
The penalty moved Leclerc from fifth to sixth place behind Fernando Alonso, and came after Leclerc ran comfortably in fifth. The decision to return to the pits was an offer of Ferrari to try and get the bonus point for the fastest lap, only for Leclerc to fall to within six tenths of a second of Max Verstappenbest lap time.
Leclerc took the blame for exceeding the pit lane speed limit, but Ferrari F1 boss Mattia Binotto has revealed that a sensor failure resulting from a tear in the visor stuck in the duct Leclerc’s right front brake meant the team’s measurements may have been slightly off.
“It was really, really borderline,” Binotto said after the race when asked by Motorsport.com about the decision to pit Leclerc so late.
“We weren’t using our normal speed-measuring sensors as they failed when the front-right overheated due to Max’s snatch, and our recovery [system]maybe it wasn’t so accurate.
“I think overall it was an unlucky situation. That’s not why we stop deciding and being brave, to go for the fastest lap when the conditions are there to go.
Charles Leclerc Ferrari
Photo by: Erik Junius
Leclerc was recognized by the stewards as having exceeded the 80 km/h limit in the pit lane by 1 km/h, triggering the five-second penalty.
It marked another setback for Leclerc and Ferrari on a day when their title hopes took another blow after Verstappen charged from 14th on the grid to win the race, extending his championship lead to 98 points over Leclerc. .
Binotto felt the call to bring in Leclerc so he could try and score the fastest lap bonus point.
“It’s the opportunity to try and get the fastest lap, and there was some margin on Fernando to stop and try to go for it,” Binotto said.
“I think it was the right decision, and we knew it would have been very close to Fernando. He just lost the position.
“But we also knew he could have passed him because he had cooler tyres, and that could have helped in terms of DRS and top speed on the main straight.
“Again, I think it was the right decision.”
Ferrari have suffered a handful of strategic setbacks this season, and the Spa race saw Leclerc face a number of questions from his engineer over which tires they should opt for.
But Binotto felt there was “no need at all” to rethink Ferrari’s approach to his strategic discussions.
“Obviously there is always a need to try to improve, and there are lessons learned that we are looking at and reflecting on,” Binotto said.
“But if I look back at the season I think there’s a lot of perceptions from outside versus what’s true and what’s real, I think sometimes we don’t make mistakes while that could be perceived as an error.
“More than that, if I look at today, and I focus on today, I think the call to stop him was the right call. You have to be brave in F1.”
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