Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto described Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix collision between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc as a small crash with big consequences, and now he must deal with them.
The key concern will be to ensure that the Italian team are not destabilised going into 2020, when they could be fighting for titles as well as wins. Vettel and Leclerc have been summoned to Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters before next week’s season-ending race in Abu Dhabi to go through what went on and how to prevent any recurrence. Binotto said it would not be a question of handing out fines and blame but of the drivers recognising their mistakes and learning from them. “There is always something you can do better but today the mistakes were the mistakes of the drivers,” Binotto told reporters after the race.
“What happened today, I would say it was even lucky it happened this season because there will be an opportunity to clarify with them for it not to happen next year.” Damon Hill, the 1996 world champion for Williams who is now a pundit for Sky Sports television, said some firm action was needed. “I think you have to sit them both down and say, ‘Listen guys, you can’t just behave like kids with the team like this. You have a responsibility, both of you, to the team’,” said the Briton. The team always comes first for Ferrari and it could be that the terms of engagement are revised to prevent the sport’s most combustible pair from clashing on track.
Mercedes, winners of the last six drivers’ and constructors’ titles, did something similar at the height of the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who retired after winning the 2016 title. Sunday’s collision, a glancing impact that put both drivers out of the race when a podium finish was a possibility, happened in an instant but had been a long time coming. Former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn, now the sport’s managing director, warned last month that Leclerc and Vettel, a four times world champion, were a “potentially explosive” pairing that needed to be handled with care.
Leclerc arrived in Brazil with more points, poles, podiums and wins this season than four times world champion Vettel, who had been the main man at Maranello but can no longer claim that status. Vettel started on the front row with Leclerc in 14th but the Monegasque’s overtake five laps from the end triggered a response and the coming together. “I’m pretty sure we are mature enough to put that behind us,” Leclerc said afterwards. “At the end we both of us feel extremely sorry for the team.”