Former F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck believes Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto has coaxed Charles Leclerc into taking the blame for a crash that was never his fault.
Stuck believes Binotto has cleverly played with Leclerc to come out with his image in tact.
Leclerc suffered a crash during the French Grand Prix in a race he had started on pole.
After handling early pressure from Max Verstappen, Leclerc looked to be in a good position to challenge for his third win of the season.
Hamilton was trailing Leclerc by a considerable distance as Verstappen stopped for his first pit break.
Given that their tyres were still in relatively decent condition, it made sense for both drivers to stay out for as long as possible to gain an added advantage by pitting late in the race.
While this may have seemed like the best option, Leclerc suffered a race-ending spin as he collided with the barrier.
Leclerc accepted his mistake
He communicated on team radio that he could not activate the throttle when he put his car in reverse.
The damage had already been done though and Verstappen went on to claim a remarkable victory.
Leclerc later took blame for the accident and accepted that such standards are not befitting of a driver who wishes to challenge for the championship.
While one can point to this being a driver error, that might be looking at it in far too simple a manner.
Ferrari has consistently got its strategies wrong all season and along with reliability woes, these have been the leading reasons for Ferrari’s stop-start season so far.
Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto is notably under immense pressure as a result of a number of blunders that his team has made this year.
Binotto has been a loyal servant to his team at Ferrari though, and has looked to protect its members from any public criticism by shouldering the lion’s share of the blame.
Stuck believes Ferrari forced Leclerc to lie
However, Stuck believes that Binotto forced Leclerc to accept responsibility for a crash that was never his fault.
“I don’t know how much longer Ferrari will give him credit,” he said.
“For me, however, something else is still a mystery: Charles Leclerc’s departure from Le Castellet.
“If you look at the accident a hundred times: the oversteering didn’t come from him.
“I can imagine that he was instructed by the team to claim that he made a mistake even though there was a problem with the car.
“I wouldn’t rule that out, there is enormous pressure there.”
Could that really be the case, though? Did the team just try to cover its own mechanical failure?
It is tough to say for sure, but if the signs are anything to go by, we are tempted to believe that it is Leclerc’s mistake.
Comparing laps 17 and 18, Leclerc was much wider on lap 18 than 17 and it may have led to him losing control of the car.
Had his tyres aged to such an extent by this stage that his engineering team should have made him aware about it?
It was eventually the lack of grip on his tyres that forced him to spin and go into the barriers.
But, it is tough to blame Ferrari for this as Leclerc was actually going a few kmph faster during lap 18 compared to lap 17.
The fact that he went wider in lap 18 might be the primary reason for the spin in the first place.
However, at such a stage of the race, Ferrari may well have been better served to call Leclerc in for a pitstop as it is clear that the tyres were lacking grip.
Could Ferrari have forced Leclerc to lie?
It’s not as if Ferrari has always come clean about its errors. The German Grand Prix of 2010 comes to mind where the Italian team was later even fined for instructing Felipe Massa to allow Fernando Alonso to win.
Still, it might be a bit of a stretch to say that Leclerc was forced to lie.
If anything, we know Leclerc is a pretty honest guy.
He doesn’t need his team to come out and give him such instructions.
Whenever he makes a mistake, he is pretty honest and up front about it.
The nature in which the spin took place also suggests that it was simply just an error on Leclerc’s part.
Agreed, the tyres were too old, but Leclerc knew this as well as anyone else and would’ve done well to be slightly more careful on the turn.
Leclerc made a mistake and himself suggested that he has moved past it. Maybe Mr. Stuck needs to do the same.