Vettel jumped Lewis Hamilton and the pole-sitting Leclerc off the line in Sochi, something the Monegasque facilitated amid a pre-race agreement.
However, Vettel was less forthcoming in his part of the plan, refusing to move aside for Leclerc unless his teammate could catch up significantly and keeping the lead as Leclerc dropped back.
Ferrari pitted Leclerc first, leaving Vettel out for four laps on wearing soft tyres – by which time the Monegasque had closed the pit window and he was ahead after Vettel was serviced.
Vettel soon after suffered an MGU-K failure, which helped Mercedes stay ahead of Leclerc in a VSC period, and told Sky Sports that he had been happy racing until the pitstops, but Binotto said the end result was unintentional.
Binotto said: "We initially asked Seb to give the position back, but [it was] fair enough to say at that stage in the race that maybe Charles was not close enough, and we would have lost some time on track.
"Later on, Seb was quite fast and gained some track advantage on Charles. So we knew that we could decide to do it later on.
"The undercut was not for the reason for giving back the position to Charles. Charles stopped because he had worn tyres, his left-rear was starting to be worn, so it was the right moment for him to pit.
"We knew as well that if we had stopped both our cars there, we would have been vulnerable on Safety Cars by giving the lead to Hamilton, so we tried to stay out as much as we could with Seb, simply to protect in case of Safety Cars later in the race.
"Again, Seb, his tyres were worn, it was the right moment to pit.
"As a matter of fact, Charles was ahead, Seb was behind, but the race was still not over and there would have been plenty of opportunity to decide with them what would have been the best option later on."
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