Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has refuted suggestions the Scuderia’s significant early points advantage following a dominant victory in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix will allow it to manage the F1 title race this season.
The Italian team head to home ground at Imola in two weeks' time with a 39-point cushion over second-placed Mercedes while its closest rival on pace in Red Bull is a further 10 points back.
Charles Leclerc leads the drivers’ championship by 34 points from George Russell but, perhaps more importantly, has a 46-point advantage over reigning champion Max Verstappen after the Dutch driver retired for a second time in three races.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Binotto said: “Today was a great satisfaction. We know that every single race can be different but at least let’s enjoy today. I think teamwork, engineering, set-up, drivers, all good.
“The start of the weekend was not easy, the set-up of the car was not balanced, Charles had to get up to speed but I think he worked well through the weekend, he made the fastest lap in the race and a fantastic win.”
Asked if the team now has breathing space to its rivals and a cushion to manage the championship, he retorted: “We are not managing the championship. It’s only three races.
“We stay focused on every single race and that is the way we will approach. That one was great. In all truth, to do a good weekend and to win you need to be perfect.
“That was the case in Bahrain, because it was always very tight. We were not perfect in Jeddah and we lost. Here, again we have had a great weekend and that is how we need to approach it.”
Binotto - Sainz will come back
It was not all good news for Ferrari in Melbourne, however, as Carlos Sainz suffered a dismal race in which he spun out early on after being compromised by a poor grid position.
The Spanish driver's problems started in the final round of qualifying when difficulty in starting his car for Q3 resulted in him being late out of the garage. Without enough time to warm up his tyres, Sainz could only net ninth on the grid.
An unconcerned Binotto, however, said: “He is certainly pretty disappointed today. I think we understand he is disappointed.
"It was important for him to prove he was fast again coming into Australia. He was very fast on Friday, he was fast on Saturday morning.
“He could have done a good quail and then there were circumstances where he was maybe a bit unlucky.
"Then when you lose, let me say, concentration and focus, P9 on the grid, trouble with the steering wheel on the grid and then starting on hard tyres, these are things that should not happen but they happen.
"But I know Carlos, he will come back. That’s a lesson learned. I am pretty sure he will come back strong and I am looking forward to [the next race at] Imola to see his pace and his speed.”