MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Ferrari team principal, Mattia Binotto, has admitted that Charles Leclerc's failure to make it out of the first session of qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix was down to a misjudgement on the pit wall.
Leclerc qualified 16th for Sunday's race (but will start 15th thanks to Antonio Giovinazzi's grid penalty) after missing the cut for Q2 by just 0.052s. The Ferrari was comfortably quick enough to make it all the way through to the top-10 shootout in qualifying, but the team opted not to send him out for a second attempt in Q1 to make sure he made the cut for Q2.
That decision was partly based on a reluctance to burn through another set of fresh soft tyres, which Ferrari had hoped Leclerc would save for later in the session, and partly based on a misjudgement of where it thought the cut off time for Q2 would be.
"It is not a good day for us certainly," Binotto said. "I think we made a mistake because of the way we make call what happened today, nothing more. It has been a misjudgement, a wrong evaluation of what we call the cutoff time. Cutoff time is the threshold by when we believed we are comfortable into the next session and the cutoff time is calculated real-time based on what we see on the track, based on the real-time sectors of all the competitors, on all the drivers.
"When the cutoff time is calculated, we normally add a margin on top of it and the margin is good enough to afford for any tolerances, uncertainty, whatever might happen during the session normally. Certainly what happened today was the margin we applied was not sufficient, for very little, and the reasons are certainly two -- the first is the track improvement has been very significant and important by the end of Q1, the second is that probably our margin did not consider enough variability due to drivers' maybe confidence by driving through Monaco. Certainly in Monaco, that margin needs to be increased in future no doubt.
"It's not sufficient to calculate a cutoff time, to apply a margin. But in Monaco, lesson learned of today is that the margin needs to be simply bigger. As simple as that. They are the basic [factors]."
Binotto said the team took a risk by not going for a second run in Q1, but stressed that the risk was based on Ferrari's belief that an extra set of fresh tyres would be necessary to allow Leclerc to fight Mercedes later in Q2 and Q3.
"We may argue that as Ferrari, it's a mistake that should not happen," Binotto added. "As Ferrari, we are facing a situation where we need to catch up points in the championship, we need to catch up compared to our competitors, and when you need to catch up you need to take some risks as well. By taking margin on everything we are doing, in the case of today, taking margin would mean to use a second set of tyres, to miss a set of tyres for Q2 and Q3.
"For us certainly today, taking some risks to key to perform as better as we could in Q2 and Q3 to somehow be challenging our main competitors in Q3 together with Charles and Seb. But no doubt, when you look at that, the implication of entering into Q2 is even bigger than trying to challenge them in the final part of qualifying in Q3."
Leclerc's teammate Sebastian Vettel was also at risk of being knocked out in Q1 after clipping the barrier at the Swimming Pool chicane on his first flying lap. His banker lap was only 0.186s slower than Leclerc's after their initial attempts, and it was within that 0.186s that Ferrari saw its safety margin -- with Vettel just too slow and Leclerc fast enough.
When Binotto was asked if Ferrari was focusing too much on Vettel and not enough on Leclerc, the team boss responded: "No, no, not at all. We've got two full teams, one per driver, so we didn't compromise at all. The threshold was the same exactly for the two drivers. On one side, obviously we had the necessity to go out, and on the other...
"Charles asked, by the way, from his cockpit, should I go out, I think it's a bit too marginal, we may be at risk. We replied that no, we've got the data, and we believed it was good enough. It wasn't.
"We should have overruled [the data]. We didn't. I think when you've got tools and simulations, you should trust what you are doing. So we were fully cautious that it would have been tight, but our tools were telling us that it would have been good enough.
"As I said, we are somehow maybe taking risks, too many risks, and as I said at the start, it's a misjudgement, and as a misjudgement it is a mistake."