Charles Leclerc given Ferrari backing as team chief makes bold claim after mediocre season

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Ferrari’s team principal Mattia Binotto has labelled Charles Leclerc’s 2021 season as “unlucky” after the Monegasque finished behind his new team-mate Carlos Sainz Jnr. Leclerc missed out on a haul of points during the Monaco Grand Prix after starting on pole position, despite crashing into the wall at the Swimming Pool section, causing the session to be red-flagged.

Ferrari assessed the damage overnight and gave the gearbox the all-clear for Sunday’s race.

But at his home Grand Prix, the 24-year-old retired on the formation lap on the way to the grid, with a heartbreaking team radio message from Leclerc saying: No, no, no, the gearbox guys” as he retired before the race even got underway.

The Swiss-born Italian engineer also recalled Hungary, where Leclerc was wiped out by the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll on the opening lap of the race during a chaotic opening lap.

Binotto said: “We should not forget that in his season, there are a couple of examples, which is Monaco and Budapest, where he didn’t score but I think he has been unlucky as a driver on those occasions.

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“Without that, it’s difficult to say what he would have finished at the end of the race, but maybe at least 40 points missing on his classification. So without that again I think he would have been a lot further ahead in the championship.”

Leclerc finished the season 31 points adrift from fourth-placed Sergio Perez after a tricky season.

But Binotto had nothing but praise for the 24-year-old.

“That’s why, again, I can only judge very positively his season,” he added. “He has learned furthermore how to manage the tyres, how to manage the race situations and the race pace. So I’m quite pleased on the progress he made.”

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Leclerc’s team-mate Sainz, however, enjoyed his first season with the Scuderia set-up and finished P5 in the standings after a tight fight with former team-mate Lando Norris.

But the Spaniard admitted he did have a lot to learn from Leclerc after switching from McLaren.

“Since the moment I arrived to winter testing in Bahrain, I had a lot of things to learn from Charles,” said Sainz.

“The way he was driving the Ferrari in a particular way to be as quick and fast as he’s being all year long, I’ve had to adapt myself [to it], I had to copy a lot of the stuff I was seeing on the data.

“Sometimes it was difficult to believe it was possible to do that, and it was so crazy-quick it was actually a bit shocking. But little by little, adapting and trying to learn from him, I managed to get to a good level.

“There are still things that when we go into the winter break, he’s much stronger than me in certain areas. We will exchange some information and try to both become better drivers learning from each other.”

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