Mattia Binotto does not think his first victory as Ferrari Formula 1 boss “really counts” because it's Charles Leclerc and the rest of the Ferrari crew who deserve the credit.
Leclerc finally ended his wait for a first win in F1 after near-misses in Bahrain and Austria this year, and also clinched Ferrari's first victory of the season in the process.
Binotto was appointed team principal at the start of 2019 and Ferrari was a noticeably changed team as soon as pre-season started, but that has given way to a fundamental car performance deficit at several tracks and mistakes at circuits where Ferrari has been in contention for victories.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he was happy or relieved to finally secure his first win, Binotto said: “To be very honest I don’t think my first victory as team principal really counts.
“I’m more happy for Charles, more happy for the team, and I really I think if there is any applause it’s to them.
“I think we are working as a team, roles don’t matter. Today we proved that the strength of the team can be very important.”
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton almost caught Leclerc at the end of the race, finishing 0.9 seconds adrift at the finish.
Leclerc said he did not fear a repeat of his late heartbreak in the Austrian GP, when Max Verstappen passed him late on, because he found it difficult on the medium tyres in the second stint and was busy adjusting his driving to cope.
“I did not think about Austria, but I could hear my engineer telling me the gaps and this gap was reduced every lap,” said Leclerc. “So I was trying to focus on the job, trying to cure the balance of the car.
“We had some problems with the rear tyres, I was trying to help the rear tyres as much as possible to arrive first, and that’s what we did.”
Leclerc won the race from pole but briefly fell behind teammate Sebastian Vettel in the second stint, after Vettel pitted early and enjoyed a pace advantage on fresh tyres.
However, with a six-lap offset Leclerc cruised up to the back of Vettel, who was ordered to let him past.
“When I came out behind Sebastian, first I was not completely confident that the degradation was that much on the medium, that I could actually catch him,” said.
“But after two or three laps, there was quite a big delta pace, so then I was like ‘OK, I don’t think we’ll lose time together’, which is exactly what we didn’t do.
“Towards the end, I was checking the mirrors and obviously every lap on the radio, my engineer was telling me the gap with Lewis, and he was very, very quick.
“It was very close. I think one lap more [it] would have been difficult to keep Lewis behind.”