Ferrari at crisis point after extraordinary implosion

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto is in damage control after the team endured the weekend from hell at the Styrian Grand Prix.

A poor qualifying was compounded when Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided on the opening lap, with the damage forcing both cars to retire.

A contrite Leclerc apologised for the incident, which occurred when he tried to pass Vettel into turn three. Instead, he clipped the inside kerb which launched him into the rear wing of the sister car.

It’s the second time in four races the pair have made contact on-track, after they collided at the Brazilian Grand Prix in November.

“I apologised,” Leclerc said after the race.

“Excuses are not enough in times like this and I’m just disappointed in myself. I have done a very bad job today. I have let the team down.

“I can only be sorry, even though I know it’s not enough. I hope I learn from this and will come back stronger for the next races.

Charles Leclerc becomes airborne and crashes into teammate Sebastian Vettel at the Styrian Grand Prix. (F1)

“It’s a tough time for the team. We don’t need that. The team don’t need that. I put all the efforts of the team in the bin. I’m very sorry, but it’s not enough.”

Vettel said he was not expecting Leclerc to try a move at that point, given the lack of space on the opening lap as the field jockeyed for position.

“I was fighting two other cars, we were already three cars into turn three, and I was very surprised,” Vettel said.

“A big pity and something we should avoid, but not much I could have done differently. I was taking it easy and conservative because it was already very busy and tight.

“I don’t think there was space, that’s why I think we collided.”

It’s been a troubled start to the season for the Scuderia, with the team sitting fifth in the Constructors’ Championship.

Sebastian Vettel’s rear wing was almost torn off after a collision with teammate Charles Leclerc at the Styrian Grand Prix. (Getty)

Even that position flatters the team, with 18 of their 19 points coming from Leclerc’s second place in the Austrian Grand Prix last week, a somewhat fortuitous result that owed more to the Red Bull retirements and Lewis Hamilton’s penalty than outright speed from the red cars.

Ferrari hasn’t had a car in the top six in qualifying in either race, the first time that’s happened at consecutive events since 2014.

This morning’s first lap implosion was made worse by the fact the team had worked around the clock to bring upgrades to this race. With both cars retiring almost immediately, Ferrari still has no idea whether the changes are a step in the right direction or not.

Binotto didn’t mince his words over the weekend, vowing to “change this state of affairs.”

Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari is pushed into the garage as he retires from the Styrian Grand Prix after colliding with Sebastian Vettel. (Getty images)

“We have to accept that the stopwatch doesn’t ever lie,” he said.

“In two qualifying sessions, albeit in different conditions, we have not been competitive, not only against those who have been our closest rivals over the past years, but also against others, who up to yesterday were generally behind us.

“We worked very hard to bring updates to the car earlier than planned, but they didn’t show their worth on track. We have to work out why and change this state of affairs, which is just not good enough for a team by the name of Ferrari.”

As if the on-track performances aren’t bad enough, both Leclerc and Vettel were spotted breaching COVID-19 protocols, with Leclerc photographed attending a party in Monaco in the time between races, while Vettel was seen talking to Red Bull boss Christian Horner while not wearing a mask.

And while Carlos Sainz is saying publicly he’s not concerned about Ferrari’s troubles as he prepares to replace Vettel in 2021, behind closed doors he must be having second thoughts at giving up his seat at McLaren, a team that continues to impress.

Lando Norris backed up his podium last week with a fifth place finish this morning, while Sainz has also scored points in both races.

Joining Ferrari is every driver’s dream.

On present form, it could be a nightmare for Sainz.

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