Ferrari went into its home F1 race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with a comfortable lead in both championships after winning two of the opening three grands prix of the season.

Things started well for Ferrari with both drivers showing impressive pace in practice but were unable to compete with Max Verstappen’s breathtaking pace in qualifying.

Carlos Sainz’s crash in qualifying meant he was out of position for both the sprint and main grand prix, ultimately leading to his unfortunate retirement on the opening lap.

On the other hand, while Charles Leclerc was able to contend with Verstappen in the sprint, a sluggish start left him battling with Sergio Perez for much of Sunday’s race.

In the end, Leclerc only managed sixth on race day after spinning at the Variante Alta chicane with 10 laps to go, damaging his front wing in the process.

It was a costly mistake for the championship leader given that main rival Max Verstappen dominated the grand prix to reduce his lead to just 27 points going into Miami.

The error came after Ferrari stopped Leclerc for a second time on soft tyres - a decision that Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto has defended.

“We were not running out of front tyres,” Binotto explained when asked why Ferrari stopped Leclerc again. “I think as well at that time maybe of the race the pace with the Sergio Perez was very, very similar or slightly better but we believed there wasn’t an opportunity for us to attack and overtake Perez with those tyres anymore so we did those pit stops, tried to hope that they would have stopped as well which was the case.

“They were both on new tyres like resetting the race with 15 laps to go and on soft tyres. It worked somehow pretty well because Charles was very close to Sergio, he tried to attack before he made the mistake.”

Binotto then insisted that Ferrari didn’t regret stopping Leclerc again.

“I think there will never be regrets as a driver to push,” Binotto added. “I think that’s part of our job, it’s part of their job, to try and drive to the limit.

“Obviously, mistakes, they happen. I think these cars on the kerbs are a lot more stiffer and somehow if you make a small mistake you’re paying for it quite a lot. No regrets. I think we made the right choice and that’s it.”

Before his mistake, Leclerc was hunting down Perez for second and with Red Bull’s impressive straight-line speed at Imola, overtaking proved tricky.

Reflecting on his error, Leclerc doesn’t believe he was taking “unnecessary risks” but vowed to learn from it.

“It was very clear to be that I think today was for third place and that was what was possible,” Leclerc said. “But I saw the opportunity and I still tried it. I went a bit quicker in Turns 14 and 15, took too much kerb and spun. All points count and today I’ve put away seven points against the 15 that we had if we were finishing third. Every point is important, I will learn from this for the future. It's the way it is now, I’ve analysed the data, I know what I’ve done. I’ll move on.

“I don’t think I was particularly taking more risk. But I was quick and the car felt good there, especially in the race today, I felt that it was one of the corners where Checo was a bit less competitive than me. Obviously on that lap I knew there was an opportunity so I decided to push a bit more.

“Of course it was too much but apart from that I don’t think I’ve taken any unnecessary risk on the other laps during the weekend or whatsoever, everything was OK on that side.”

More misery for Sainz after F1 Emilia Romagna GP

After his crash in Q2, Sainz secured fourth on the grid for the grand prix after an impressive recovery drive in the sprint.

His good work was undone as he tangled with Ricciardo into Turn 1 on the opening lap, spinning him out of the race as he was beached in the gravel trap.

Another non-score leaves Sainz 48 points behind his teammate in the championship after just four races.

Reflecting on his recent run of form, he said: “In Australia I was completely at fault and here, after reviewing the footage, I think I couldn’t have done anything more to give Daniel more space. Two completely different incidents with very similar outcomes, which means you end up not doing any of the 60 laps of the race, which at the moment for me would be very useful.

“The result doesn’t even hurt that much if you compare it to losing so much track time and losing so many laps in this car, I haven’t been able to race. Unfortunate, the tough thing is they come in a consecutive manner, because over the season, there’s always going to be one race where you do a mistake and there’s always going to be one race where you get bumped out. For me it has happened consecutively and it’s why it hurts more.

“It’s tougher but hopefully we can get them done nice and early in the season and we can start focusing on the rest of the year.”

Did the pressure get to Ferrari?

Racing in front of your home crowd always adds an element of pressure and it’s no different for Ferrari, who has the most passionate fan base with the Tifosi.

Ferrari last won on home turf back in 2019 with Leclerc but given its impressive start to the year, many expected it to triumph at Imola.

Binotto doesn’t think that the mistakes made by Leclerc or Sainz were as a result of the pressure of racing in front of the Tifosi.

“Certainly, the expectations were very high here in Italy and we tried to calm them down, Binotto said. “I think we did whatever we could internally in the team to try and relieve the pressure and make sure that we stayed concentrated and focused during the weekend. While they are driving I don’t think that’s the case.

“While they are driving they are there to do their best. Obviously fighting for the best positions, he [Leclerc] knows that he’s leading the championship. When I was hearing him on the radio during the race itself, the start he was very calm and I think the way he was managing it was certainly with not feeling the pressure itself.

“I think it has been a genuine mistake. It may always happen, a small mistake which cost him some positions and I am pretty sure that he’s aware of that so that’s good enough.”