Leclerc was leading Sunday’s British Grand Prix when the Safety Car was deployed after Esteban Ocon’s Alpine ground to a halt on track on Lap 39. Despite having the opportunity to pit Leclerc, Ferrari opted to keep the Monegasque out and instead bring in his teammate Sainz for a set of soft tyres.

With the chasing pack stopping for soft tyres, Leclerc was left a sitting duck at the restart on his much older hard compounds. He lost out to Sainz on the Wellington Straight when the race resumed, and was then overtaken by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in the final few laps. 

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Sainz bolted clear and went on to claim his first F1 victory, while Leclerc went from a possible win to slipping to fourth at the chequered flag.

"What happened was our two cars were too close to stop both of them, so we had to take a decision [on which one to stop]," Binotto explained after the race. 

“We were the only one with two cars fighting for the good positions, the other teams had one car and certainly the decisions are a lot easier. In our case we had the two cars and there was not a sufficient gap to stop both of them because the second would have lost time at the pit stop and fallen back.

"So why then by deciding to stop one did we stop Carlos? Because Charles had the track position and was leading, so he would have remained the leader of the race. Because his tyres were fresher than the ones of Carlos, I think six or seven laps less than the ones of Carlos had and in better shape.

"And Carlos by stopping and still being second, he would have stopped the others, at least in the first couple of corners when we knew starting on the hard [tyre] would be the most difficult. 

"So that was the reason we decided. And then we were hoping for more tyre degradation on the soft to give Charles maybe a difficult three or four laps initially but recovering later on, but the soft didn't degrade as we were hoping."

Asked how he would respond to suggestions that Ferrari had thrown away a chance for Leclerc to gain vital ground on title rival and championship leader Max Verstappen, who struggled to seventh in his damaged Red Bull, Binotto said: “What would they have done then differently? 

“I think the decision we took was the right one, the proper one, each single time. Should we have stopped at the Safety Car is maybe the only one we are questioning, I think. 

"If we would have stopped him maybe the others would have stayed out and he would have maybe been fourth on soft tyres. On the other side, would he have been able to recover the position? Not sure. 

“I think that obviously with hindsight it’s easy to say that we could have done [something] differently. Once again we have a Safety Car at the wrong moment when we are leading the race comfortably.”

‘Leave it with me’ - Why Sainz ignored Ferrari

Following a lengthy team orders debate, Sainz let Leclerc through into the lead at a stage when they were coming under threat from a charging Hamilton, who had a significant tyre offset advantage. 

At the Safety Car restart, Sainz was told to drop 10 car lengths behind Leclerc - to give Leclerc a bigger protective buffer to those on soft tyres - but Sainz defied the instructions as he asked Ferrari to “stop inventing”. 

After the race, Sainz backed Ferrari’s handling of their British Grand Prix strategy. 

“Honestly, I think today the team managed the race really well, I have nothing [bad] to say,” he said. 

“At one point we switched positions when we were at risk of losing positions, of getting overcut by Lewis. I think we did it and executed it perfectly.

“And then they asked me to do this 10 metres thing and I tried to explain I have behind me probably the fastest man on track today, if I drop back 10 metres, I might lose a bit of a slipstream and if he passes me, Charles is going to be dead meat also.

“So my decision was to get into the lead as soon as possible, I knew I could be in the lead before Turn 6 with the grip I had on the softs and go from there and try not to affect his race by getting into the lead.

“I said to the team – ‘leave it with me – I’m going to [take] the lead as clean as possible.’”

Binotto later admitted that Sainz was right to ignore the order. 

"Not only is it OK, but I am very happy with what Carlos did today, because for example when we asked him earlier to swap positions [with Leclerc earlier in the race], he did that with no discussion,” he said. 

"When we told him to give a space to Charles after the restart, what he said was not that he didn't want to do it, he said the guys behind me would be very aggressive, so I need to protect and somehow try to react, so leave it to me.

"So I think he understood properly what the intention was and I think he not only understood but I think he is very good with the way he was acting and I am very happy with this."