Ross Brawn feels Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto has a new balancing act to manage between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc but warns the Italian manufacturer must be “perfect at all levels” to beat Mercedes.

The developing team orders situation at Ferrari posed further headaches during the Chinese Grand Prix, as it imposed team orders to force Leclerc to allow Vettel to overtake him early on only for the Monegasque driver to respond by feeling faster than his four-time Formula 1 world champion.

With Ferrari’s handling of its two drivers coming under fire for the second race in a row, former Ferrari chief Brawn believes current team principal Binotto is handing it well so far but could have a tough task ahead.

“Mattia Binotto finds himself having to manage what is definitely a new situation for Ferrari, in the shape of two drivers fighting at a very high level,” Brawn, F1’s managing director, said. “For now, Mattia is managing the situation well, dealing on the one hand with the talented young Leclerc, while managing the valuable resource that is Vettel, who as a four-times world champion has shown himself capable of dealing with pressure in the past.

“This is definitely a tricky year for Sebastian and the podium in Shanghai will have been a confidence boost, while Charles has shown great maturity in accepting team decisions that are not easy to digest.”

Brawn has also highlighted Ferrari’s inconsistencies with its 2019 F1 car as its biggest weakness so far this season and says halting its performance and reliability dips will be its only chance to fight for the world titles.

“The first three races have confirmed that if Ferrari wants to challenge Mercedes everything has to be perfect at all levels: performance, reliability and teamwork,” he said. “That’s what Binotto and his guys have to do and, knowing Mattia, I am sure he is aware of that and will devote all his energies to ensuring it happens.

“In Bahrain the team had the performance but not the reliability. In China the performance was not at a level to fight with Mercedes for pole on Saturday or the win on Sunday.”

Despite his concerns, Brawn thinks the 2019 F1 campaign won’t follow the 1992 season it has been compared to when Williams also dominated to three consecutive 1-2 finishes at the start of the year as it crushed its rivals in the world title race.

“I don’t believe that 2019 will follow the same script as ’92,” he said. “The three consecutive 1-2 finishes scored by Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are definitely down to a team that is operating to perfection at the moment, with a top notch technical package, but it’s also fair to say it is up against stronger opposition than was Williams back in ’92.

“In Bahrain a fortnight ago Ferrari dominated qualifying and save for the technical woes that derailed their efforts in the race, the team were heading for an emphatic victory with Charles Leclerc. In China however, the performance pendulum swung towards Mercedes, as was the case in Melbourne.

“Red Bull, especially in the case of Max Verstappen, are ready to pounce, proving that this year’s switch to Honda is so far beginning to show results.

“However, one has to accept that Mercedes can still draw strength from the fact it has been the dominant force over the past few years, as can be seen by the way it fought back last year when it seemed that Ferrari had pretty much caught up in performance terms.

“Whatever the outcome, I hope that the championship fight will be truly spectacular, as befits this sport.”



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