That particular circumstance arose at the end of Lap 18, when Ferrari spotted Red Bull’s pit crew emerging from their garage, with Max Verstappen duly called in from P4. Unable to call Leclerc into the pits in time even if they’d wanted to, instead Vettel, some four seconds further back, received a late call to pit from third place, before then pounding in a rapid out-lap to emerge with the net lead after Leclerc’s own stop a lap later.
“I think when we stopped Sebastian at first, Verstappen was ready to stop so we had to protect his position,” explained Binotto after the race. “It was the best opportunity for us to try to overtake [second-placed Lewis] Hamilton and as well later on we would’ve stopped Charles and the pit crew would’ve been free for him.
Finding himself unexpectedly behind Vettel, a furious Leclerc remonstrated on the radio, before being told to keep his head down. “My head will be down, I just want to let you know my feelings,” he responded. “To be completely honest, I don’t understand the undercut.”
Having calmed down out of the car, however, Leclerc told the media: “I obviously did not expect Seb to pass me and it was frustrating from the car, but I also completely understand that if this decision has been taken it’s for sure for the good of the team… The only answer I need really is that there was no other way for us to be first and second in the same order before the pit stop. This is the only answer I need.
“I’m happy for the team anyway.”
“I told [Todt] that I know that obviously Charles is annoyed, frustrated which is positive, a positive attitude because if you would be a driver, that is the right attitude to have. But I told him that the scenarios were bigger and by the time that he will understand the picture and quickly understand the reason of the choice.
“It’s important for me that he’s happy as well, happy for the team, it’s a one-two. Obviously for him it’s a missed win but that’s… been the opposite maybe in Belgium. That’s all.”
Binotto would have been especially happy with the result in Singapore, given that it bore the first Ferrari one-two since the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, as well as their third victory in a row – while the stunning performance of the Ferrari SF90 at the high-downforce Marina Bay Street Circuit will also give the team confidence that they can chase down more wins in the remaining six races this season.