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Binotto believes Ferrari took 'big step forward' with power unit in Austin

Ferrari secured a double points finish at the United States Grand Prix, which Mattia Binotto says is proof the team's recent engine upgrade is paying off.

Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto says the squad's performance at the United States Grand Prix is proof that they have taken a "big step forward" thanks to their recent engine upgrade.

Both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished in the points in Austin, with the Monegasque driver cruising to fourth while the Spaniard had to settle for seventh following a slow second pit-stop.

However, with Leclerc finishing more than 20 seconds clear of McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, and Sainz competitive despite the hiccup, Binotto believes Ferrari have taken a "big step forward" compared to last season.

"If you look generally-speaking this season, McLaren has been always very competitive in medium-, high-speed corners and again it is the case here in Austin," Binotto told RacingNews365.com and other members of the media after Sunday's race. "But I think if I look at the overall performance this weekend we have been ahead of them.

"This was [evident] in quali and Charles… finished [24] seconds ahead of Ricciardo. Generally speaking in the overall balance of the lap we have been clearly fastest this weekend. That's why I think it's a shame with Carlos not having been ahead of the end of the race with Charles.

"The way we can quantify it is that this weekend we were running maximum downforce, but we were almost matching the speed of the others. If you consider last year, it's a really big step forwards. We still know there is a gap to the best engine today, but we believe that that gap is not so dramatic."

F1's recent fan survey saw Ferrari slip from first to third in terms of most popular team. Binotto says the performance of the team should be the priority, while adding that there was still plenty of red in the grandstands in Austin.

"First we are focused on performance, that should be the priority," Binotto added. "But popularity is important as well.

"I heard about the results of the survey. I have to say I did my own survey, and if you look at the grandstands in Austin, there is still a lot of red. I'm pretty sure that our popularity around the world is still very high."

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