While Binotto has become an easy target for critics amid the Ferrari’s reliability and strategy flaws that made headlines in 2022, it was many of his overlooked qualities that were key to getting the squad back to the forefront in the first place.
And after a season in which he learned some hard lessons about the excellence it takes to be a championship contender, the consequences of the arrival of a new boss can be huge.
As a team boss who understands the technical aspects of engines, cars and their operation, as well as the political intrigues of the F1 paddock, the FIA and the media, Binotto’s remit was broad and wide for what is perhaps the highest. print job on grid.
Losing Binotto, Ferrari is instantly deprived of a team boss who has perhaps the deepest insight into car/engine design and performance parameters among its peers, while also directly understanding the challenges and compromises of building a race-winning package. .
Winning in F1 is all about marginal gains, and Binotto’s knowledge of Ferrari’s concepts and motivations would be critical in helping the team take the step needed to re-sign with Red Bull in 2023 and fight the renewed threat. from Mercedes.
Binotto’s imminent departure will deprive Ferrari of this detailed insight as it prepares its new car, perhaps at the most critical moment of the year.
Any new team principal arriving months later will need to grasp Ferrari’s design direction, structure and cost cap spending plan. And by the time they step things up, the battle for the 2023 championship may already be lost.
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari
Getting wrong calls in the early stages of next year can cost lap time if the team goes wrong, and spending restrictions mean little opportunity for U-turns.
Binotto also fully understood the dynamics of the Maranello policy, which has been with the team since 1995, working first in the engine department and then moving up the ranks.
He saw how it worked when he was part of the system, and once he moved into the team manager role, he placed the structure he felt was best under him to help move him forward.
While Ferrari, under Binotto’s predecessor Maurizio Arrivabene, completely mismanaged chassis technical director James Allison during his tenure from 2013 to 2016, it was clear that inherent weaknesses in the system had to be addressed so that the team could make the most of talent. was necessary.
Binotto has done much to improve things, and it’s no wonder then that sources suggest that the mood in Maranello is now deeply depressed as the reality of losing him hits the house. Do not ignore other resignations in the coming weeks.
This does not mean that Binotto has no weaknesses and does not make mistakes.
Ferrari’s durability issues this year were not ideal. However, at the start of the engine freeze period (as Alpine/Renault showed), it was always clear that pushing the parameters further would be a bit of a pain in the short run if teams wanted to maximize performance in the long run. limit.
Yet it was Ferrari’s strategic mistakes this year that triggered much of the criticism leveled at Binotto, especially as many saw him as weak for not sacking those responsible for the mistakes.
But Binotto’s mentality was always to support individuals and ensure that mistakes, once made, are not repeated.
From the outside, he generally seemed calm and courteous when it came to addressing team mistakes as he took action to protect employees below him. But behind the scenes, he was a difficult task master.
As he told Autosport earlier this year: “I think I empower people around me. I don’t think I’m cruel, but I’m strict. People around me know that I can be very strict, too.”
While he dismissed some of the senior strategy team, he may have given the public the impression of a strong and determined team boss; The truth is, it wasn’t going to make things better within the team.
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, at a press conference
Photo: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images
As the tire practice in Abu Dhabi showed, learning why things went wrong, improving strategy software to prevent misinformation from being fed into the pit wall, and getting better processes in place was a much better way to improve things.
Binotto was also very good at not criticizing his team when things went wrong and sometimes lost when speaking in a non-native language.
Mid-season, his famous comment about Ferrari’s possibility of winning all races in the second half of the year came from the right place as a supportive team principal, but returned to haunt him as Red Bull’s title fight escalated.
“There is no reason not to win 10 races from today until the end,” after Charles Leclerc trashed the victory in France. “I think that’s the way to look at it positively, and I like to be positive, to stay optimistic.”
Ferrari did not win another race.
It could also be an aspect that Binotto puts too much pressure on, as he is dealing with the FIA and trying to help oversee Ferrari’s technical, managerial, political and commercial aspects on his own. master of all, master of none.
Binotto has never shied away from the fact that criticism of the squad this year has been difficult to handle on a personal level.
However, he said it was always open that he felt obligated to protect staff from all the policies swirling around.
When Motorsport.com was asked about the challenges of 2022, Binotto said: “It’s definitely been a tough year because it’s never easy to manage criticism.”
“And more than that, somehow I think for me [I needed to] Try to keep the team focused and concentrated on their work.
“Criticism is there to distract a team and it’s never easy to keep a team focused. It’s been tough, but I think it will make me stronger in the future.
“I just know we have to trust ourselves. That’s the most important lesson of the season.”
But Binotto was disappointed just when he wanted to trust Ferrari and chairman John Elkann and CEO Benedetto Vigna to give him the full support he needed.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari
Ferrari had a clear opportunity to lighten any distractions and suggest that he bring a senior with him to delve deeper into addressing the team’s weak points. This would be an understandable and positive step for 2023.
Ultimately, without support from above, Binotto knew his days were numbered and the decision was made to resign. Ferrari now needs to find a replacement.
But no matter who Ferrari takes as Binotto’s successor, he will inherit a poisoned chalice because there will be no excuse for anything less than dominating F1 next year.
Vigna recently stated in an interview with CNBC that she is not willing to accept a second-place finish.
“I told the broadcaster after the last quarter, I’m not content with second place because second is the first of the losers,” he told the broadcaster.
“We’ve made some progress. I’m happy with the progress we’ve made. I’m not happy with being second. I think the team has what it takes to improve over time.”
This effectively means win or bankruptcy for next year, which creates the ridiculous pressure for a new team principal to get their feet under the table and get instant results out of the hat.
This is something that won’t happen when opposing the power of Red Bull and Mercedes in the cost ceiling era.
And if that instant winning form isn’t there, then there’s the possibility of extra criticism, destabilizing forces affecting the team, and then a pervasive culture of blame that forces heads to turn to appease the doubters.
History is repeating
Ferrari’s most successful in modern times came when Jean Todt successfully separated Ferrari’s racing team from foreign policy and criticism that could bring it down.
And even when Ferrari lost the drivers’ championship it could have won in 1997 and 1998, there was no immediate reaction to change management.
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari
Things were moving forward, and the point was to give him time to develop and take the next step, as he did when he started a streak of success that would last until the mid-2000s.
Binotto has never shied away from the fact that bringing Ferrari back in front of F1 is a long-term project and cannot happen overnight – and it’s a story that’s as relevant now as it was in the Todt era.
On the contrary, Ferrari’s strong start to 2022 has spoiled progress as it far exceeded expectations and the trajectory they were going on.
Red Bull’s poor performance with an overweight car in the first phase of the season also twisted things up. As Binotto rightly points out, reducing weight to achieve performance throughout the campaign is a much easier task than delivering the aero gains Ferrari needs – which is why Red Bull has always been on a better glide slope throughout the year.
As Ferrari seeks a new team principal who knows that anything less than a win against Red Bull and Mercedes in 2023 will be seen as a failure, Maranello risks putting Binotto’s replacement in an impossible position.
Unrealistic expectations of not finishing second will lead to overreactions and more change, which can trigger even more problems in the future and the cycle repeats.
This was something Ferrari had been guilty of in the past, and now it has greatly increased the risk of it becoming its biggest weakness in the future.