Why Binotto deserves to remain at Ferrari
By Mat Coch
Monday 28th November, 2022 - 10:58am
Speculation at the end of last week had it that Ferrari’s Formula 1 team boss, Mattia Binotto, was about to lose his role.
Depending which report you chose to believe, that was a result of the Italian either stepping down or being sacked by the Scuderia.
That followed similar reports heading into the final races of the year, which saw Binotto defend his position within the organisation.
Much of that has come from the Italian press, which has traditionally applied volcanic pressure to whoever is in charge of the scarlet team.
Following the 2010 championship loss there was a drastic backroom cleanout, the result of which arguably hurt the team more than helped it.
Bringing it back to 2022, Ferrari’s performances have been significantly better than we’ve seen in recent seasons.
Charles Leclerc won three races and Carlos Sainz his first-ever grand prix.
Ferrari dominated pole positions and finished second in the constructors’ championship.
By most measures, that is a successful season, especially when view against the team’s performances in 2020 when it finished sixth with three podiums total.
The season just gone, then, marks significant progress.
Not only did it win races but, for a time, it led both the drivers’ and constructors’ world championships.
It failed on both fronts, of course, with Red Bull and Max Verstappen going on to dominate the year in a fashion never before seen in Formula 1.
And that is a credit to Red Bull because Verstappen’s 15 wins came despite it not having the absolute best car all season.
It indicates that the team maximised its opportunities, was operationally extremely strong and Verstappen was at the top of his game.
In fairness, his cause was often aided by Ferrari being less sharp in some of those respects.
Operationally it saw a number of issues, from strategic blunders to simple processes such as the choice and fitment of tyres during a pitstop.
There were driver errors too which cost the team points – think of Leclerc’s crash at the French Grand Prix.
And the F1-75 wasn’t quite the same machine following the summer break as it was prior – the team denies that had anything to do with the porpoising technical directive, but it’s certainly coincidental that its performance dropped as that came into effect.
As Ferrari team boss, Binotto holds overall responsibility for those shortcomings.
On the flip side, he is also responsible for the team’s success, and in 2022 it did a better job of things than Mercedes, yet there is no talk of Toto Wolff being axed (though given he’s a third owner of the team, that’d be difficult).
Any moves to push Binotto out the door in Maranello, therefore, seem rather short-sighted.
There was an opportunity that was missed in 2022 for a variety of reasons, but that cannot be pinned solely on him.
Binotto was not responsible for the car design, and the fact it failed to keep pace. Binotto could do nothing to improve the tyre degradation issues which hampered the squad late in the season.
He could equally do nothing about the reliability which plagued all Ferrari-powered cars in 2022, nor for that matter prevent his drivers from crashing.
But he can influence morale and the culture within the organisation. He can set the tone and defend his team.
And that is what he has done throughout 2022. In all the media conferences, with all the probing questions designed to have him admit failure or throw someone under the bus, he has never taken the bait.
He has remained calm in the face of pressure and gone in to bat his team. He has done his job and led an operation back from sixth in the championship in 2021 to second last year. He returned to team to winning ways. It might not have been the championship, but that’s the same story for 90 percent of team bosses on the F1 grid.
And what does replacing him do for you anyway?
Even when Jean Todt was instilled as Team Principal for 1993, it wasn’t until 1999 that Ferrari picked up the constructors’ trophy. These things take time, and there are peaks and valleys en route to the run of success he enjoyed throughout the early 2000s.
Binotto has been in the job as Ferrari Team Principal since 2019. He navigated through two difficult seasons before returning the Scuderia to the front of the pack.
He has performed as one should expect the Ferrari team boss to perform, and to sack him for shortcomings in a team still in the process of rebuilding and regaining its confidence is not going help the team.
Introducing change at this point would, from the outside, seem foolhardy; a surefire way to slow any progress.
And with whom do you replace him anyway?
Fred Vasseur has been touted, a man who has deep experience in motorsport having been team boss at Sauber since 2017.
However, while he’s been in the industry for the better-part of 25 years, he has never run Ferrari, and that brings with it a truly unique amount of pressure.
Sauber finished sixth in 2022 with 55 points – less than 10 percent of what Ferrari scored.
It was the team’s best result in many years, but scrapping for a point here and there, and being applauded should your team achieve it, is very different to being publicly lambasted when a slow stop costs your driver a possible win.
The pressure being placed on Binotto over his future within the organisation, therefore, seems unfair.
He has done all that could reasonably be asked of him. Ferrari was not perfect, but can it really be expected to be? A year ago, who among us would have suggested the Maranello marque would mount a championship challenge of any sort?
The 2022 season was a successful one for Ferrari, one which demonstrated clear opportunities for growth and improvement.
In a year’s time it might be a different matter, but for the moment Binotto has done all that Ferrari could have realistically asked of him.