No doubt Mattia Binotto knew what he was in for when they planted him in the driving seat of Ferrari – Formula 1’s greatest team – because the technical chief turned team boss has been in the heart of the Scuderia for two decades.
Nevertheless, by his own admission, managing two alpha drivers – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc – was almost unprecedented in the team’s recent history, with shades of that brief but deadly feud between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi in the early eighties.
In 2019, more than once animosity bubbled over between Vettel and Leclerc during their first season as teammates. Meetings to clear the air between his two rampant stallions were tricky, according to Binotto, “Believe me, those types of meetings at the very start of the season was full of embarrassments and difficult situations to manage, but we are now getting used to it.
“By the end of the season it became more and more comfortable, which means we’re getting used to it as a team. In the race, we can still make mistakes but I’m pretty sure that mistakes are part of this process.”
Binotto is not only fronting the sport’s most famous team but also the one with by far the most pressure to succeed. With that comes matchless stress which his bosses did little to alleviate during the course of torrid season for the Italian team.
Throw into that the duelling drivers and the mop-haired engineer had his hands full, “Certainly it was not an easy exercise and everybody can do better, but I think the attempt of managing them since the very first time in Australia, is something different.
“It is often said we should have let them race from the very first race. We are still very convinced that trying to manage them is the best way for the team to score maximum points by the end of the season.”
“And we believe that if you are maximising the team points at the end as well, you also optimise what might be the outcome for the drivers. So we were trying to manage them in the very first race.”
Binotto is confident the experience will allow his team to reap their reward in 2020, “I believe that our drivers can be stronger next year. We now have meetings with them before the race to discuss scenarios, what may happen, what can be the team’s strategy.
“And the reason for needing to manage them is important because both of them are good drivers and need to be respected as individuals because, both of them, when starting the race they have one objective – which is, not beating their teammate but, being first under the chequered flag.
“They will be free to race when we go to Australia, there will be no number one,” added the team chief according to Kronen Zeitung.
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