Inside Line: Binotto to blame for misplacing Mick

Nikita Mazepin Mick Schumacher at Alfa Ferrari Binotto

This is one of those “I told you moments” I dreaded revisiting, but in the light of escalating tensions between Haas Formula 1 rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto can take the blame for triggering this increasingly unpleasant state of affairs.

First, consider that the backmarker boys are amid a war of words triggered by Ralf Schumacher claiming Mazepin had no place in F1 and fueled by Mick accusing the Russian of trying to kill him and of course more than one argy-bargy moment between the pair during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend.

Much has been said about the incidents on Saturday and Sunday between the pair allowing us to confirm that this is the “shitshow” we expected when it was announced. The writing was on the wall from day one.

How did anyone not see it coming? Not Ferrari, not Binotto, not the Schumachers, not their mates, not Jean Todt, not Ross Brawn, not even uncle Ralf (who suddenly surfaced with a lot to say), all Michael’s best pals and family!

Michael is clearly not making the calls as he would never condone it… Ralf giving it lip now, where was he when he should have advised Corinna not to allow Mick to race with Haas in 2021? The team is rubbish and a rookie teammate (no matter who) was a very bad idea.

Being Michael’s son, the former King of F1, Mick is motorsport royalty and has to be treated as such. Apart from that, he has also turned out to be a fine racing driver, with huge potential in F1, as his F3 and F2 titles he won testify. He belongs in F1 but never with Haas.

Rewind to decision time late last year when Binotto and his wise men, plus the Schumi-clan sat to plan Mick’s first season in the top flight. Who in the first place suggested Mick to Haas was a good idea? Fire that person!

The blatantly obvious posting was Mick to Alfa Romeo, a team that ticked all the boxes. Ferrari power. Fred Vasseur. Vast experience with rookies. Kimi Raikkonen. Stability.

But it appears only one box was required to convince them. Haas had Ferrari power… and that’s it!

The other boxes had a fat cross penned through them.

Big-X: Guenther Steiner! That’s a no-no if there ever was one, as by Netflix accounts his biggest worry is making Haas survive. Fuck the car. Fuck the drivers. Fuck Ralf as he would say. Survival of Haas in F1, and his paycheque are probably a higher priority.

Big-X- Track record with rookies. More like the glaring lack thereof, the consequences of which we are witnessing every race weekend.

BIG-X: Mazepin! Not in a million years was that going to work or even be a good thing. Forget the Russian-billionaire kid’s attitude and personal brand fail, he fancies himself as a goer on track and not afraid to stand his ground and say stuff others would be fired for saying.

Big-X: Will the team Gene Haas has forgotten about survive this year? Lack of stability is not what a young driver wants.

Clearly, not good for Mick at Haas. At Alfa Romeo, he might’ve learned from Kimi. Although the Finn would probably not be arsed to provide mentoring for the son of the guy he replaced at Ferrari, back in 2007, when Mick was eight!

That alone would give it some box-office appeal and Mick would have insight into how one of the coolest customers, with an incredibly long and varied F1 career, went about his job. Invaluable.

What might have been done at the time?

Antonio Giovinazzi, who Binotto insisted on keeping, would have been best shifted to Haas. He did not do enough to deserve another go in 2021 despite what his minders think.

His only measure has been a very dated version of The Iceman, who long ago melted and is hardly a shadow of the precocious rabble-rouser and speedster he was at McLaren or at Ferrari, the first stint that is.

Whereas, Giovinazzi at Haas would have to measure up against Mazepin and vice-versa with some useful driver data to compare. And no doubt, Mick versus Kimi would have also provided a good back-to-back comparison.

Put it this way, had Mick been at Alfa this year and trounced Kimi then we would have had a proper gauge on Giovinazzi’s performances, or vice-versa.

That was then, this is now and the latest on the tit-for-tat between Schumacher and Mazepin camps is that, after Zandvoort, Steiner had the lads in the office for a talking to, which Nikita revealed to reporters at Monza: “He has, and good to know that I’m not in the bad books, so that’s positive.

“But I want to respect the privacy of the discussions, those were closed and I don’t think it would be comfortable for all parties if it was an open discussion, so I’ll keep it in that [way].”

Speaking after the race on Sunday and the shenanigans with his teammate, Mazepin explained that he was not to blame; “We’ve deemed that I have not broken any sort of rules or violation within the FIA Sporting and racing regulations, and therefore I think we’re going to work as a team to try and fix that.

“What the rules say in the book, is that unless a significant portion of the car behind is side by side to you, you are not [obliged] to leave a car width and you’re entitled to make a move from the left to the right because you’re still in front and you can make your position safely.

“That’s been the case for many, many years which I respect and I’m going to keep doing so… But perhaps sometimes you need to lift when you see that there is a bollard in front of you instead of damaging your car, but we’ll see.”

As for Ralf’s comments that F1 was not the place for Nikita, the 22-year-old replied: “There’s a very interesting phrase regarding opinions in the English language to do with that.

“To me, I obviously respect opinions, because everyone’s got them but it just seems like he’s obviously protecting his family, and what can I say. If his family needs protection in Formula 1, then I’m more than happy to listen to those things,” added Mazepin.

Thus the Haas team head to Monza.

Can you imagine the tensions, not only between the drivers but all the hangers-on too? The billionaire father and his entourage, Corrina et al, with Ralf lurking, all of them in Gene’s hospitality unit. Talk about toxic!

However, the good news is that it is not too late to make amends and correct the blunder by Binotto and/or his advisors, and stop trying to sell this saga as a good idea.

With one more Alfa Romeo seat to be confirmed (Giovinazzi is said to be following Raikkonen out the door) Binotto can place Mick at Hinwil, with Valtteri Bottas joining next year, this would be a very sensible pairing, albeit two new drivers for the team. But you get the impression Fred and his crew would handle it.

Nyck De Vries (tipped for a drive with Alfa) can go to Haas and see how he measures up, or not, to Mazepin while, more importantly, young Schumacher has Bottas as a benchmark.

Far better than what he has now, because Mick is learning very little and experiencing the wrong things; it does not take Nostradamus to predict, there will be more angry words, more track clashes, more bent metal.

Finally, it has to be said if, god-forbid something serious happens, Binotto will be accountable for his short-sightedness which amounts to negligence should he continue to ignore the obvious, ditto everyone involved with Mick’s career.

Because keeping him with Nikita at Haas for another year would be another terrible mistake for the Ferrari boss to add to his CV.