Red Mist: Famous last words, is Ferrari doomed?

Red Mist: Famous last words, is Ferrari doomed?Mattia Binotto has spilled out some words in the aftermath of Ferrari’s recent failures. Will they end up being, “Famous last words?”

It is with a flurry of famous idioms that Mattia Binotto cements himself into a corner justifying spilled milk, instead of worrying about Ferrari “first finishing to finish first”.

When he broke cover, and strolled over to untangle a snarl in his lines, amid the whistle of sharpshooter bullets emanating from over a thousand yards away, the officers of famous American Civil War General John Sedgwick cautioned him not to approach the road.

Undeterred, Sedgwick uttered: “They couldn’t hit an elephant from this distance.”

His last words were famous. Not seconds later, old John took a Winchester round to the eye, perishing instantly.

That incident at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, on May 9, 1864 , coined a phrase many may want to forget – “famous last words”.

It’s an idiom that’s been used a thousand times for sure, but this time it may apply to another famous “Generale”, our Man in Red, Mattia Binotto.

An idiom that works for Binotto?

Old Mattia famously owned up after that catastrophic Baku weekend for both his team and the Tifosi with the “I’d prefer to have good performance and try to fix reliability, rather than vice versa” quote.

Now dare we take him out of context or blame him of being the first to accept defeat so spectacularly? But any racer knows that to finish first, one should first finish. Now that’s an idiom that works!

Mercedes must be laughing quietly into their hands while the Tifosi cry. We all know their unlucky W13 has been way too slow. But it’s reliable. George Russell has dragged it into the points in every grand prix so far. Lewis Hamilton has also finished every race, even if he was out of the points at Imola.

But right now, nine races into this 22-odd race season, George sits fourth in the chase. Just a third-place worth of points behind Ferrari Number 1 Leclerc in third, and ahead of Carlos Sainz who has Lewis Hamilton close enough behind to be of concern.

Mercedes – who are about half as close to Ferrari in the Teams’ Standings as Ferrari is from Red Bull – also conceded just two points to Ferrari over the Canada weekend, thanks, en main to that Baku hangover and Charles being forced to start at the back.

So much for, “I’d prefer to have good performance and try to fix reliability rather than vice versa”.

Of course, our Mattia is not the first one to admit preferring a fast and brittle car to a sluggish and reliable one. His namesake in royal blue, Christian Horner of course coined this new Formula 1 idiom. His cars have also dropped two races each so far this season.

Ferrari woes not only mechanical, but operational

Ferrari’s reliability woes were of course highlighted by that double retirement in Azerbaijan, while the Red Bulls only broke one by one.

Ferrari’s Baku double whammy was also due to separate and unrelated engine hydraulic failures, which just adds to the concern; never mind Ferrari customers Haas and Alfa Romeo also had power unit failures there.

All of which means that Ferrari and Red Bull are indeed all even when it comes to reliability, with two failures per car. Which beggars the question, why are the Red Bulls so far ahead?

Ah, that comes down to strategy and botched pit-work, and of course, a tiny Max advantage, which we saw play out once again on Sunday.

We need not look beyond Monaco and that tactical blunder meat in Ferrari’s sandwich of mechanical failures, to understand why Maranello has so spectacularly plummeted out of the Title fight with Red Bull, to be busy with poor Mercedes in the fight for runner up instead. Sunday’s botched pitstop did not help matters much.

“It’s a third disappointment in a row, and it’s not easy,” Leclerc complained after Baku. “But yeah, overall, I’m confident and mentally strong, and the motivation is still there. But we need to get on top of those things.

“Obviously, reliability is something that we need to look into after the last three races. As a team, we need to maybe do a step on that,” he added.

Binotto’s 2022 words, his “famous last” ones?

Binotto happily concurs with his magician lead driver, saying after Baku: “It is something that we need to try to fix. I cannot blame the team, because I know the effort that they have put in to address the performance from the past.

“I know it’s a long journey, and we didn’t get enthusiastic at the start of the season. It’s a journey which we are on, and there is still another step which as a team, we will stay united and work hard on.

“The job is not finished, but we will do it,” he insisted.

Of course, on the upside, Ferrari have already dug themselves out of a deep hole and won at last in 2022. They’ve also been a little unlucky on the whole versus Red Bull, but the F1-75 is a fast car driven by one of the quickest drivers on the grid with a solid wingman too.

As Mattia Binotto concedes: “We will remain focused race-by-race, try to optimise our potential on the weekends, and make sure that whatever we are doing makes us stronger.”

Just remember, capo, to finish first, we must first finish. That is far more important than sacrificing strong results for poor reliability. Let’s just hope that Mercedes doesn’t make Mattia’s last words, well, famous.