Binotto: We don’t have to change our approach at Ferrari

binotto leclerc ferrari f1 2022

Mattia Binotto provided insight into the pressures of working for Ferrari, more so as the man leading the great team back to ‘good times’ is in the spotlight as his team fumble sure victories into losses, but no need for changes he insists.

Since he took over as team principal, the team struggled initially despite having Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel in the team. The German’s best days were long over and Carlos Sainz was hired.

Now in his fourth year in charge, Ferrari have a winning car in the solid F1-75, two drivers hungry for success and titles but a team that has slipped up mightily, too often, this season. The Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break a case in point.

Ironically now that he and his team have produced a title aspiring car, the pressure has mounted on Binotto to get the rest of the package working or Max Verstappen and Red Bull will romp to the title, which was gifted top the Bulls by the Reds.

Binotto: I’m happy because I know that I’ve got a great team

In an exclusive interview with Motorsport, question one was to highlight some of the toughest moments since he took the reigns at the Scuderia; Binotto replied: “Each single day! I think certainly it has not been an easy journey from 2019, when I was put in place as team principal, to today.

“We have been through 2020, a very difficult one, and then 2021. But even in 2022, because we are fighting for the best, sometimes there are races where we are not obtaining what is the potential of the car. So it’s not an easy one.

“But what I may say is that I’m happy in the role. I’m happy because I know that I’ve got a great team. The team is united. It’s great to see them working together,” added Binotto, explaining his persistent defence of his team.

What is clear, now as potential race winners every Sunday, there is a fine line between the agony and ecstasy, two emotions he is only to familiar with this season, as Ferrari manage to turn sure wins into defeats.

I’m staying calm, but believe me, I’m depressed

leclerc binotto sainz ferrari austria sprint race

Binotto explained: “It is very hard for two reasons. The first if we are speaking about engine failure, I managed that [department] myself in the past. And to see smoke is never great. So this is more a feeling of being depressed.

“No doubt when you see that we are leading the race, as Charles was leading in Baku and even Carlos [Sainz] I would say in Austria, they are problems that you would never like to see.

“I’m staying calm, but believe me, I’m depressed. It’s difficult and you take a few moments, trying to react, then you really need to think about the next steps.

“So what is needed and what is required? And not only in terms of technical, but more in terms of team. So what can I do to help? What can I do to make sure that everybody remains calm and focused, protected even from external attacks and comment?”

Binotto’s management style differs vastly from the rule-by-fear of the past at Maranello, where mistakes were traditionally dealt with like a hot potato, namely passing the buck until someone has to hold it; the boot would follow.

These days not so, with Binotto all but autonomous at the helm of Ferrari, his bosses AWOL and offering no support, the age of accountability belongs to the team, they lose as one and win as one, but too much of the former is happening.

I think I’m empowering the people which are around me

GP AUSTRIA F1/2022 - DOMENICA 10/07/2022 credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Binotto justifies his leadership style: “I think I’m not brutal, but I’m strict. And people around me know that I can be very strict.

“But I think more than that, I’m trying always to empower them, and give them all what’s required to do their job. And I trust the people around me. I’m not the one that will go into the detail of every single element. I more focus on myself, making sure that, as I said before, they have got whatever is required to do the job.

“I know how important is the mood in the team, I know how important is the mental approach and the culture. We are working a lot on it inside of the team, trying to change our culture compared to what it was us, and what we believe is the right attitude and behaviours to put in place.

“I can see that the team is somehow very united and I think that you can get that through transparency. Even I think you need to be smart as well, sometimes transparent and genuine.”

Binotto has been around long enough to know that overnight success is almost a myth these days in F1: “There are no silver bullets in F1. It didn’t take just one year or two years, it was more than that.

“I think that what we got today started a long time ago, and maybe even in 2016 or 2017. It has been a continuous building up the team, improving ourselves.

“It is about organisation, it’s about skills, it’s about experience, it’s about methodology and tools, it’s about assets, and when I’m saying assets that can be simulator, improvement of the wind tunnel, whatever you have got.”

For the Scuderia, 2020 was one of their lowest ebbs ever, with Vettel on his way out, the Ferrari SF1000 a disaster; Binotto recalled: “It was more than a step back, it was three steps back. Why? I’ve think that in 2020, we simply messed up our project.

“And then everything has been frozen at the start to the season. It was like if Mercedes would have been frozen at race one the season: what would have been with them?

Binotto: I don’t think it’s a team that is not capable of developing

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“The team is capable of doing a good car, capable of fighting for the best, but if you would freeze your project at race one, and you have somehow made some mistakes, as Mercedes did this season, then you stay there for the entire season.

“But also 2020 has been the product of what we tried to put in place during 2019, where we reshuffled completely the organization and the team.

“In 2020 and 2021, we had only limited opportunity to develop the car, which was a difficult car. So I think 2020 or 2021 do not reflect what was the total capacity of the team at the time.”

One could argue that 2022 is the fruits of all the hard work and, if a “silver bullet” was found, Ferrari did so more than their rivals as they are now top of the pecking order, perhaps tied with Red Bull in terms of engine and chassis package, and ahead of Mercedes.

This is unheard of for ages, ahead of this season for Tifosi, but victory at the opener and Leclerc 27 points ahead after four rounds were reasons for optimism.

Binotto continued: “I think that the team, as I said starting from 2017, is trying simply to progress each single year. Today I think we’ve got more of a true feedback of its capacity.

“But no doubt that we improved, no doubt we improved in each single season, and no doubt I think 2020 has been useful to us to somehow put on us even more necessity to improve furthermore: analysing all the weaknesses at the time, the project of the organisation, try to set up something which will be better for the future.

“And from 2020 onwards, certainly we made some changes in organisation with clearer roles, clear responsibilities. We had a new simulator, so I think it was a good time for us certainly on the journey to say: ‘okay, let’s make a point, highlight the weaknesses and try to address all of them.’ And I think that has been done.”

It’s only a matter of making sure that when we get to the chequered flag we are in first position

Leclerc-France-9-2022 binotto

As for fixing the mess that has been Ferrari strategy and pitstops this season, relative to their rivals, Binotto remains defiant ahead of the season resuming at Spa-Francorchamps later this month: “I don’t think that there is anything different that we need to do, I think it is simply to continue on our journey of continuously improving ourselves step by step, focusing on each single race.

“I think we have the potential to win races at the moment. It’s only a matter of making sure that when we get to the chequered flag we are in first position. But it doesn’t mean that we have to change our approach.

“As we said, there are no silver bullets so I don’t think we need to change ourselves. We have proved that we can do a good job. It’s only a matter of step by step getting there, get used to it, and whatever will be the outcome for 2022, we try to be prepared for 2023,” concluded Binotto.

Ferrari will continue their chase of Red Bull when action resumes for the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August; for now this is how it stands after 13 rounds:

2022 f1 standings before belgium