TeamTalk: Binotto departure a big blow to Ferrari

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Ferrari Formula 1 team principal Mattia Binotto has grabbed a fair share headlines this past week, in fact, we predicted his demise earlier than most to much disdain and denials from Maranello.

Inevitably the news that Binotto had resigned prompted the obvious question: did he really walk or was he pushed; the fact that he remains at his desk until the end of this month, means it is as ‘amicable’ as it gets, normally Ferrari TPs are sent packing the next day.

A leak about his plight, followed by vehement official denials from Ferrari boss John Elkann was really the kiss of death. The news became official on 29 November.

It is a major upheaval for the sport’s most successful team, no team boss ahead of the 2023 season, new car all but ready, Binotto’s departure will have his loyalists – just about everyone at Maranello – in despair and fearing the unknown.

All is not well in the house that Enzo Ferrari built, thus fitting to ask our Team for their thought os the matter, prologued by Martin Brundle’s verdict, delivered at the Guild of Motoring Writers’ Annual Awards in London, on the saga.

“You’re working for a country there at Ferrari, not just a team, of course,” Brundle said at the Awards: “They’ve lost their chief technical officer and their team principal, so unless they have got somebody very, very good to replace him straightaway, it all looks a little bit strange. But that’s the nature of it.

“You’ve got to speak Italian. And I think the problem is, if you look back at when they were last successful, they had a Frenchman in Jean Todt, a Brit in Ross Brawn, a South African with Rory Byrne and so on. Maybe that’s what they need again, something like that: people who are not completely exposed to the daily Italian media,” concluded Brundle.

Sean Stevens: Ferrari requires an Italian man of gravitas to direct on the Pit Wall

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“There are some people in Formula 1 you’d be glad to see the back of, Mattia Binotto is not one of them. The affable Italian offended no one except maybe Charles Leclerc, who is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind his exit.

“Back in September, Binotto publicly received the full confidence of Ferrari CEO John Elkann, which as in football parlance, means you’re toast. It also meant that he was effectively cut adrift for the balance of the season with no real authority to drive any major changes that might improve the Maranello team’s lot. All in all, a fait accompli then and even worse, no named successor!

“Frédéric Vasseur of Alfa Romeo has been mooted as a replacement and, on paper, would seem ideal. Unfortunately, I can’t see this shrewd and capable Frenchman supping from Ferrari’s poisoned chalice. Vasseur is a man who knows what he wants, and when he doesn’t get it, he’s off á la Renault and Cyril Abiteboul.

“Ferrari requires an Italian man of gravitas to direct on the Pit Wall, someone who can kick the boardroom doors in and is comfortable with blood on walls. Someone who can play the politics of the paddock like a concert pianist. The man? Flavio Briatore. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone is quite ready for that bomb.”

Michele Lupini: So. They fired Binotto. What a cock-up!

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“Sure, we criticised him. I mean, he opened himself up to it, no? Yet we always remained cognisant of Mattia’s empathy, his leadership. And crucially, his deep, deep understanding of the Maranello politic. Which is why we called for him to be supported. To take some of the pressure away.

“Not fire him! For goodness’ sake! But there we go. He’s gone. And left an enormous vacuum that frankly cannot be filled. Not today, not next week, not next year. And not even by 2025. Which means its idiot management has now put Ferrari’s next world champion off for good few more years. If not forever. Some of us were excited, hopeful for that for 2023. No more.

“So, how do we sort this. Honestly the only plausible way to now fix Ferrari, is to break the Scuderia down. Rebuild it from the bottom up. Like Montezemelo did back in the ’90s. But that needs a big balled bastard. Ferrari doesn’t have one of those. Has not had any coglione since the cows came home.

“So, what to do? There are probably just three people who can sort this. Steal Woolf or Horner. Or take the flak and bring Briatore in! Then take the best key personnel there is. The modern Todt Brawn, Byrne, et al. Even Max.

“Which will take us back to where we were in ’86. From when it took five years for Ferrari to come right. With the very, very best in the business running the team. The Scuderia had gone 16 seasons without a World Champion by 1996. Exactly how long it will be in 2023, since Kimi won… Time is of the essence. Ferrari must find a pair.”

Jad Mallak: Ferrari have been going through team bosses at an alarming rate

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“So we finally got to know that Mattia Binotto resigned as Ferrari Team Principal, or has been resigned… Whichever happened, it doesn’t matter, the outcome is the same and it is: The Scuderia enters the 2023 season in turmoil.

“And that is very bad, and came at the worst time for the team who, instead of now having to look around for a new boss, should be focusing on getting their F1-75’s successor ready for another shot at the Title in 2023, and naturally reflect on the mistakes of 2022 to hopefully try and avoid them next year.

“But now, the team is left without a leader as they are yet to assign Binotto’s successor, and that isn’t really smart, to let your employee go or give him the boot without planning a replacement, and the idea of Benedetto Vigna (Ferrari’s CEO) taking the reins is a joke as he doesn’t know the first thing about running an F1 team.

“Now let’s not hide behind the facts, that this year, Ferrari squandered lots of opportunities, and that it would have been a tall order for them to beat Red Bull, but they definitely could’ve put up a better fight, and not let Max Verstappen run away with 15 wins.

“The strategy mistakes by the Reds were infuriating especially as the team has started the year in the best way possible; however, does showing Binotto the door make for a solution? Hardly.

“Ferrari have been going through team bosses at an alarming rate, three bosses over nine years, averaging a new boss every three years, hardly a sign of consistency. Now I have to say, Binotto’s explanations or excuses for some of his team’s blunders this year were ridiculous, but again letting him go is not the solution.

I wrote in an Editor’s Desk earlier this season, in March to be particular, that Binotto needs help and that the top brass should step in and support him, but other than showing up and some races John Elkann and Benedetto Vigna have done none of that, maybe because they have no clue how to do that, but then what’s stopped them from asking their team boss what he needed and providing him that? They definitely have the money to furnish any support requested.

“It is beyond me why they haven’t, but we all know how “complicated” things at Ferrari can be with the politics and all. One thing is for sure, 2022 started well for Ferrari, and it ended badly, but 2023 is going to be ugly…

Paul Velasco: The rot at Ferrari started when Marchionne reigned with a warped vision for the team

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“Blame it on Sergio Marchione, with respect to the deceased of course. Let’s face it his tenure at the top was a whirlwind of self-indulgence as he attempted to rewrite the Scuderia’s history by erasing it’s greatest pope – Luca di Montezemolo – and then saw it fit that Mattia Binotto usurp Maurizio Arrivabene into the TP role, in essence, the team’s Technical boss doing two massive roles simultaneously.

“It was doomed from the start, and fortunately for Marchionne, he did not live to see the mess his misunderstanding of F1 and Ferrari caused. He came in knowing nothing about F1, after a few months thought he knew what was what, then proceeded to do the damage we are all witnessing now.

“Posthumously his command was implemented, and Binotto made Scuderia team boss starting 2019; Arrivabene was kept in the corporate family, and sent to Juventus. Sadly, history was not kind to the sorrowful plan.

“The deconstruction of one of the greatest teams the sport ever saw – the era commandeered by Jean Todt, built by Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne et al and turned into winning machine by their legend Michael Schumacher – has been painful.

“They built the template upon which dominant teams are built – the team pushing for one great driver above all else – copied since by Fernando Alonso at Renault; Lewis Hamilton at McLaren and later at Mercedes; Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull and, of course right now, with Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

“A vital common denominator? The Tech Folks are protected from the fluff and BS by big characters, big team bosses as Todt was and did. We’ve had Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda providing the buffer between the fluff and BS and their tech people; Floaviuo Briatore ‘protecting’  the clever folks during the Renault two-title reign.

“Ditto Red Bull, Adrian Newey hovers large in the shadows but does not busy himself with micro-managament of the team. Helmut Marko is there to find the drivers, Christian Horner in place to deal with the BS and media, and Adrian is told to make the car faster and faster. Which he tends to do and did throughout 2022.

“Why did Binotto did not match his fellow technical director? Accepting the role as Ferrrari TP, he is also responsible for how many coffees drunk at each race, to what goes out of the media office, and everything in between. You get the picture.

“Thus in my book, Binotto’s resignation is a huge blow to the Scuderia (after all he must be credited with the formidable Ferrari F1-75) proving massive mismanagement above his head in the form of John Elkann and Benedetto Vigna, the invisible top men at Ferrari.

“The pair are not only guilty of F1 ignorance and their disappearing acts, but also of allowing the team to be reduced to this state, sticking to the Marchionne-lack-of-vision when it was clear long ago (we trumpeted this countless times) that Mattia needed a helping hand, not the silver bullet he got from his clueless assassins.

“As for the future? Cannot process that now, to be honest. By the time Binotto clears his desk, at the end of the month, things will be clearer.”