History suggests Ferrari should give under-fire Binotto time


Ferrari has suffered its fair share of problems this year, but it should keep faith in Mattia Binotto, the man who led it back to the front, says Mark Hughes

Mattia Binotto on the grid ahead of the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix

Calm Binotto was a modern F1 boss


Into this Monza weekend there seems to be a steady but building feeling within the Italian media questioning whether Mattia Binotto should retain his position as team boss of Scuderia Ferrari.

This is off the back of the collapsed title bid despite a car fast enough to have started from pole nine times. Questionable strategies and poor reliability from Ferrari have helped Red Bull and Max Verstappen to a seemingly impregnable lead in their respective championships.

But just because the buck ultimately stops with the boss doesn’t mean the answer is to fire him. It’s ultimately his responsibility to fix the problems, but it should be seen in its correct context of a work in progress. Firing good people in reaction to problems was the old way of doing things at Ferrari and proved disastrous. Throwing everything up in the air and starting again from scratch is very rarely as effective as retaining stability and working with the people to understand and eradicate the problems, especially when very clear progress has been made elsewhere.

Charles LECLERC Scuderia Ferrari F1-75, cras

Ferrari’s issues this year have come from fighting at the front after years in the midfield – much similar to the Schumacher / Brawn / Todt era

Marc de Mattia / DPPI

Binotto has overseen the creation of F1’s fastest car from a team which for years has struggled to do that. He’d briefly managed to do this as a technical director in 2017/18 after over a decade of never being at the cutting edge, always half-a-step behind the pace-setters, whether that was McLaren, Brawn or Red Bull. Creating the fast car is by far the most difficult part and he’s now twice led the team into doing exactly that, first as a technical boss and now as the overall boss. It’s been done what’s more, with real creativity, by following its own technical path quite different to that prevailing elsewhere. That is gold dust and something which for years, post the Brawn/Todt era which had been assumed to be beyond the team’s capabilities.

Binotto has done this by building up the people already there, creating the environment in which they didn’t fear the consequences of failure. Prior to his promotion to team principal, there had been a clash between the environment he had created in the technical department and the old-school Ferrari run by fear in the racing department. His appointment as team boss resolved that. Yes, the race team still clearly has problems, but the way of eliminating them will be the same as it was in the technical department: stability over a number of years, protecting the people doing the work, identifying the root of the problem and attacking that as a group rather than the person.

From the archive

The sport’s history is littered with examples, not least at Ferrari where the installation of Jean Todt and Ross Brawn steadily transformed but the culture and the fortunes of the team. But it took five years after Todt’s appointment as boss for a title to be delivered. For the first three years, they had a car significantly slower than the best and was relying only on the genius of its driver and some strategy wizardry to be in contention. There were calls for Todt to stand down occasionally then too. Which would have been a spectacularly stupid thing to have done. He and Brawn were so clearly building something good.

Binotto, as a home-grown Ferrari man rather than a hired gun from the outside employed very much on their own terms, does not have quite the same clout and implicit support that Todt enjoyed. But he’s making progress regardless. Had the Ferrari not been so fast that it could compete with Red Bull this year, we wouldn’t have seen the same pressure applied to the pitwall, any errors would have been less in the spotlight and there’d likely be no great call for the head of the boss.

In 1974 Ferrari, off the back of a disastrous winless 1973, created a car which Niki Lauda took to nine pole positions. It was clearly F1’s fastest car that year. But the team failed to win either title. Look what happened in ’75: domination.

Binotto should be supported and left to continue with the rebuild. The race team was not ready to win a title this year. The chassis team was, whilst the power unit department made spectacular power gains but hasn’t quite nailed the reliability. These are fixable problems with a bit of work and a good, stable working environment. Creating the fast car in the first place is the magic part, and it has shown it can do that.