After a painful weekend at Spa-francorchamps for the 7th round of the F1 world championship, the Scuderia Ferrari is racing at home in Italy, with back-to-back races in Monza and Mugello. If the prancing horse had faced struggles in the past, seeing their team stand 5th in the constructors ranking is a low point the tifosi are eager to question the man in charge about. Mattia Binotto, in this instance, gave some explanations to the team’s current form, and its perspectives for the future.
The Swiss-Italian manager, when asked about the evolution of the car’s performance from Spa to Monza, said that the weak spot remains the lack of engine power. However, Monza is a track less strict in terms of aerodynamics, and the new engine mapping rule leaves room for opportunities they can get advantage from.
For Binotto, the SF1000 was born to look for more downforce, knowing that it had a superior engine. Then the technical directives happened, and the team found a machine with high resistance to progress and few horses to propel it. So losing a second compared to last year was absolutely conceivable. Nonetheless, the team principal doesn’t see the FIA’s directive as a punishment, but as a chance to improve, because “In 2019 we covered the limits of the car with the engine”. When asked why Ferrari didn’t work much on the chassis, Binotto said : "We did it, but [were] still considering that power advantage, which then disappeared. And when we understood it, it was too late". They then intended to correct it but unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the induced freezing of the rules arrived, so they found themselves tied in this situation
Despite the failure of the aero department in designing the SF1000, Binotto still trusts his team, saying : “they are the ones who in the last five years have come closest to Mercedes, coming to fight for the world championship". He admits however the desire to insert new elements to that staff, and the need of people of experience.
When considering the Scuderia claims for a title in 2021, The team principal is optimistic. The next year's car will be an improvement of the SF1000. “It has been running on the bench for months, we count on it”. In addition, “an important aerodynamic change is being voted on by the Ferrari’s board, with changes especially to the rear”.
In the past, an angry board or dissatisfied tifosi have often meant an eviction notice for the team’s principal. So, understandably, Mattia has been asked whether or not he has felt his position as team principal was in danger. To what he replied : “Honestly never, because I know I have the support of my managers. But I questioned myself, I reflected on whether I can be suitable for the role of team principal. I could have done better in some areas, for example the technical reorganization could have been done earlier. But I believe that my 25 years in F1 and the knowledge of this company are key elements to do well in this profession”. Regarding his relationship with his management, he added: “I'm not alone, I can assure you. With Louis Camilleri I speak several times a day, with President John Elkann regularly. I get their advice, certainly their leadership style is different from what we were used to in the past. But I'm not alone, not really”. According to Binotto, Elkann wanted to understand why things have gone so badly, analyze and eventually give the necessary support to improve.
Regarding his role as a team principal, Binotto said: “As team principal, the first role is not technical. We worked on the renewal of Charles, on the signing of Sainz and on many other fronts. It may be that in doing without the coach we were not sufficiently organized with the proxies, but let's not forget that I became team principal without notice a year and a half ago. It takes time, all the winning cycles helped. If I think back to the Ferrari of 1995 and that of 2000, many things had changed. This reorganization will not be the last".
The topic of Binotto’s relationships withToto Wolff, Mercedes’ team principal has been tackled, as to why the latter was so angry at him? “First, because we have different leadership styles, I never talk about others. And then because Ferrari is Ferrari, everyone wants to have their say. For him too it represents something special. Finally, because I'm one of the few who don't always say yes to him”.
Talking about the team’s drivers’ line-up, Binotto was asked if he had considered losing a strong and ambitious Charles Leclerc because of the absence of a winning machine. For him though, the young Monegasque grew up within the team, knows the values of Ferrari and is very close. He is part of a special family and he is aware of it. This year is important in the sense of someday, he will be able to say: “Those difficulties were useful to me”. He has the talent, and he is also growing as a leader in this difficult time. Binotto highlighted : “I often talk to him about Schumacher, who arrived in '96 and champion in 2000. He can repeat that path”.
As for Sebastian Vettel, the manager thinks he is currently happy to compete. On a more personal note, he added: “at this stage he is showing what a beautiful person he is. The team has given him so much in recent years and he feels he owes a lot. He has a very strong desire to help make the end of the season better”. When asked why the team announced the end of their partnership so early, he said: “it wasn't even that early, we were in April. We love him, and it was right to give him the opportunity to organize himself. If I look at the facts I have not found myself with a demoralized Sebastian”.
Ferrari has harbored one of F1 greatest champions in Michael Schumacher. In 2020, Lewis Hamilton is one step away from Schumacher's records, and the Swiss-Italian was asked how he felt about it. For him, Hamilton deserves “Applause, he's a formidable talent”. With no surprise however, he admitted his preference for the German champion.
Tackling the case against Racing Point, Binotto explained why Ferrari remained the only team to carry out the appeal. For him, Ferrari asked for clarity and clarifications. “If we were to get them, we would also be ready to withdraw the appeal”. In their minds, that appeal is in the perspective of a direct competition from Racing Point in the championship for both this year and the next one, considering the range of developments for 2021 is pretty much limited.
In the end, Mattia Binotto reflected on his best memory in his career at Ferrari, which is "Charles' victory in Monza", and his worst team principal mistake, "having the wrong design of this car". He ended the interview saying: "We are part of an extraordinary story. The prancing horse will always be there to compete at the highest level. We are the team that is investing the most to get back to the top".