Mattia Binotto is attempting a revolution at Formula One team Ferrari, but will he succeed? In a quite remarkable statement released yesterday from Maranello following the 2022 British GP, Binotto made it clear his regime would not favour Charles Leclerc over Carlos Sainz. “Our priority is always to maximise the situation in order for the best team result,“ Mattio insisted.
Ferrari have traditionally backed one driver over the other based on their standing in the drivers’ championship creating a de facto No.1 and No.2 within the team.
Most famously heading into the final third of the 2010 German GP race, Fernando Alonso was close behind Felipe Massa, with Vettel his title rival just a few seconds back. After a half-attempt by Alonso to pass his teammate there was an intense discussion on the Ferrari pit wall, Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley eventually uttered those now-infamous five words: “Fernando is faster than you”.
At the time team orders were banned.
In the Schumacher decade from 1997-2006 Michael built the team around himself and whoever was Ferrari’s other driver had to accept they were Michael’s No.2.
Today the Italian press have reacted furiously to Ferrari’s latest decisions during the British GP. Influential La Gazette published today, “Leclerc is being punished by the people at the pit wall. Sainz is celebrating, but the Leclerc situation is exploding.”
La Gazette and La Stampa are incensed about strategy calls Ferrari took during the Silverstone race.
The first point of contention is before the first pit stops, Sainz was leading with Max Verstappen second and Charles Leclerc in P3. Sainz made a mistake and Max took the lead but shortly afterwards he suffered damage to his car and fell behind the Ferrari’s.
It appeared as though Carlos Sainz leading again was then holding up LeClerc who repeatedly petitioned the pit wall to instruct he be allowed through. The response from the pit wall was simply “noted”.
Eventually Ferrari pitted Sainz for his first change of tyres on lap 20 and LeClerc took the lead. However, when the Monegasque driver stopped 5 laps later, Sainz appeared ahead of him on track.
Clearly LeClerc failed to make a significant advantage over those 5 laps and it could be argued Sainz deserved his P1 in the race.
However, LeClerc stayed close due to DRS and the team eventually switched their drivers around because Lewis Hamilton had become a threat to their 1-2.
Then came the biggest sin of all for the Italian press, the safety car. Despite having enough time to call race leader LeClerc in for fresh soft tyres for the remaining 13 laps, the team decided to leave him out.
Binotto claimed in the Ferrari published statement, “At this moment it was common sense to prioritise the lead car by protecting track positions. There’s nothing unusual in this strategy, we always prioritise the lead car and therefore Charles in this situation. He was on fresher tyres at that point, and if he had pitted, our opponents would have done the exact opposite and gained track position on almost new hard tyres. Just think of Lewis Hamilton at last year’s season finale in Abu Dhabi when he stayed out on track.
“At the same time we decided to put Carlos on the opposite strategy in order to cover all opportunities. If we wouldn’t have done that split strategy, we would have risked losing the race and handing the win to our opponents.”
Yet this was clearly the strategy Mercedes employed in Abu Dhabi,. Leaving Lewis out on older tyres, which saw Red Bull take advantage – pit Verstappen – who easily overtook Hamilton at the restart on his fresh rubber.
Arguing as Binotto did that Mercedes made a similar flawed decision in an attempt to justify leaving LeClerc out on older tyres does seem bizarre.
La Gazette questions, “How can you ask Leclerc to stay calm? He could win for the first time since Australia, but just like in Monaco Ferrari went wrong with their tactics, so Ferrari are missing out on points and barely benefiting from Max Verstappen’s problems.
“It is totally unclear whether Ferrari is focusing on one driver or still betting on two horses.”
Maybe La Gazetta didn’t read the comments in Ferrari’s statement from Binotto, as TJ13 wrote yesterday Ferrari are not going to prioritise as before one driver over another.
BBC F1 editor Andrew Benson apparently agrees with the Italian press, “As the British Grand Prix unfolded, and Ferrari made a series of decisions that would have been unexpected – perhaps even unimaginable – if their rivals Red Bull had been in the same position, many people were asking themselves whether Ferrari had their priorities straight.”
Yet Ferrari boss Binotto is like none before him. He seems completely at ease with himself and his plan for the team. Gone is the boom and bust Ferrari mentality to win at all costs now spending fortunes on world champion drivers.
Speaking to reporters in Baku Binotto was crystal clear on his mission. “We set our objectives to be back competitive in 2022, “So our objective is to be competitive, not to win the championship, and it would be completely wrong to turn that into: ‘Let’s try to win the championship because we are so competitive.’ Being competitive is one fact; becoming World Champion is another level of task. [Saying] that is maybe to take off some pressure from the team, but also I think it would be wrong as management to change objectives from the ones we gave them.”
Binotto believes in a longer terms goal than just pushing LeCerc ahead of Sainz to win a single drivers’ championship. He wants to create a Mercedes like dynasty where Maranello is wining titles year in year out.
“I think it will take time,” Binotto added. “Our internal mindset is still we need to improve as a team to be capable of winning a championship. It doesn’t mean we will not do it. Maybe we will do it as soon as possible, but we are conscious of the fact that it is more than only being competitive.”
Further trouble looms for Ferrari as social media is reporting that some of the team personnel refused to assemble below the podium for Sainz’s victory presentation. In addition just 9 team members – two of whom were photographer’s hung over the pit wall to celebrate Sainz crossing the line. By comparison Max or Lewis would see 25-30 team members vying to climb up the pit wall fencing to wave and cheer their man home.
Binotto clearly has dissent in the camp over his new vision for Ferrari.
In days of yore La Stampa was owned by the Agnelli family who in turn were friends of Enzo Ferrari and investors in the business. At their say, articles would be published and team bosses banished.
However, times have changed and Binotto will not be bowed. He is going to do it his way, and if that means LeClerc gets no favouritism – so be it.
Having a fully motivated Carlos Sainz pushing for victories rather than a subservient No.2 driver, will surely serve the purposes of the team far better whether LeClerc, the Italian press or anyone else likes it or not.