Ferrari have to all F1 observers failed to capitalise on the potential of their 2023 Formula One car. In fact Sky F1’s Karun Chandhock said this weekend, “LerClerc alone has forfeited over 100 points this season” due to a combination of reliability, strategic and race operational errors. Through it all the Ferrari team boss has repeated refused to admit mistakes have been made which would result in further criticise of his team.
PlanetF1 calculated by the summer break, Ferrari had lost 140 points in 13 races. Since then there have been more errors like the Saint ‘missing tyre’ in Zandvoort, the unsafe release at the same GP and some questionable strategy for LeClerc at the team’s one race in Monza.
In Hungary Ferrari had not run the hard tyre all weekend chose to fit it to LeClerc’s car, costing him another shot at a win. When questioned after the race Binotto replied:
“If I look again at the balance of the first half of the season, there is no reason why we should change [anything].”
At the next race in Spa, Ferrari pitted LeClerc late in the race to try and achieve fastest lap. He returned to the circuit behind Alonso and struggled to pass the Alpine failing to register the extra point. In fact LeClerc lost two points because he finished a place behind where he was before the late pit stop.
When asked about the error, Binotto again defended the team:
“But if I look back at the season, I think there is a lot of perception from outside compared to what are the truth and the reality. I think sometimes we’re not doing these things that may have been perceived as mistakes.”
It appears further up the Ferrari hierarchy things came to a head prior to the Italian GP last weekend. The man who appoints Ferrari F1 team bosses, John Elkann the CEO of Ferrari, spoke with Gazzetta dello Sport on the eve of the Italian Grand Prix.
“But there’s no doubt that the work at Maranello, in the box on the wall, and behind the wheel must improve.
“We must continue to progress and that applies to the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers and obviously, the entire management team. Including the team boss. We have seen far too many mistakes, from reliability issues, to driving errors and strategic blunders.”
“We have trusted in Binotto and his team. That was the right decision. It has paid off and we can thank them that Ferrari is competitive and winning again. But I’m not satisfied. “I think we can always improve.”
There is a tradition at Ferrari which began under Enzo. When the team were underperforming and the big boss wasn’t happy, the Chairman would issue an interview with either La Stampa (Agnelli owned paper – Ferrari shareholders) or the Gazette.
The disclosure to La Stampa particularly was usually a pre-announcement that heads would roll. Maybe this s why Elkann chose La Gazetta for his rebuke instead because he wanted to send a strong message but not quite a ‘last chance saloon’ notification.
Clearly Mattia Binotto got the message that his approach to managing the team and dealing with criticism needed to change. He gave a ‘sit down’ interview aired before qualifying in Monza with Sky’s Martin Brundle and appeared more penitent than on previous occasions.
Brundle appeared to be walking on egg shells beginning by saying, “Let’s talk some positives and then we’ll talk about the other side of the coin, some difficulties.”
Binotto admitted “Starting the season with a great car was important for us because its a new era of car design and having a good baseline is not only important for the current season but will be important for the next one.”
When asked whether this was the year the championships had got away from Ferrari, Binotto finally admitted to the team’s error.
“We made several mistakes on track and we’ve had some reliability issues. Reliability [issues] are the ones concerning me the most because there was a couple of races where we were leading and we had fires and without those fires we would have had more points.”
These were in Spain where LeClerc was comfortably leading and in Baku where both drivers were classified as DNF due to engine failure. Yet it’s Binotto’s following admissions that appear to be a U-Turn from the previous mantra.
“We made a few mistakes as well on strategies and pit stops. Strategy is important and we are certainly aware that we need to improve as a team.”
Unlike with Red bull and Mercedes, Ferrari appear to debate the potential tyre strategy and pit stops with their drivers – creating the impression of uncertainty or a lack of confidence. Binotto addresses this:
“I think there a teams that decide not to communicate with [consult with] the drivers, they may decide alone on the pit wall.”
“But we believe there is an added value by asking our drivers the feelings they’ve got [about the tyres] and having an open communication.”
Mattia admits this approach can lead to more errors.
“Certainly by having an open approach you make the process more complicated, but you may do a better job if you are doing it [open communication] properly.”
Ferrari result’s under Binotto have not been as good as his predecessor in terms of constructors’ championship finishing positions and should Ferrari slip behind Mercedes and finish P3 this year many believe Binotto will be sacked.
Arrivabene 1-P3, 3-P2
Binotto 1-P2, 1-P6, 1-P3, 1-???
Mattia admits P3 this year, “It would be painful because of the way of the way we started the season. I think it will be painful because it will prove we have not been good enough even developing the cat though the season, or the mistakes have been too many.”
Binotto is hopeful observing they are still ahead at present and in fact extended their lead over Mercedes during the Monza GP weekend.
In this interview we saw a more reflective and less defensive Mattia Binotto who more readily accepts mistakes have been made – maybe even ‘too many’.
It may be the public reprimand from John Elkann has forced the Ferrari boss to face up to reality, which surely is a good thing, as only by accepting mistakes have been made can a path for progression and improvement be plotted.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 11, 2022