It’s no big Formula one secret that Ferrari’s choice of replacement for Mattia Binotto was not their first. The Scuderia initially approached the longest standing current team principal of the Red Bull team to head up operations in Maranello. Christian Horner’s reign since 2005 has seen him collect 5 F1 constructor championships and 6 drivers’ titles.
Just like his technical guru Adrian Newey had done before him, Christian Horner explains why he turned down what many consider the biggest job in Formula One.
Christian Horner part of the Red Bull fixtures
When asked whether he’d ever considered leaving Red Bull Racing by AMuS Christian replied, “To be honest with you no. I’ve been here since the very beginning, I feel very much, you know, responsible for the team. It’s a great group of people that I work with and I’ve never been tempted away.
“I feel a loyalty to Red Bull and of course the people here. When you’re working with such a great team, why would you want to be anywhere else? It’s hugely flattering to have been asked by Ferrari, but they’re a great team and I’m sure they’re going to be very competitive.”
Ferrari top F1 job a ‘poisoned chalice’
Since the success of the Michael Schumacher era from 1999-2005 when Ferrari won 6 consecutive constructors’ championships and 5 drivers’ titles, the role of heading up the Scuderia Ferrari has become a poisoned chalice.
This was built on the arrival of Jean Todt in 1993 who recruited a dream team around him including Ross Brawn and a bright South African car designer called Rory Burn. Schumacher was to join the team later after winning two titles with the Benetton team.
Despite not being Italian both Todt and Brawn took command of operations in Maranello and drove through a change of personnel and mentality where winning became the normal expectation.
Ferrari never really replaced Todt and Brawn
When Todt stepped down after one final constructors’ title in 2007, the writing was on the wall for Ferrari. Under new team boss Stefano Dominicali Ferrari claimed the constructors’ title in 2008 but since then have added no further F1 championship trophies to the cabinets in Maranello.
The problem for Ferrari is the organisation appears to overwhelm each new team principal who is appointed. Toto Wolff is synonymous with Mercedes success as is Christian Horner with Red Bull Racing’s championships. Yet at Ferrari the team boss appears separate from the organisation which is almost autonomous whoever is at the helm.
Binotto judged too quickly?
Mattia Binotto was in fact a success in charge of Ferrari. The team were close to titles in 2019 though there was the matter of the ‘alleged’ illegal power unit.
The 2022 F1-75 challenger was strong and Ferrari did gamble on building a more powerful but fragile power unit given the rules now freeze all F engine development until 2026. Ferrari will dial out the fragile nature as allowed by the regulations so reliability should be less of an issue in 2023.
It appears the lack of a solid structure around the race team and the strategy calls did for Binotto in the end.
Horner believes Ferrari made big strides forward
Horner’s views on the goings on at Ferrari are simple.
“It has been interesting to watch the movement. I have sympathy for Mattia, because ultimately he’d done a good job. Last year, that was a big step forward from where they had been, so that must be tough for him after such long service that he had given to Ferrari.
In what appears to be a bizarre line of questioning from AMuS, Christian Horner was asked whether he would consider signing Mattia Binotto to the Red Bull outfit.
“I don’t see what role he would perform,” Horner replied candidly.
“Obviously it was tough for him last year with Ferrari because they did make a big step forward, but maybe there’s other opportunities for him further down the grid.”
Obviously caught off guard by the question, Christian Horner would normally acknowledge there is little to no chance of an ex-Ferrari F1 team principal joining another outfit who run in the midfield.