Binotto exclusive: "Each single day" is difficult in F1 but Ferrari is united
It’s fair to say the 2022 Formula 1 season has delivered both the best of times and the worst of times for Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto.
He’s experienced the highs of brilliant victories, and even a 1-2 in the season opener in Bahrain, to the agony of seeing other successes slip through his fingers through engine blow-ups, drivers errors or strategy stumbles.
For some, the rollercoaster of emotions through the campaign would perhaps be too much to bear.
But for Binotto, who has been plotting Ferrari’s recovery plan since he took over at the start of 2019, the thing that keeps him going is his conviction that, behind the factory walls at Maranello, the team is all pulling in the same direction.
Yes it has had its challenges, and certainly there are things it could have done better in 2022, but Binotto remains confident that his long-term plan to give Ferrari the foundations for regular world title challenges remains on course.
He is clear, on one point, however: that life as Ferrari team principal through the lows of 2020/2021, to the ups and down of this season, is not a job for the faint-hearted.
Asked by Autosport in an exclusive interview if there had been some difficult moments for him over the past 18 months, he smiles: “Each single day! I think certainly it has not been an easy journey from 2019, when I was put in place as team principal, to today.
“We have been through 2020, a very difficult one, and then 2021. But even 2022, because we are fighting for the best, sometimes there are races where we are not obtaining what is the potential of the car. So it's not an easy one.
“But what I may say is that I'm happy in the role. I'm happy because I know that I've got a great team. The team is united. It's great to see them working together.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, pitstop
Photo by: Ferrari
While Binotto regularly talks about the strong team around him, there are times when he experiences the weight of the world entirely on his shoulders.
That is none more true than when the TV cameras pan to him on the pitwall during Ferrari’s most difficult moments: such as when Charles Leclerc suffered the heartbreak of his engine failures while leading in Baku and Spain.
Binotto confesses that the moments are emotionally tough to handle, but equally there is a duty on him to remain calm.
Asked what goes through his head, and how difficult these times are when things go wrong in such a public manner, he said: “It is very hard for two reasons.
“The first if we are speaking about engine failure, I managed that [department] myself in the past. And to see smoke is never great. So this is more a feeling of being depressed.
“No doubt when you see that we are leading the race, as Charles was leading in Baku and even Carlos [Sainz] I would say in Austria, they are problems that you would never like to see.
“I'm staying calm, but believe me, I'm depressed. It's difficult and you take a few moments, trying to react, then you really need to think about the next steps.
“So what is needed and what is required? And not only in terms of technical, but more in terms of team. So what can I do to help? What can I do to make sure that everybody remains calm and focused, protected even from external attacks and comment?”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari
Photo by: Ferrari
Binotto is not someone who blames others when things go wrong, or even rules his team with an iron fist so personnel are in fear for their jobs.
Instead, he is of the mindset that staff need to have the authority to make decisions that are in the best interests of the team; which means he has to trust them entirely.
“I think I'm empowering the people which are around me,” he said, when asked about his management style. “I think I'm not brutal, but I'm strict. And people around me know that I can be very strict.
“But I think more than that, I'm trying always to empower them, and give them all what's required to do their job. And I trust the people around me.
“I'm not the one that will go into the detail of every single element. I more focus on myself, making sure that, as I said before, they have got whatever is required to do the job.
“I know how important is the mood in the team, I know how important is the mental approach and the culture. We are working a lot on it inside of the team, trying to change our culture compared to what it was us, and what we believe is the right attitude and behaviours to put in place.
“I can see that the team is somehow very united and I think that you can get that through transparency. Even I think you need to be smart as well, sometimes transparent and genuine.”
The burned out car of Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, after a fire causes his retirement
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
The long journey to recovery
From the outside, based on the ebb and flow of Ferrari’s results over recent seasons, the turnaround this season from the trouble the team was in in 2020 has been remarkable – and pointed some to suggest it has just lucked in at the start of a new rules circle.
However, Binotto thinks that appearances have been deceptive; and that Ferrari’s recent campaigns have not shown the true picture of the team’s progress.
He says the mistakes the team made with its 2020 car and power unit were amplified by the development freeze imposed by the coronavirus pandemic; so it paid a much bigger price for its stumble.
“There are no silver bullets in F1,” he said. “It didn't take just one year or two years [to recover]. It was more than that.
“I think that what we got today started a long time ago, and maybe even in 2016 or 2017. It has been a continuous building up the team, improving ourselves.
“It is about organisation, it's about skills, it's about experience, it's about methodology and tools, it's about assets, and when I'm saying assets that can be simulator, improvement of the windtunnel, whatever you have got.”
Reflecting on the troubled 2020 campaign, Binotto said: “It was more than a step back, it was three steps back. Why? I've think that in 2020, we simply messed up our project.
“And then everything has been frozen at the start to the season. It was like if Mercedes would have been frozen at race one the season: what would have been with them?
“I don't think it's a team that is not capable of developing. It's capable of doing a good car, capable of fighting for the best, but if you would freeze your project at race one, and you have somehow made some mistakes, as Mercedes did this season, then you stay there for the entire season.
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Ferrari
“But also 2020 has been the product of what we tried to put in place during 2019, where we reshuffled completely the organisation and the team.
“In 2020 and 2021, we had only limited opportunity to develop the car, which was a difficult car. So I think 2020 or 2021 do not reflect what was the total capacity of the team at the time.”
This long term perspective is why Binotto thinks that Ferrari is on a steady journey to the front of the grid, rather than rushing there within a specific timeframe.
“I think that the team, as I said starting from 2017, is trying simply to progress each single year,” he said.
“Today I think we've got more of a true feedback of its capacity. But no doubt that we improved, no doubt we improved in each single season, and no doubt I think 2020 has been useful to us to somehow put on us even more necessity to improve furthermore: analysing all the weaknesses at the time, the project of the organisation, try to set up something which will be better for the future.
“And from 2020 onwards, certainly we made some changes in organisation with clearer roles, clear responsibilities. We had a new simulator, so I think it was a good time for us certainly on the journey to say: ‘okay, let's make a point, highlight the weaknesses and try to address all of them.’ And I think that has been done.”
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1st position, Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, celebrate in Parc Ferme
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
No change of approach now
While Ferrari started 2022 strongly, it’s run of form before the summer break has allowed rival Red Bull to pull clear at the front.
But despite battling engine reliability and missed opportunities through strategy calls, Binotto sees the remainder of the campaign as part of that ongoing journey from 2017.
It’s why he does not see the need to shake things up radically before F1 gets back in action at the Belgian Grand Prix.
“I don't think that there is anything different that we need to do,” he said. “I think it is simply to continue on our journey of continuously improving ourselves step by step, focusing on each single race.
“I think we have the potential to win races at the moment. It's only a matter of making sure that when we get to the chequered flag we are in first position. But it doesn't mean that we have to change our approach.
“As we said, there are no silver bullets so I don't think we need to change ourselves. We have proved that we can do a good job.
“It's only a matter of step by step getting there, get used to it, and whatever will be the outcome for 2022, we try to be prepared for 2023.”
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Ferrari
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