Charles Leclerc, Mattia Binotto, Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, 2020

Design freeze means no quick rebound for Ferrari after “very bad” 2020 – Binotto

2020 F1 season

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Speaking to the media in an end-of-season event arranged by Ferrari on Friday, team principal Mattia Binotto admitted their performance in 2020, which saw them fall to sixth place in the constructors championship, was “very bad”.

Binotto also predicted it will be difficult for the team to rebound quickly from its worst performance in 40 years because of the design and development restrictions which have been introduced for the 2021 F1 season.

However he defended Ferrari’s decision to accept rules which will require them to continue using much of their uncompetitive 2020 chassis next year. Binotto said it was a sacrifice Ferrari had to make for the good of Formula 1 when the pandemic forced the postponement of this year’s championship.

“It has been very difficult for Ferrari,” Binotto admitted after a season which saw the team fail to record a single win for the first time since 2016. “It has been very difficult for all of us, myself too.

“We finished sixth in the constructors and that’s the worst position in the classification since 1980. So it has been a very hard season, even harder than expected.”

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Ferrari realised in testing their car was not competitive
The team’s plight became clear in pre-season testing, though the championship did not begin for four months due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

“We knew last winter that the car was not performing as we were hoping,” said Binotto. “We understood very quickly during the winter testing that the car would not have been fast enough.”

After the pandemic struck, F1 teams agreed to delay the introduction of new technical regulations for the 2021 F1 season, and continue using their current cars for another year with limited modifications. Binotto said Ferrari accepted this for the good of F1 despite knowing they would be left at a disadvantage.

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“At the time of the lockdown, Ferrari acted really in a very responsible manner for the good of motorsport, for the good of F1, accepting to postpone the 2021 [rules] to 2022 while we were fully investing in our 2021. Accepting to freeze a car where we knew that we are not competitive for cost reasons to help the smallest teams, trying to help the general situation.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Circuit de Catalunya, 2020
Accepting a development freeze was “difficult”, said Binotto
“Believe me that when we were discussing and we accepted to freeze the situation, it was a very difficult decision. But we believe that we made it with a full sense of responsibility towards motorsport and F1.”

Although the team expected a difficult season with the SF1000, Binotto admitted it proved even worse than they feared.

“I don’t think we were expecting overall such a difficult season, not only from the performance point of view, but if we look obviously back on the Covid pandemic and all the situations we had to face, the level of our performance has been inadequate for what should be the standard of Ferrari.

“We are very disappointed for it. We feel the full responsibility. We are sorry for the company. We are obviously sorry for our fans. But I’m pretty sure that this year will make us stronger for the future.”

The setback led Ferrari to reappraise their plans for the future. During the hiatus Binotto took the decision not to renew Sebastian Vettel’s contract for 2021. The four-times champion, who will join Racing Point next year as it becomes Aston Martin, subsequently endured a poor 2020 campaign.

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“Sebastian had a very difficult season this year,” said Binotto. “He never felt right with the car, never found the right confidence. It’s not been easy for him.”

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Replacing Vettel was “the right decision”
His place will be taken at the team by Carlos Sainz Jnr.

“I think that overall the decision we made has been the right decision, looking ahead to the future,” said Binotto. “It’s important for us to try to create solid foundations for the future and I think the best you can do is try to create them with two young, talented drivers, who we’ve got here today. So I’m very happy for that.”

Sainz will join Charles Leclerc who had an impressive second season at the team, scoring nearly three times as many points as Vettel. “Charles had a great year,” said Binotto. “I think he developed throughout the season.

“We know that he’s a very talented driver. He has been always very fast, he is good in racing, overtaking, defending.

“But as I often say, even if it has been a difficult season on track for him, he has developed as a person. He has developed as a leader and I think that today in the team, the engineers, all the members see him as an important reference point for the future.”

The recruitment of Sainz is part of the team’s effort to “invest in the future”, said Binotto, which it is also doing by developing its resources and infrastructure.

“During the season we invested a lot in our developing our simulations, developing our tools, our assets. We have a brand new simulator, which at the moment we are building and will be hopefully ready by the middle of next year.”

The introduction of a budget cap for next year has prompted Ferrari to change its relationship with customer teams such as Haas. “We tried to create new synergies with our customer teams as well looking at the future,” said Binotto.

Revealed: How Schumacher and Resta fit into Ferrari’s new-era customer team model at Haas
“You’ve seen that recently, for example, a technical senior person, Simone Resta, has moved into the Haas organisation, having there certainly an important and clear and significant role, a technically significant role. He is not the only one that will move into the Haas organisation. A few other technicians will move, reducing our organisation, which is required for the budget cap, but strengthening the organisation of our customers and, I would say, partner teams.”

Ferrari “learnt a lot” from its 2020 setback, Binotto believes. “It’s a season where I think we had a lot of patience, because when you do not have the results and the car was frozen for the season ahead – most of the car, power unit, the chassis, car components – it was important to be patient.”

Despite an “intense and difficult” season, Binotto hopes the groundwork has been laid for Ferrari to make its way back to the front in the coming years.

“It has been a very intense, dense season, difficult from many aspects. As I said our performance was inadequate. Finishing sixth in the constructors is very bad, as since 1980 that was not happening.

“But it’s a season where I think we invested a lot in the future, we’ve got patience, stability where I think as Ferrari really we are trying to create the solid foundations which are required to become again very competitive and hopefully to open a new cycle for the future.”

Mercedes dominated the 2020 championship, winning 13 out of 17 races. Binotto sees no realistic chance Ferrari will be able to rival them next year.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Spa-Francorchamps, 2020
Binotto doubts Mercedes will be caught next year
“We need to be realistic as the gap to the best team today is very big. I think obviously the [team] who won today will be again very strong next year. Already during the season, I don’t think they’ve brought a lot of developments on track because they were certainly focussed on 2021. So I’m expecting this team to be very strong again next year.

“I think there is no surprise that to say we can be back on track next year and to battle for the championship would be unrealistic. But if we look at the past seasons, in the last five years, if I do not consider 2020, we always finished second except once third. We have been the only team challenging Mercedes for at least a couple of years for the title, we have been the closest, trying to challenge and to fight with Mercedes.

“So the team that has been capable in the past five years to to finish second or once third, I think this objective would not be impossible for the same team.”

However Binotto pointed out the development restrictions in place for next season will make it hard for Ferrari to immediately rebound back into the top three places in the constructors championship.

“We know that there are plenty of difficulties looking at 2021. There is cars which are still partially frozen in many of the components, as first the chassis. The wind tunnel activity is reduced to 60%, so it’s almost half of what we were capable of doing in the past and that’s not only in the tunnel but in simulations. You know that the capacity of development for next year is reduced.

“I’m not saying here that we may finish second or third. But I think the same team has being capable of doing it in the past and I believe that we can do a better season compared to what has been in 2020 and try to recover positions on the classifications and to be certainly closer to the top compared to what we have been today.”

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28 comments on “Design freeze means no quick rebound for Ferrari after “very bad” 2020 – Binotto”

  1. Laying all out. Only the press can hate on this team, open, straight forward, candid.
    I know f1 was on the brink but considering where ferrari was on the very morning of the 1st test, I could not believe how Binotto kept his job especially after agreeing on a 2020/21 freeze. Some sort of freeze and cap would not affect ferrari but for 2020 and 2021 it relegates ferrari to the back of the midfield. Not like they were going to fix the PU before the end of 2020 though. Signing Carlos also says alot, signed for some financial security and marketing also as no top driver would sign for a hopeless ferrari.
    The freeze is dreadful for us fans aswell. We were going to get better racing, now we will have to wait, having to stand with the worst formula of my living memory. The new rules don’t solve most problems but better than nothing.

    1. No worries, @peartree. Reportedly, Horner is feeling bullish, says the RBR 2021 car will have only 60% of the current design.

    2. There was a good article on Autosport yesterday where they mentioned that throughout the history of F1 it was always better before, it will always be better in the future but right now its the worst its ever been.

      Its kind of true, theres been some great dicing and overtakes in this era but the feeling remains that underwhelming cars, poor tracks and no real competition at the front have made this the dullest era of all. But I well remember the undercut being responsible for most overtakes 20 odd years ago, of cars that were 7 seconds a lap slower, a decade before and of dire coverage showing the local hero lap after lap whilst he trundled around alone.

      I am not overly looking forward to next season of Ferrari mediocrity, of RBR’s slow march towards competitiveness and Toto saying the opposition is very dangerous whilst waltzing to another 1-2. Sport thrives on unpredictability and whilst Mercedes excellence and, lets not forget, huge budget remains it will be forever so.

    3. Laying all out. Only the press can hate on this team, open, straight forward, candid.

      nice sarcasm!

  2. Some pretty clever marketing by Ferrari. We helped save F1 and smaller teams by not exercising our right to veto any rule we don’t like. A rule no other team in F1 possesses by the way, which we have because we squeezed Bernie for it and more prize money just to participate in the championship than most other teams and all the small teams we “protected” here will earn based on their performance. Also don’t forget that we decided not to fight the rule change and were left with a poor performing car after our engine was downgraded to be in compliance with already existing rules. I’m not saying we cheated but we purposely downgraded our performance after the existing rules were “clarified” to us. Wink wink. But we’ll accept everyone’s praise for saving these small teams and F1.

    1. Sounds about right.

    2. The reality is yes they helped save F1 by default. Ferrari just do not yet have the solution to their problems. They are not sure the new engines will deliver on the power requirements so they just blame the chassis for the relatively poor or inconsistent performance. Then they turn it into doing good for F1.

    3. This must have been the most altruistic year in Ferrari’s history.
      Besides the above and allowing one WDC to move to Alfa, they now supported their remaining WDC to go to a team which hasn’t enough resources to design their own car, pick Sainz to create an opening at McLaren for Ricciardo and Alonso at Renault, stop courting one 7x WDC, and gallantly leave the marketing benefit of the other 7x name to a financially struggling team.
      Who needs Christmas when we have Ferrari.

  3. They’re only in this position cos they cheated with their 2019 engine to begin with.

    1. Ferrari are cheaters
      19th December 2020, 6:54

      Facts. But some people are blind and will believe the absolute bs spin Ferrari spew.

    2. Exactly – let’s spin having our asses spanked by the FIA as us making a sacrifice to save F1. LMAO

  4. Cool story. Ferrari sound and feel exactly like a solid midfield team.

    Is it really that terrible if they race around P7?

    1. It is for their fans who seem to think that Ferrari have the right to be the top team in F1 (despite history showing their record is pretty average when you consider how long they’ve been in F1).

      1. The main difference between Ferrari and the others is that the red team is always committed to F1 in good and bad times, that’s why their record is pretty average as you say. Pretty sure that Mercedes will be out of F1 as soon as it’s not winning anymore like everyone does apart from Ferrari, and to get back it’ll need a set of rules written by themselves just like the hybrid formula…

        1. They have been there the longest though its hardly McLaren or Williams fault they weren’t there before they existed. They have the biggest budget is the main reason for the incredulity. They are a mess and nothing will change whilst their culture remains one of point and blame across the different depts.

    2. Considering they are one of the most famous teams in Motorsport history, yeah it would be sad to see them making up the numbers. You would think even non Ferrari fans would want to see more teams challenging for wins.

      1. Every serious motorsport fan wants to see tight racing and championships not decided until the last race of the season. Unfortunately, the reality is that doesn’t happen very often at all and will probably be less likely as more and more races are added to the calendar. I’m a big fan of Hamilton and Mercedes, but I still want to see more competition. The mid-field has been entertaining this season, but not the sharp end.

        That said, I struggle not to be amused by Ferrari’s self-induced malaise. The sense of entitlement exhibited by many Ferrari fans makes their current plight even easier to enjoy.

      2. Dane, on the flip side, I would imagine that the reason why there is less sympathy is because this comes on the back of the investigation into Ferrari’s engines last year and the lack of transparency on the final judgement.

        Whilst you put forward the argument that they are a famous name and we should want to see more teams fighting at the front, it also sits quite poorly with a number of fans if they only did so through bending the rules and things then carried on as if nothing had happened.

        With the popular perception being that Ferrari effectively profited from being able to bend the rules in 2019 – given they finished 2nd in the World Constructors Championship, which would give them a pretty significant payment from Liberty Media – there are those who feel that the loss in prestige and loss of revenue that Ferrari will now experience as a result of their loss in form is a form of punishment that the team deserve for their behaviour in 2019 and will discourage them from such behaviour again.

  5. Good to see Binotto has recovered from his illness.

    1. Me, too. Vi auguro buona salute, signor Binotto!

  6. “Charles had a great year,” said Binotto. “I think he developed throughout the season.

    Yep, especially his position in the last race of the year showed his (and the teams) progress and would have made him very happy.

  7. If Seb had matched Leclerc they would’ve finished with 196 points, that’s P4 in the constructors and only 6pts behind McLaren in 3rd. Clearly the car was capable of more but Vettel’s poor performances really let Ferrari down. With Sainz’s motivation and some performance gains they should be able to get back towards the top soon.

    1. Was the car capable of more? Or did leclerc just have a really good season? It could just be the ferrari has been designed for leclerc and vettel can’t get anything out of it. We have saw it with redbull for 2 years now. A car build & designed for verstappan that no one else can drive.

    2. That is probably a bit optimistic, as that would suggest that Vettel would have been finishing ahead of Leclerc at least a few more times in 2020 in practice.

      In that situation, the combined points haul of the team probably would have been higher, but the individual points total of either driver would be lower as Vettel would have had to displace Leclerc in at least some races – maybe, as a rough estimate, Leclerc’s total would have been 10-15 points lower because of Vettel taking a few of the points scoring opportunities he did, suggesting a combined points total more in the order of 170 points.

      It is true that, in turn, it would have altered the points scored by their rivals too, so it might still have been enough to beat some of those other teams – but it would potentially have also altered how those teams approached this season, so it’s hard to say quite how the overall season would have played out.

  8. As s Ferrari fan I’m a little bit biased of course but F1 is Ferrari and Ferrari is F1. They need each other but Ferrari are aware of the greater good.
    They have never used their veto anyway and over the past decade they even quite frequently put their own interests behind and accepted changes which weren’t particularly beneficial to them.

    1. @roadrunner F1 doesn’t need Ferrari. Only a tiny portion of people watch F1 just for Ferrari. Would it hurt the business? Obviously. Will it still be completely fine? Absolutely. I can’t say the same about Ferrari though. There is no better place to market than F1. They can try at FE and WEC all they want, they need F1.

  9. Mercedes were not scared of patiently building the best car, even if it meant spending a couple of years in the midfield (2010-2012).

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