Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2022

Binotto’s exit shows Ferrari lost more than just a championship in 2022

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Ferrari improved their position in the constructors’ championship for the second year in a row in 2022. On the face of it, that makes team principal Mattia Binotto’s decision to resign, announced today, a questionable one.

The team slumped to a woeful sixth place in 2020, but rebounded quickly, rising to third place last year. A place among F1’s ‘big three’ teams has to be considered the minimum of what a team with Ferrari’s gigantic resources is capable of.

They appeared to build on that this season by climbing to second place in the championship. But Ferrari’s ambitions are far greater than that, and their failure to deliver a title this year has to be considered in terms of the scale of the opportunity they missed.

When Binotto took over in charge of the team at the beginning of 2019, some of the ingredients of success were already in place. Sebastian Vettel finished runner-up in the 2017 and 2018 title fights, and the team did likewise in the constructors’ championship, winning 11 races over those two seasons.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2019
Leclerc delivered Ferrari’s first victory under Binotto
Ferrari began their first year under Binotto once again rivalling Mercedes for wins. But Red Bull, who had switched to Honda power units during the off-season, were first to beat the silver team to a victory.

Binotto saw Ferrari miss opportunities to win over the first dozen races due to unreliability, driver errors and strategic slip-ups. The latter was highlighted in Monaco, where Vettel’s new team mate Charles Leclerc was eliminated during Q1.

As the season went on, the increasingly impressive Leclerc posed an obvious challenge to Vettel’s supremacy at the team. This generated considerable friction, several rows over team orders and one collision between the pair. Nonetheless Ferrari managed to claim three consecutive wins in spite of this, and second in the constructors’ standings again.

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But their cars’ straight-line speed had also become a focus of speculation and this posed a greater threat to their competitiveness. Following a lengthy investigation, the FIA came to a private agreement with the team under which new checks on power unit legality for the whole field were introduced. This was announced on the eve of the 2020 campaign, during which Ferrari’s straight-line speed was a persistent weakness and the team slumped to sixth place in the championship.

Dismal 2020 campaign prompted Ferrari to focus on new rules
The start of the season was delayed by four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the outbreak, Formula 1 postponed the introduction of radical new technical regulations, by a year, to 2022. This presented an opportunity for Ferrari to refocus their efforts on the coming overhaul of the rules.

Binotto took the logical decision to prioritise the development of Ferrari’s new car for those rules. He shook up the technical team, reorganising it into new sections which reported directly to him.

He also made a major call on the future of the team’s driver line-up. Having originally planned to keep Vettel, during the pandemic hiatus Binotto hired Carlos Sainz Jnr from McLaren to replace him in 2021.

The changes appeared to pay off. Ferrari went into 2021 with an improved power unit, Sainz and Leclerc proved an effective partnership, and the team immediately returned to the top three in the constructors’ championship. With Red Bull and Mercedes fighting each other for the title until the final race, Ferrari – who threw their efforts into their next chassis early – looked in ideal shape for 2022.

At the end of the year Binotto declared Ferrari had laid a “solid foundation” for future success. Part of this involved encouraging the team to view errors as opportunities for improvement. “It’s trying to understand it’s an opportunity,” he said. “No blame, no finger-pointing.” But an error-strewn 2022 campaign put that to the test and likely cost them a return to title-winning success.

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For the first time under Binotto, Ferrari won the opening race of the season with its much-admired new F1-75. A second win in the third round showed the team were championship contenders once again. But three races later Verstappen and Red Bull were leading the standings, and Ferrari let a series of opportunities to bag more points slip away from them.

The team made a winning start to 2022 – but soon faded
Errors and questionable calls from the pit wall made the team a focus of criticism. No doubt that in some of these cases the team faced invidious, potentially un-winnable calls, such as when the Safety Car was deployed while Leclerc was leading at Silverstone. On other days they plainly erred, however: failing to contain the Red Bulls after locking out the front row in Monaco, calling Sainz in so late at Zandvoort his crew weren’t ready for him, or sending Leclerc out to qualify using intermediate tyres while on a dry track at Interlagos.

The drivers contributed mistakes of their own, no doubt. But more points were lost elsewhere. Several technical failures struck in the first half of the season, costing Leclerc potential wins in Spain and Azerbaijan.

These problems largely related to the power unit, and after the season was over Binotto admitted Ferrari had to reduce their engine performance as a result. In the second half of the season, Ferrari were less often contenders for victory and found it harder to beat the resurgent Mercedes. As the season ended, they hadn’t won a race since the Austrian Grand Prix in July.

Ferrari may have improved to second place in the championship, but the real story of their 2022 season was their failure to capitalise on the scale of the opportunity presented to them. Having won twice in the opening three races, they only won twice more all year, but could easily have taken twice as many victories before the summer break alone.

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They didn’t just fail to win the championship in 2022. The introduction of new technical rules coinciding with their principal rivals fighting each to the final race of 2021 handed them the opportunity to become F1’s dominant team to beat once more.

Red Bull’s Horner will face a new rival at Ferrari next year
Instead as 2022 ends that position belongs to Red Bull, who won all bar one of the 10 races held since the summer break, while Ferrari lost four from pole.

Binotto’s departure as Ferrari team principal is therefore reminiscent of his predecessor Stefano Domenicali’s eight years earlier. Then as now, Ferrari greeted a major change in the regulations as an opportunity to become championships contenders once more, only to see another rival beat them to it. Domenicali left at the beginning of 2014 as Mercedes replaced Red Bull as F1’s dominant force; in 2022 those two teams have essentially swapped again.

Ferrari is now heading for a fourth change of team principal since Domenicali stepped down. Whoever gets the job will face the challenge of regaining the initiative lost since the 2022 season began, knowing another wholesale change in F1’s rules isn’t due until 2026.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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31 comments on “Binotto’s exit shows Ferrari lost more than just a championship in 2022”

  1. Yeah, great opportunity to fail to build on the solid car this year for Ferrari. I kind of get the idea that Binotto was not a great team principal – too many evasive answers when asked about problems, too little improvement shown in the race execution etc.

    But then, at least the team held together and surely they could have built on the good bits and improved the worse things. With Binotto protecting his people, surely they could have built towards a race strategy and tactics team that is more able to react at the right moment? With him out, I doubt anyone will be happy to join in and put their reputation on the line.

    Good opportunity for the likes of Alpine and McLaren to get into the fight for 3rd again in the coming few years.

    1. @bascb

      Honestly, I think this is great for Ferrari. If a team principal spends 2 entire seasons as a test session, just to build a championship contender in the 3rd season. And then fails to mount a challenge even though he had an incredibly fast car, just shows that he isn’t the right man for the job.

      I don’t see what Binotto has done in his time for Ferrari. He used a cheat engine in 2019 and still didn’t mount a challenge. Then he went through 2 miserable seasons, followed by a a season that was absolutely catastrophic in terms of operations and leadership.

      I think Ferrari will be less competitive without him next season, but they’ll have time to rebuild under new management and launch a championship challenge eventually. With Binotto, they would never even mount a challenge. They’d remain the laughing stock of the paddock.

      1. I get the idea there @todfod. But I don’t really see where Ferrari are going to find a competent new team leader who is on the one hand strong enough (with Support from the top brass at the company) to be able to do what is needed, get enough time to do so but at the same time is enough of an insider to do it fast. They can get an outsider.
        Or maybe the rumours about the Ferrari CEO wanting to have a go at it himself (and having already had a dabble at messing with some of their strategy this year), I cannot really see that going great either.

        Realistically, I think they will now be looking towards the next rule change to built towards. Pretty much exactly what they started to do in 2019 with Binotto when the cheating engine was found out and stopped them from getting immediate success with it.

        Their season in 2020 in hindsight was probably hurt most from the secret agreements with the FIA about that engine, which might be at least in part on Binotto, but not so much in his role as team boss. And yeah, if they had actually had a competent tactical team that was able to react to the reality on track in a timely and correct manner, I think they could have been much closer this year. But in a team that is fraught with insider politics, like Ferrari is, who is going to stick out their necks to do that? Maybe had Binotto stayed on, he would have been able to either nurse that temperament, or lure people in. Now – the new boss won’t be able to get to work at that before we are already into next season. And with gardening leave, it will be hard to have anyone new into the team in key positions before the 2024 season.

      2. I think you are correct most of the time but in this case I have to disagree with you.
        I think he deserves one more year. Find some engineers/strategists and get rid of the incompetent ones that have bad decisions.
        Is Horner responsible for the strategy that allowed Ferrari to get LeClerc second place in the last race?
        I believe RBR were heaping praise on a female strategist a couple of times this year. Horner has good people around him.
        Yes Binotti was out of his comfort zone at times but Ferrari was getting better.
        And the decision to fire him without having a clear candidate to replace him shows who is really incompetent.
        Binotti is largely responsible for the competitive car they now have.
        Having a team leader who can deliver a competitive car but needs more experience as a leader is better than having a top notch leader like Horner with a non competitive car.
        I think Ferrari will regress big time and be a mid fielder – again.
        Patience often pays off in the end. I think it would have in this case.

  2. I feel bad for him, Ferrari have been good this year overall.

    IMO if RBR hadn’t dropped the ball as much over the first 4-5 races, Ferrari’s season would be looked on much more favourably. I think unrealistic expectations were being made by many people and that pressure told a few times over the year.

    1. Fully agree that the early Verstappen DNFs flattered Ferrari. If you look at races like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Miami etc. – all at the start of the season – the Red Bull was quick(er) overall right from the start, especially in the races. Only really in Australia did Ferrari seem to have a solid advantage.

      However, Ferrari also had their own problems for which Binotto is directly responsible. They had;
      – an unreliable engine at competitive performance;
      – low top speed, which is a bad design approach in the DRS-era;
      – a very weak political game, failing to block Mercedes-initiated shenanigans that hurt Ferrari’s design concept (not to mention the longer term implications of the 2026 engine regulations that will limit Ferrari’s ability to make the most of their in-house engine development);
      – a very weak strategy department which cost them multiple wins and particularly disadvantages their lead driver;
      – worst tyre management of all three top teams;
      – an inability to facilitate their lead driver and put him in a position to focus on the racing;

      And, most important, no meaningful results after four years of doing things Binotto’s way.

      1. And they are going to replace him with who?
        They were plenty fast
        Reliability is not his fault
        Le Clerc failed on several occasions although he wouldn’t have won the WDC anyways
        Hire a strategist like RBR did
        If you think he is bad, wait until next year – think midfield

        1. Several? The only clear mistake of his was France.
          He failed France, Ferrari failed him Spain, Baku, GBR and Hungary.

          1. Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and Paul Ricard track – major blunders.
            And it’s joke about him joining Merc – Hamilton isn’t going anywhere for 3 or 4 years.
            He’s stuck at Ferrari and he’s part of the reason Binotti is gone.
            Good luck.

          2. Poor start in Singapore cost him the win. Small mistake in Japan cost him second. Bad defending (more questionable this one) cost him the win in Saudi Arabia. Wrongly reading the weather conditions cost him win in Monaco (contrary to Sainz). Many small or big mistakes that cost him points and, more importantly, he failed to give the impression that he would be unbeatable with the right machinery.

    2. This is the Ferrari way. There is a weird expectation and level of pressure on a team that historically hasn’t won anything like the amount its resources, questionable relationships with governing bodies etc. that one should really expect – one would think that with a clear eye on history the level of entitlement to win would diminish with every year of non-dominance, but it somehow never has. The one thing unifying all of Ferrari’s fallow periods is panicky upper management, a culture of suspicion and politicking to crazy levels, and a willingness to host a whole stock of sacrificial lambs.

      Unfortunately here in Italy this pressure and mistrust is almost treated as an essential aspect of being a part of a storied brand, especially ones that have been or are under Fiat’s auspices. It’s a huge shame and a real Achilles heel that may or may not stem from a certain working culture – this would merit analysis imo – but one thing is certain: Ferrari is a meat grinder for excellent personnel who often go on to greater things after being discarded at the altar of unreasonable expectations.

      All that aside – is the F1-75 not the best looking Ferrari F1 car since at least the last V12 cars? Kudos to the team for that if nothing else.

      1. F1-75 might be the best looking racecar ever made

  3. Complete idiocy! As if it’s all Binotti’s fault. They could have given him another year but that makes sense.
    Just when you think they can’t get more foolish they do this.
    The guy is a genius and I guarantee he will be on the phone will several teams including Mercedes.
    I think LeClerc’s whining has something to do with it also.
    He will be doing plenty of crying next year when they are battling the mid fielders.
    They have the best year in years and instead of showing patience they throw out the baby with the bath water.
    But why should I have expected otherwise.
    As Alonso says “it’s Ferrari – they do strange things”.

  4. The answers to the mistakes were unacceptable.

    No doubt that in some of these cases the team faced invidious, potentially un-winnable calls, such as when the Safety Car was deployed while Leclerc was leading at Silverstone

    That is false. There is a difference between being able to fight for victory and having no chance at all.

    1. It’s absolutely false, especially when Ferrari made the right call for their second driver who was behind Leclerc in the race. The gaps have been analyzed and talked about at length so there’s no need to do so again, but it’s quite simple: at the very least, Ferrari decided to prioritize Sainz and thereby put Leclerc in a hopeless position. Was there more to it? Maybe, but that’s unknowable.

      1. They won Silverstone with Sainz and lost it with Leclerc. But most people forget that Ferrari only won the race because Max lost pace due to damage while in leading position.

  5. Well that seems a universally panned decision. And I agree, he did say some daft things – but mostly to support his strategy team, and he was never going to be the one to play the media / public front game all that well (and most often didn’t).

    But surely building a team around his strengths would have been better than to show him the door? What goes on inside the corridors I have no idea, and maybe they have good reasons. But from the outside, it would seem a no-brainer to keep him and change the things around him.

    Weirdly – he probably leaves Ferrari as one of if not the most successful employees ever. I feel like he was in engine department from 96′? (I might be wrong).

    I hope he steals a stapler on the way out.

  6. They want to win and they felt they would never do it with him.
    Fair enough.

    Sainz was never in the fight with Max, and not even with Perez, but there he was, getting the safer/better calls as late as Brazil. Against a team that has their number 1 established for years.

    They never stood a chance.

    1. So who do you suggest they replace him with? Vasseur, Arribene? Not exactly household names.
      So far all I’ve heard is their “dream candidates” are Brawn and Horner.
      They don’t have a clue what they are doing.
      Typical Ferrari.

      1. The average F1 probably couldn’t even name all 10 current team principals, so the suggestions making the rounds now are largely uninformed picks from the dozen or so famous names from recent F1 history.

        There are countless competent managers around. The corporate and political world is full of them. The trick is finding one who is interested in taking up this particular challenge. As noted elsewhere, the team principal is very much a political role. Ferrari needs someone who can find the right people, put them in the right place, let them do their job, and find the elements of the team that are holding the whole back. They don’t need to know what a crankshaft or gurney flap is. They do need to be able to throw Ferrari’s weight around and make the FIA listen when they talk.

        If Ferrari hadn’t started their LMH program for 2023, I wonder if someone from the GTE team might have been a good pick. They’re pro racers, and also used to the politics that come with a BoP class (and the ACO in particular). We’ll see, I guess.

        1. Jack (@jackisthestig)
          30th November 2022, 7:25

          That’s an interesting point.

          Well their GTE exploits are undertaken by AF Corse, run by Amato Ferrari. Despite the surname he’s not one of the family, it’s more like Toto Wolff’s relationship with Mercedes prior to his involvement in F1. He owns and runs AF Corse but it effectively operates as the Ferrari factory team, perhaps taking that dynamic into the F1 team could be what is needed.

          I say that but whoever gets the job is just doomed to repeat the same cycle that’s gone before with the exception of Jean Todt.

  7. We should question one of the viewpoints expressed:

    “A place among F1’s big three teams has to be considered the minimum of what a team with Ferrari’s gigantic resources is capable of.”

    Isn’t the budget cap intended to keep costs down and level the playing field so that teams with gigantic resources cannot just buy their way to the chequered flag? If we (me included) are all suprised by Ferrari’s performance given its resources, and if the author of this article with his wealth of knowledge of the sport, still perceives Ferrari’s resources as giving it an advantage, does that tell us the budget cap isn’t seen as achieving its aims?

    1. A lot of teams don’t hit the budget cap, so even those capped teams are still spending more than others.

      There are also a lot of things outside the budget cap that give a competitive edge – not least of which are the top level staff and the drivers.

      1. Majority of teams should have the resources to hit the cap if they wanted, only williams, haas and alfa should be under from what I saw was the yearly spending before the budget cap came.

      2. But yes, I suppose those things outside the budget are now making the difference that keeps the big 3 as top teams.

        1. Good points. I tend to feel it is okay for the driver salary to be outside the budget cap. Firstly, people always complain that whoever wins, that they “only won because they are in the best car” so it should be the car development which we are trying to level up. And drivers have a limited shelf life so I’m happy to see them pull in what they can.

          I think teams are also allowed to exclude salaries of a number of senior staff from the budget cap, (up to four people, or have I imagined that). Again, I think this is fair, because normally we are talking about team bosses and senior staff who have invested years of blood, sweat and tears in the team, and then when they get a big sponsor and a great year, those senior staff should be allowed to reap the rewards without it punishing the competitiveness of the team. The question is what restrictions should be placed on who can be excluded from the cap. I think I remember from somewhere that Adrian Newey is unusual in being a designer included in Red Bull’s exemption allotment. Again, I don’t begrudge the huge salary he pulls in from Red Bull but I think that is perhaps an example of where one of the highly funded teams can use its resources to outbid smaller teams for a top designer without it eating into the capped allowance, and I don’t think that was point of the exemptions rules.

  8. I’m still not convinced that he chose to resign, and wasn’t instead pushed into an impossible position by the Ferrari management.
    It just seems a weird decision, to essentially give up on next season already.

    1. I have an opinion
      30th November 2022, 3:57

      Of course he didn’t resign as Team Principal and from Ferrari in toto of his own volition. It possibly went something like this “You can resign or we can give you a nice job testing car ballast at the bottom of the lake.”

  9. He wasn’t the worst there was but he was far for being the best.

    It is easy to point Binotto but nobody knows how much is the right amount.

  10. Seems a bit of an over-reaction to me. They had a very fast one lap car this year but with bad tyre deg and unreliability. Fix those two and hire a new chief strategist and they could be in the hunt for the 2023 title.

  11. so alonso was right about ferrari for yet another year. they still haven’t won anything yet

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