Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Interlagos, 2022

Ferrari’s season of missed chances led to “difficult” criticism for Binotto

2022 F1 season

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After a season of errors and missed opportunities, Ferrari have lost not only a chance to win a world championship, and many race wins, but now its team principal too.

Speaking after the final round in Abu Dhabi, little more than a week before he stepped down, Mattia Binotto admitted the criticism he faced during the season had been “difficult” at times.

“It has certainly been a difficult one because criticism [has] never obviously been accepted or, let me say, [has] to be managed more than accepted,” he explained. “And more than that, I think [it’s] for me to try to keep the team focused and concentrated on the job.”

“So, the criticisms are there to distract a team, and [how to] keep a team focused is never obvious. So it has been difficult, but I think that will make me only stronger in the future.”

Leclerc was frustrated by some of the team’s strategy calls
Binotto will carry those lessons into his post-Ferrari career. But what provoked the criticisms he and the team faced over the past season?

After two winless campaigns, an encouraging start to 2022 raised expectations of Ferrari to a level they quickly struggled to meet. Charles Leclerc led Carlos Sainz Jnr home in a Ferrari one-two in the opening race at Bahrain, then another double podium followed in Jeddah to maintain their occupancy of the top two positions in the standings.

A second win from three races for Leclerc in Melbourne meant he had almost twice as many points as anyone else, and Ferrari had almost double the points of Red Bull. That set a standard Ferrari failed to sustain over the rest of the year. Occasionally this was due to driver error, but more often problems arose elsewhere.

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A series of slip-ups in the pits compromised their drivers’ races, beginning with a slow tyre change for Sainz at the Miami Grand Prix. Leclerc lost time in the pits in consecutive races at Baku and Montreal, then Sainz was penalised when he was released into the path of another driver during the French Grand Prix.

Sainz was called in too late and sent out too soon at Zandvoort
It was a tough afternoon for Ferrari, as Leclerc was on course to win before crashing out. Afterwards, Binotto said there was “no reason” why the team should not “win 10 races from now to the end” of 2022], given the pace they had shown up to that point. Aiming for more wins “is the way to look at this, positively,” he stressed. “And I like to be positive. Staying optimistic.”

But there was more trouble in the pits two races later and Zandvoort. On this occasion Sainz was summoned into the pits so late his crew weren’t ready for him. He also collected a penalty in the same race when he was released into the path of another car.

The team’s first error in that race originated on the pit wall, and it wasn’t the only time Ferrari’s troubles began there. Strategy calls attracted the most ire at Ferrari, both internally and from outsiders criticising race decisions.

In the Monaco Grand Prix, on a wet but drying track, Ferrari’s drivers filled the front row. Sainz stuck to his guns, insisting on switching directly to slick tyres from wet weather rubber. Pole winner Leclerc did change to intermediates, lost time in traffic, then was called in to pit for slicks. That order was cancelled but the decision came too late and Leclerc, livid, dropped to fourth as a result.

Sainz came away from the British Grand Prix with a maiden victory but it came at the expense of Leclerc, who was out in the lead on old tyres during a Safety Car period. That was a 50-50 decision that still yielded a win for the team, but it was scant consolation for Leclerc.

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At the Hungarian Grand Prix, switching Leclerc onto Pirelli’s hard compound tyre on a cold track proved disastrous, and having led the race an extra pit stop to fit more suitable tyres left him sixth. But the team made a similar call at the next race with Sainz and lost more ground against rivals Mercedes and Red Bull.

Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2022
Reliability problems were a double whammy for Ferrari’s drivers
By this point in the season Red Bull’s pace made them hard to beat, but Ferrari made life more difficult for themselves at Monza by failing to coordinate for their drivers to provide each other with a strong tow. Leclerc did start on pole position due to Verstappen taking a grid penalty for exceeding his supply of power unit components, but Sainz had to do the same.

There were many instances of either of Ferrari’s cars taking grid penalties due to the engine problems they suffered early in the season. This was a double blow, as not only did the failures cost them better results, but so did the penalties, and Ferrari got through more power unit parts than their front-running rivals.

Leclerc was on course to win the Spanish Grand Prix before his power unit expired, and the same happened at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Sainz also retired early from that race due to hydraulics failure.

Sainz’s power unit blew up in the Austrian Grand Prix while Leclerc won despite a throttle glitch suspected to stem from a mechanical fault. Later in the season the team turned down its engines to improve the reliability, but on a tough weekend for the team in Mexico Leclerc was compromised by further power unit problems.

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Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2022
Analysis: Binotto’s exit shows Ferrari lost more than just a championship in 2022
But one of the most conspicuous and painful errors made by the team occured at the penultimate round. Leclerc was sent out on intermediate tyres at a dry Interlagos in the final segment of Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying. He was then called back in to fit the correct tyres, but again the call was mistimed, Leclerc had already passed the pit lane entrance and his hopes of setting a time on the correct tyres were over.

At this point, with speculation already mounting about Binotto’s future, and having defending race-losing strategy calls earlier in the season, the team principal admitted it got this decision “wrong” and that he and the team would consider “the process that brought us to such a decision“.

Less than three weeks later, Binotto’s spell as Ferrari team principal was over. It will be his successor’s responsibility to stamp out the errors which undermined their 2022 campaign.

2022 F1 season

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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6 comments on “Ferrari’s season of missed chances led to “difficult” criticism for Binotto”

  1. Ferrari have set themselves an impossible task. They don’t seem to have a new team principal lined up at least not firmly so and with Binotto going they lose the engineering and engine leader as well as the team principal. So they probably need two people instead of one, and two new people in the top two jobs with a new demarcation of duties and powers just as the New Year and new season is about to start is a handicap race that I wouldn’t bet on.

    All organisations have momentum and it’s quite possible for the first part of the next season it will look as if Ferrari has weathered the storm.But the real test will come just before the summer break when everybody’s scrabbling around for improvement, upgrades, the usual technical disputes, driver fracas and political storms in the race to the top. Then we’ll see.

  2. I was on the fence if I thought firing Binotto would solve Ferrari’s problems, but if Binotto thought that criticisms were there to distract them, then it is good he is gone. While it is true that some people will criticize just to get under the skin of an opponent, I think a large amount of the criticism Ferrari received this year was not only warranted but was provided so that the team would improve and learn from their mistakes. If Binotto feels like they had nothing to learn from the criticism, it is best he is gone.

    That doesn’t mean Ferrari’s problems are solved. Not by a long stretch. He wasn’t the one directly responsible for a lot of the problems and those folks need to go as well. But if the team boss isn’t receptive to valid criticism and open to making constructive changes in the team based on that criticism, they need to go.

    1. But if the team boss isn’t receptive to valid criticism and open to making constructive changes in the team based on that criticism, they need to go.

      With Ferrari, you have to consider the people further up the food chain than the Team Principal, who insist the team chooses the best Italians before (or instead) of the best candidate.
      Binotto, like a collection of predecessors, was somewhat hamstrung by the corporate ethos.

  3. If you can’t stand the heat don’t work in the kitchen!

    Mattia failed to transform the team as a unit and too many loose ends remained.

    He paid the price for his lack of influence with the FIA and mediocre performance as a people manager.

  4. Keeping the team focused is a problem? That’s a leadership problem, not an outside criticism problem.

    Binotto made his bed by claiming he could do it all back in 2018. Ferrari’s new and inexperienced leadership believed him, but it hasn’t worked. So part of the blame also has to go to John Elkann (son of Margherita Agnelli, in case you were looking for the family connection).

    Giving one man all the power may have some appealing Roman-heritage, but it’s not going to work in modern F1. When Ferrari was successful twenty years ago, it wasn’t just Todt, just Schumacher, just Byrne, just Martinelli, just Brawn, and not just Di Montezemolo either. It was a team effort in which everyone could do what he was best at, and not get bogged down trying to do it all.

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