Binotto out as Ferrari seeks new leadership
Life-long Ferrari employee Mattia Binotto has paid the price for the failings of the Scuderia over the course of the 2022 Season as the Italian Team Principal departs.
Binotto, who joined the company in 1995 as an engine engineer - rose through the ranks and assumed leadership of the Prancing Horse in January 2019.
Initial rumours about Binotto’s future appeared during the course of the team’s home race in Italy, but were quickly extinguished only for the fire to be re-lit ahead of the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
A statement, issued by Ferrari, supporting Binotto and denying any rumour was released but the Italian’s resignation was accepted by the company today.
The hunt for new leadership to lead Ferrari into the future has begun and is “expected to be finalised in the new year”.
Was it Binotto’s decision to resign, or was he pushed?
It’s been viewed as a ‘harsh’ decision with many pundits and analysts expecting Binotto to remain in his position for at least one more season while the team assessed his future. It would have also allowed the company to have seen his promises that 2023 would have had addressed the issues the team faced this year.
Binotto, has accepted blame for Ferrari’s lackluster performance over the 2022 Season, it remained that he had at least fulfilled the aim of producing a race-winning, at times competitive, car.
What is more likely to have happened is that something has alerted Binotto that he doesn’t have the support that he thought he had - potentially a breakdown in trust between himself and Ferrari Chairman John Elkann.
Binotto’s Ferrari Tenure
Assuming the helm of the most successful team in F1 history in 2019, Binotto has endured a tough tenure at the Prancing Horse. His appointment was controversial given that his background - and experience - was mainly down to the management of engine and technical departments and not overall leadership of the team.
The rumblings of the legality of the team's very competitive engine was made public and an agreement was reached with the FIA in late 2019. Still to this day, only a few team members know of what was reached; however, the shunt in performance severely impacted over the next two seasons.
Ferrari spent the majority of both the 2020 and 2021 campaigns running in the mid-field and during the seasons, they hired Carlos Sainz Jr, replacing Sebastian Vettel, to partner Charles Leclerc.
Ferrari’s start to the new era of F1 began strongly with two wins from three races but the challenge for both championships started to rapidly unravel with a series of driver errors, strategic blunders, poor reliability and a lack of in-season development.
The Scuderia failed to win a race after the mid-season break and was in serious danger of being beaten to runners-up behind Red Bul and by Mercedes who finished just 39 points adrift.
With four victories, three for Leclerc and Sainz’s maiden win, they were all won before the mid-season break however, the rate of turning their 12 Pole Positions into victories, is the sixth worst conversion in F1 history.
With the team now in need of a Team Principal, a few rumours have linked Fred Vassuer - Team Principal of Alfa Romeo - to the job.
If Vasseur is given the nod - it would settle Leclerc’s fears as both have worked well together in the past. Leclerc had driven for Vasseur’s ART Team during the Monegasque's karting career and in GP3. The partnership was renewed as Leclerc made his debut in 2018 when Vasseur was already Sauber boss.
What’s more worrying for Ferrari is their lack of stable leadership - with Binotto their fourth Team Principal since 2008 - now seeking to find their fifth. Rival teams, Red Bull and Mercedes, have been headed by Christian Horner since 2005 while Toto Wolff has headed the Silver Arrows since 2013.
Ferrari’s last title glory came in 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen as the team triumphed the following season claiming their last Constructors title to date - well over a decade ago.
The pressure is on to find a person to lead the Scuderia back to more consistent winning ways.