RACING

“Every day” is difficult but Ferrari F1 is united

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He enjoyed the heights of brilliant victories, and even a 1-2 in the season opener in Bahrain, in agony of seeing further success slip through his fingers due to engine explosions, d pilot errors or strategic stumbles.

For some, the roller coaster of emotions through the countryside might be too much to bear.

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But for Binotto, who has been charting Ferrari’s recovery plan since taking office in early 2019, what keeps him going is his conviction that behind the walls of the Maranello factory, the team is pulling in the same meaning.

Yes, he has had his challenges, and there are certainly things he could have done better in 2022, but Binotto remains confident that his long-term plan to give Ferrari the foundation for regular world title challenges remains on. the right path.

It is clear, on one point, however: that life as Ferrari team principal through the lows of 2020/2021, through the highs and lows of this season, is no job for the shy.

Asked by Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview if there have been any difficult times for him in the past 18 months, he smiled: “Every day! I think it’s certainly not been an easy journey from 2019, when I was named team manager, to today.

“We went through 2020, a very difficult year, then 2021. But even 2022, because we are fighting for the best, sometimes there are races where we don’t get the potential of the car. So it’s not not easy.

“But what I can say is that I’m happy in the role. I’m happy because I know I have a great team. The team is united. It’s great to see them working together.

Pit wall drama

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75, pit stop

Photo by: Ferrari

While Binotto regularly talks about the strong team around him, there are times when he feels the weight of the world entirely on his shoulders.

This is no more true than when the TV cameras turn to him on the pit wall during Ferrari’s most difficult times: as when Charles Leclerc suffered the heartache of his engine failures as he led to Baku and Spain.

Binotto admits that the moments are emotionally difficult to manage, but he also has a duty to remain calm.

When asked what was going through his mind and how difficult those times were when things went wrong in such a public way, he replied, “It’s very difficult for two reasons.

“The first if we talk about engine failure, I managed to [department] myself in the past. And seeing smoke is never great. It is therefore rather a feeling of depression.

“No doubt when we see that we are leading the race, as Charles was leading in Baku and even Carlos [Sainz] I would say that in Austria these are problems you would never like to see.

“I stay calm, but believe me, I’m depressed. It’s difficult and you take a few moments to try to react and then you have to really think about the next steps.

“So what is needed and what is required? And not just in terms of technique, but more in terms of the team. So what can I do to help? What can I do I do to make sure everyone stays calm and focused, protected even from outside attacks and comments?”

Binotto is not someone who blames others when things go wrong, or even leads his team with an iron fist such that the staff fears for his job.

Instead, he believes that staff should have the power to make decisions that are in the best interest of the team; which means he must trust them completely.

“I think I empower the people 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 always try to empower them and give them whatever it takes to do their job. And I trust the people around me.

“I’m not the one who will go into detail on every item. I focus more on myself, making sure that, as I said before, they have everything needed to get the job done.

“I know how important the atmosphere in the team is, I know how important the mental approach and the culture are. We work on it a lot inside the team, trying to change our culture compared to what we were, and what we think is the right attitude and the right behaviors to put in place.

“I can see that the team is kind of very close-knit and I think you can achieve that through transparency. Even I think you have to be smart too, sometimes transparent and authentic.

The long journey to recovery

Carlos Sainz's burnt-out Ferrari F1-75 car after fire causes retirement

Carlos Sainz’s burnt-out Ferrari F1-75 car after fire causes retirement

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

From the outside, based on the ebb and flow of Ferrari’s results over recent seasons, the turnaround this season after the problems the team was in in 2020 has been remarkable – and some have suggested it’s coming. luck at the start of a new circle of rules.

However, Binotto thinks appearances have been deceiving; and that Ferrari’s recent campaigns have failed to show the true picture of the team’s progress.

He says mistakes made by the team with its 2020 car and powertrain have been magnified by the development freeze imposed by the coronavirus pandemic; he therefore paid a much higher price for his stumble.

“There is no silver bullet in F1,” he said. “It didn’t only take a year or two [to recover]. It was more than that.

“I think what we have today started a long time ago, and maybe even in 2016 or 2017. It has been a continuous building of the team, we are improving.

“It’s a question of organization, it’s a question of skills, it’s a question of experience, it’s a question of methodology and tools, it’s a question of assets, and when I say assets that can be a simulator, wind tunnel enhancement, whatever you have.”

Reflecting on the troubled 2020 campaign, Binotto said: “It was more than one step back, it was three steps back. Why? I think in 2020 we just missed our project.

“And then everything was frozen at the start of the season. It was as if Mercedes had been frozen in the first race of the season: what would have been with them?

“I don’t think it’s a team that isn’t able to develop. She’s able to make a good car, able to fight for the best, but if you freeze your project in the first race and you kind of made mistakes, like Mercedes did this season, then you stay there all season.

“But also 2020 was the product of what we tried to put in place in 2019, where we completely overhauled the organization and the team.

“In 2020 and 2021 we only had a limited opportunity to develop the car, which was a difficult car, so I think 2020 or 2021 does not reflect the full capability of the team at the time.

This long-term perspective is why Binotto believes Ferrari is on a steady path to the front of the grid, rather than rushing there in a specific time frame.

“I think the team, as I said from 2017, just tries to improve every year,” he said.

“Today, I think we have more real feedback on his ability. But no doubt we’ve gotten better, no doubt we’ve gotten better every season, and no doubt I think 2020 has served us well in kind of forcing even more of the need for us to improve more: in analyzing all the weaknesses at the time, the project of the organization, try to set up something that will be better for the future.

“And from 2020 we certainly made changes in the organization with clearer roles, clear responsibilities. We had a new simulator, so I think it was definitely a good time for us during the journey of say, ‘Okay, let’s make a point, point out the weaknesses and try to fix them all.’ And I think that’s been done.”

No change of approach now

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1st position, Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, celebrate at the Parc Fermé

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, 1st position, Mattia Binotto, Team Principal, Ferrari, celebrate at the Parc Fermé

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

While Ferrari started 2022 well, their form ahead of the summer break allowed rivals Red Bull to pull away up front.

But despite struggling with engine reliability and missed opportunities through strategy calls, Binotto sees the rest of the campaign as part of that ongoing journey since 2017.

That’s why he doesn’t see the need to shake things up drastically before F1 returns to action at the Belgian Grand Prix.

“I don’t think there’s anything different we need to do,” he said. “I think it’s just to continue our journey of continuous improvement step by step, focusing on each race.

“I think we have the potential to win races at the moment. It’s just about making sure that when we get to the checkered flag we’ll be in first place. But that doesn’t mean we have to change. our approach.

“Like we said, there’s no magic bullet, so I don’t think we need to change ourselves. We’ve proven we can do a good job.

“It’s just a matter of step by step to get there, get used to it, and whatever the outcome for 2022, we try to be ready for 2023.”

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