OPINION: Binotto jumped before he was pushed

Carl Bingham/Motorsport Images

OPINION: Binotto jumped before he was pushed

Insights & Analysis

OPINION: Binotto jumped before he was pushed

By

There’s rarely smoke without fire, even when it comes to Formula 1 rumors. And where Ferrari is concerned, the immense focus by the majority of the Italian media on one team means it regularly breaks news that ultimately proves to be true.

That’s exactly what happened with the end of Mattia Binotto’s tenure at the Scuderia. Reports started surfacing in the week before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that Binotto was on the way out and Fred Vasseur would replace him, leading to what is likely to become an infamous statement from Ferrari that said: “In relation to speculation in certain media regarding Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto’s position, Ferrari states that these rumors are totally without foundation.”

Only, they were very well founded indeed.

Even Binotto himself was worried by them at the time, and had a call with Ferrari chairman John Elkann to try and find out more.

“Obviously when these speculations were out I had a chat with my chairman John Elkann, together we discuss openly what was the best way to move forward and we decided to release a statement,” Binotto said. “That was maybe the best way to close any speculations and clearly those are speculations, totally, with no foundation.”

That’s important because it shows what a rapid turnaround it has been over the past two weeks, especially given the context that Binotto resigned his position.

Clearly that resignation came off the back of further information reaching Binotto that he wasn’t going to be given time to continue the work he has done at Maranello, and so he took the decision to go himself.

Binotto was brought in under Louis C. Camilleri’s tenure as CEO, but Camilleri left at the end of 2020 and it has taken less than two years for Binotto to follow suit under Benedetto Vigna’s management. 

Fred Vasseur is the heavy favorite to replace Binotto after sources linked him to the role in Abu Dhabi, but he’s likely going to face a massive task to make it a long-term position. In fact, anyone is.

Whether Vasseur or another candidate takes over, the warning signs from Binotto’s situation are there. The Italian took over a team in 2019 that had a very powerful engine – too powerful, it turned out – and by the year’s end was massively hamstrung by an FIA clampdown. From there it endured a horror year in Ferrari terms, finishing sixth in the constructors’ championship in 2020, before signs of progress a season later as it moved back up to third.

But this season is where the hard work done from a technical point of view started to pay off. Ferrari was back to winning ways, establishing itself as the most consistent challenger to Red Bull and beating Mercedes in the standings. Binotto did the hard part in turning around the technical aspects to deliver a power unit that rivaled the best in terms of performance, and a car that could compete.

Where the failings still lay were largely on the operational side. Ferrari suffered reliability issues and made multiple strategic blunders that ensured any hopes of fighting for the title deep into the season had evaporated by the summer.

Binotto’s public comments regularly drew criticism for the very fact that he didn’t criticize others or admit mistakes externally. That’s the role a team boss regularly has to take to protect their employees, but sometimes he was defending the indefensible.

As it turns out, that approach didn’t impress senior management. Instead of appreciating Binotto taking the flak, it was hurting his reputation in a way that tends to be seen more regularly among soccer coaches than F1 team principals.

History shows that it takes a long time to turn an F1 team into a winner, and stability and patience are key to that. Ferrari has shown none of the above by forcing its team principal to jump before he’s pushed despite the clear progress that’s been made on the track. That’s the hardest part to address.

Binotto speaks of “regret” in his resignation statement and he’ll certainly regret a lot of things about the way 2022 panned out. It was a far from perfect display and changes did need to be made, but a new team principal will still be faced with the same issues and will need time to rectify them.

It’s time that Binotto could tell he clearly wasn’t going to get.

MX-5 Cup | Round 2 – Daytona | Livestream

More RACER