It was confirmed on Tuesday morning that Mattia Binotto will be stepping down as Ferrari team principal at the end of this year. With the recent news in mind, we are taking a look back over some of Binotto’s best moments in the role.
Binotto has been the Ferrari team principal for the last four seasons, but has worked within the company for a number of years, starting in 1995 as a power unit engineer. He was then promoted in 2013 to head of the engine department and then again in 2016 to chief technical officer (CTO). Replacing Maurizio Arrivabene in 2019, Binotto then became the team principal as well as continuing as the CTO.
The 2019 F1 season saw the introduction of Binotto as the team principal with a clear objective to get the team back to its former glory of winning championships. Along with Binotto joining the team, Charles Leclerc replaced Kimi Räikkönen as the teams latest driver to drive alongside F1 legend Sebastian Vettel.
The season was a success with the team coming second in the constructor’s championship and having three race wins. The SF90’s potential was shown in the second round of the 2019 season in Bahrain where the team had a front row lock-out with Leclerc in first followed by Vettel. With many podium finishes in the first half of the season, the team headed into the summer break sitting in second behind Mercedes who had been dominating.
The team had a flying start when they returned from the summer break with Leclerc bagging pole positions and victories at Spa-Francorchamps and at Ferrari’s home race, Monza. The team then also went on to get a one-two finish at Singapore, which they hadn’t done in two years at that point.
Reflecting on his first season as team principal, Binotto said:
“It has certainly been an intense season with a lot to do. We have restructured and reorganised the team. In the meantime, we have always tried to address and improve the car, and I think we did this through the season, at least to some level.
“There is nothing that has to be changed in terms of big changes – it is a matter of experience. We have always said we are a new team, especially in the key roles, and we are on a very steep learning curve.”
With a good start in his role, Binotto faced a different scenario for the 2020 season with the coronavirus pandemic and rumours of four-time world champion Vettel leaving the team. When asked in 2019 about Vettel’s future with the team Binotto said:
“If there is any ambiguous situation at the start of the season, Sebastian is the one who’s got today more experience, many years he’s with us, he’s already won championships, so he’s our champion.”
However, Binotto’s tune had changed in 2020 when asked about the same situation. He said:
“It’s developed. Charles has got a year’s experience with us. They will be on the same level, they can both fight to be ahead – so let them race.”
It was announced just a few months later that Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the season. Binotto said at the time:
“This is a decision taken jointly by ourselves and Sebastian, one which both parties feel is for the best. It was not an easy decision to reach, given Sebastian’s worth as a driver and as a person.
“There was no specific reason that led to this decision, apart from the common and amicable belief that the time had come to go our separate ways in order to reach our respective objectives.”
This was a big moment for Binotto during his time as the team principal as he had to choose a replacement for Vettel who was making the move to Aston Martin. Binotto signed Spanish driver Carlos Sainz to create the driver line-up they still have today.
Leclerc achieved a second place podium at the Austin Grand Prix which was the best result for the team that year with them suffering from technical issues. The team finished the 2020 season in sixth in the constructor’s championship with three podium finishes.
When speaking ahead of the 2021 season, Binotto explained the motive to move away from the previous disappointing year and look ahead. He said:
“Certainly last year was a big, big disappointment. We know that we cannot repeat such a bad result; we know that we need somehow to do better in 2021 – that is what I’m expecting.
“I think it’s really a matter of mentality: team mentality, drivers’ mentality, and as Team Principal. No doubt I’m fully aware of the responsibility I’ve got, being part of such a team. I feel… not pressure, but I feel the responsibility, as well the pride, and I know that, as I said, initially we simply need to do better.”
The 2021 season did see a significant improvement to the teams performance, however they were still not able to reach the likes of Red Bull and Mercedes. With this in mind, Binotto decided to look ahead to the 2022 season and the change in rules as it was clear they would not be in a position to compete with Red Bull and Mercedes so would not hurt their 2021 performance too much.
Despite this, they did introduce a hybrid system upgrade to the power unit in the second half of the 2021 season “to gain experience for the 2022 car project” which showed promising results.
The 2021 season finished with them coming third in the constructor’s championship with five podium finishes.
After the season, Binotto explained:
“We didn’t set third position as the final objective for ourselves; we always said third will be the simple outcome of trying to work well as a team and in terms of team effort now.
“Finishing third… is encouraging, because it’s a declaration that the team somehow has made progress and is going in the right direction.”
The 2022 season saw a massive improvement for the team with their development plan in 2021 paying off. The team had a fantastic start with one-two finish in Bahrain with both Red Bull’s retiring from the race with dramatic technical issues in the last few laps.
The team achieved another double podium finish in Saudi Arabia and another win for Leclerc in Australia. Finally, the goal of bringing the team back to their championship winning days looked like it might actually happen. However unfortunately, after the strong start to the year the team were met with countless reliability issues and poor strategical choices. Whilst this was happening, Red Bull were lengthening their lead in the championship and later took the championship win at the Austin Grand Prix with Max Verstappen taking the driver’s championship win at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Mercedes also suffered with many issues in the 2022 season so Ferrari ended the season in second for the constructor’s championship with four race wins. Leclerc also came second in the driver’s championship after a close battle with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.