As Mattia Binotto begins packing up his desk at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, it has been claimed the Scuderia approached Andreas Seidl and Christian Horner a year ago, offering them the Italian’s job.
Both said no, handing Binotto a year’s reprieve.
That is now over, the 53-year-old having handed in his resignation – “leaving a company that I love, which I have been part of for 28 years” – with reports saying it was a case of jump rather than be pushed.
Binotto’s exit comes after a season in which Ferrari clinched their first race wins since 2019 but fell short in their bid to fight for the championship titles, with their efforts undone by strategy blunders and an unreliable engine.
But it seems Binotto was always living on borrowed time.
According to Auto Motor und Sport’s Andreas Haupt, Ferrari had already “put out feelers” last winter but the “preferred candidates Andreas Seidl and Christian Horner did not want to sit in the ejection seat.”
Both the German, team boss at McLaren, and the Briton, Red Bull’s team boss, wanting to stick with their current teams rather than take the poisoned chalice that is the Ferrari team boss job.
Haupt added: “The top shots don’t dare to approach Maranello. Which says a lot about the state of the Scuderia. If you have to go as a World Championship runner-up, the World Championship title is also mandatory for the newcomer. And nobody can guarantee that.
“The job is in jeopardy before you even start.”
It’s not the first time this has been claimed, Corriere dello Sport adding that Ferrari also approached Franz Tost of AlphaTauri and former Ferrari driver now DTM boss Gerhard Berger. Again they were met with no.
Frederic Vasseur leads the running
They’ve now turned their sights onto Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur, who leads the list of candidates. The Scuderia have reportedly already opened negotiations with the Frenchman but it could all come down to whether or not Alfa Romeo-Sauber are willing to let him go.
“Vasseur might risk it,” Haupt added. “Perhaps because his medium to long-term future at Sauber after Audi’s entry is uncertain.
“If the parties agree, one thing is certain: Ferrari will demand everything from him. A team like the Scuderia, with its internal politics and power games, which Binotto knew very well, requires significantly more attention than the Swiss racing team Sauber.
“Vasseur would have to hunker down at Maranello if he wants to make friends and allies in the team – and take Ferrari to where the team claims it belongs: to the top of the World Championship. And only there.”
Should Vasseur take up the role it could be great news for Charles Leclerc, the Monégasque driver having spent his first season on the F1 grid with Vasseur at Sauber.
Rumours of tension between Binotto and Leclerc
According to Sky Italia’s Carlo Vanzini all was not well between Binotto and 2022 runner-up Charles Leclerc, Silverstone the breaking point in their relationship.
Leclerc, the early championship leader, was frustrated with Ferrari’s strategy blunders, made worse by a call at the British Grand Prix that favoured Carlos Sainz.
That Sunday Leclerc was leading the grand prix when there was a late Safety Car, Ferrari pitting Sainz for fresh tyres but leaving Leclerc out. Sainz quickly pounced, taking the race win while Leclerc fell to fourth.
He was later seen with Binotto, the team boss wagging his finger in his driver’s face.
“If he had done that with a driver from the ’90s then I don’t think the finger would have remained intact,” Vanzini said.
He added of Binotto’s final year in charge: “Complicated seasons, with many lows, few highs and a relationship that seems to have cracked even with the top driver, Charles Leclerc, after the many mistakes that the red cars have made this season.”