‘Sacking the guy in charge is what Ferrari used to do and created a culture of fear’

Michelle Foster
Mattia Binotto hand up in a stop during a press conference. Austria July 2022

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto hand up in a stop during a press conference. Austria July 2022

Ferrari cannot go around pointing the finger and sacking staff – that would only lead to a return of a “culture of fear”, says The Race’s Mark Hughes.

After a fast start to the season, Charles Leclerc racing out to a 34-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship after his Australian Grand Prix win, Ferrari’s hopes of winning a first Drivers’ title since 2007 have been dashed one Sunday after another.

Leclerc alone has lost 108 points from Ferrari strategy blunders, reliability problems and his own mistakes, while his team-mate Carlos Sainz has also had a chunk taken away from him.

With Red Bull picking up a lot of the wins Ferrari have thrown away, that has left the Monégasque driver trailing Max Verstappen by 80 points in a title race he can no longer win without the reigning World Champion dropping plenty of points.

 

What is going wrong at Ferrari?

Having shot themselves in the foot time and time again this season, are Ferrari too stubborn for their own good?

 

It has pundits calling for heads to roll, Ralf Schumacher saying a few weeks back he would be surprised if team boss Mattia Binotto was still in his role when F1 returned from the summer break.

Hughes, however, says that would be the Ferrari of old coming to the fore, and that policy of finger-pointing and firing did not work for them back then.

“Sacking the guy in charge is what Ferrari used to do, apart from in the Ross Brawn/Jean Todt era, and it led to a sequence of the team falling ever further and further back and the whole place operating under a culture of fear,” Hughes told The Race’s podcast.

“What Binotto has done is change that. He maybe hasn’t yet managed to combine that with taking on, accepting and eradicating weaknesses without making it fearful for the people there.

“He doesn’t want that fear culture and he seems to have got rid of that very successfully.

“He’s also overseen the most technically impressive Ferrari for many, many years.

“So I think he’s got a lot more right than he’s got wrong.

“But it’s frustrating for Ferrari fans if you keep seeing the same things going wrong over and over again when it’s for the same reason.

“If you can combine what Binotto’s brought with a little bit more of the culture we see at the teams that have been the top teams for a long time, like Mercedes and Red Bull, with regard to how you go about eradicating weaknesses, then I think it will be an absolutely formidable team.

“To sack the man in charge because things have gone wrong would be absolutely the wrong way of thinking.”

However, former Swiss racing driver turned pundit Marc Surer reckons the entire Ferrari strategy team deserve to lose their jobs as they have made one too many bad calls this season.

Ferrari need to find a balance between forgiveness and consequences

While nobody ever wants to operate in a company, or F1 team, where one mistake could cost you your job, Ferrari have made one too many this season.

Binotto insists his team is still learning – specifically, learning how to cope with the pressure, learning how to make the right strategy calls while racing at the front and learning how to win.

But in the midst of all that learning, they are making the same mistakes time and again.

It seems relying too heavily on their data and what the simulations say is right is one of Ferrari’s biggest weaknesses. That, coupled with their reactive strategies rather than controlling ones, cost Leclerc in Monaco, cost him again at Silverstone and again in Hungary.

That’s three race wins, only one of which – Silverstone – the other Ferrari managed to pick up.

Having made the call not to lay the blame on one man or woman’s shoulders, Ferrari have to find a balance between forgiveness and consequences because accepting mistakes without learning from them will never win them a World title.