Jean Alesi: Ferrari ‘only missing little things’ and ‘need more time’

Thomas Maher
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on the grid. Budapest, July 2022.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc on the grid. Budapest, July 2022.

Former Ferrari racer Jean Alesi has called for patience with the Scuderia, saying Mattia Binotto needs time to build a winning team.

Alesi has become the latest voice to call for calm regarding Ferrari, as the Scuderia’s troubled 2022 has seen the team crumble away from an early championship lead.

Last week, former team boss Cesare Fiorio showed his support for Mattia Binotto as Ferrari have become race winners again after failing to win anything in 2020 and ’21.

At the beginning of F1’s revolutionary new ruleset, Ferrari sprung back to the front of the sport as Charles Leclerc won two of the first three races. This netted him a 46-point lead over Max Verstappen, whose Red Bull retired from the same two races. However, through various mistakes and reliability issues, Leclerc now trails Verstappen by 80 points in the Drivers’ Championship.

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?

Ferrari, too, have fallen away in the Constructors’ Championship. Now trailing Red Bull by 97 points, they are just 30 points clear of Mercedes – the reigning Constructors’ Champions surging back during the season, albeit with no wins under their belt just yet.

Unsurprisingly, Ferrari’s downward trajectory during the season has resulted in dismay and anger in the Italian media. Binotto appeared reluctant to point the fingers of blame at any operational personnel following their disastrous Hungarian Grand Prix effort, instead choosing to single out the performance of the car as inadequate.

Jean Alesi: Building a winning team takes time

Binotto’s calm, methodical approach has impressed Alesi, who echoed the thoughts of his former Ferrari boss Fiorio. Alesi, who drove for Ferrari for five seasons between 1991 and 1995, raced under Fiorio for the first four races in ’91, just before the Italian was deposed from his position at the Scuderia.

The 1995 Canadian Grand Prix winner said that Binotto should be given the benefit of time to build a solid foundation at Ferrari, just like what former team boss Jean Todt needed to do between 1993 and 1996 before Ferrari launched a proper title tilt with Michael Schumacher in 1997.

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“What we have seen in the past at Ferrari when they won with Jean and Michael, they made something unique,” Alesi said in an interview with The Guardian.

“What Binotto is doing at the moment is building the team with new people, fresh blood, and honestly it takes time.

“So far they have been fantastic to make a quick car but now they are missing some little things to be perfect. They need time.”

Ferrari on the rise, but will Mattia Binotto take hard stance?

Earlier this summer, Mattia Binotto raised eyebrows when he said that Ferrari’s goal this year was not to win the world championships.

While, in this regard, Ferrari appear to have succeeded with aplomb, Binotto was referring to this year being one where the Scuderia climbed back onto the podium and figured out how to win races again while his task is to continue finding weaknesses within the team to, presumably, fix and then be able to fight against the more operationally sharp outfits at Red Bull and Mercedes.

“Being competitive is one fact. Becoming World Champion is another level of task,” he told the BBC at the time.

With unreliability becoming a key weakness during 2022, another key area clearly identifiable in need of fixing is that of strategy. Long-term department head Inaki Rueda has come increasingly under scrutiny this year, particularly after the Hungarian Grand Prix debacle, and the big question mark for the rest of this season is whether or not he’ll be able to convince Binotto he’s the right person for the job next season.

Certainly, Rueda doesn’t have the backing of Fiorio. While the Italian believes Binotto needs time, he reckons time is up for Rueda to still be in such a position of authority.

“I certainly expected an intervention by [executive chairman] John Elkann after the events in Budapest,” Fiorio told Autosprint, as quoted by the Irish Mirror.

“Unfortunately, the mistakes have been numerous. The 2022 car is very competitive and you can see that the team has made progress compared to the last two years. The credit for that must be given to Binotto, who has always been very skilled on the technical side and is leading the engineers to build a winning machine.

“Mattia was originally a designer and he knows how to do that job very well, as shown with the F1-75. He just needs people who fit better with the culture. Binotto needs to stay in place, but not Rueda – he has never positively influenced the different teams he has worked for.”