Karun Chandhok: Mattia Binotto’s Ferrari exit feels like football manager change

Jamie Woodhouse
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. Australia April 2022.

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto looks on while in the paddock. Australia April 2022.

Ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok used a football reference in regards to Mattia Binotto’s Ferrari exit, questioning the team.

Ferrari had reason for great optimism early in the 2022 campaign, their F1-75 the fastest challenger out there on the track as rivals Red Bull suffered with early reliability woes.

But a situation which looked so promising made a complete U-turn, strategical and driver errors, plus reliability issues of their own, starting a decline which then saw Ferrari finish the year with an F1-75 that was slower than the Red Bull RB18 in race trim.

Max Verstappen took the Drivers’ title with a margin of 146 points over Charles Leclerc, while Ferrari finished 205 adrift of Red Bull in the Constructors’.

The end result was Binotto handing in his resignation effective as of the end of the year, with former Alfa Romeo boss Frédéric Vasseur taking over.

But, with Ferrari’s issues mainly revolving around reliability and operations, Chandhok does not see how Binotto leaving is the answer to these problems.

“Personally, I don’t necessarily think that’s the answer,” Chandhok told Sky Sports F1. “It feels a bit sort of football manager-esque.

“There were issues on the operational side. If you look at it from a technical standpoint, in terms of R&D [research and development] and design, they produced a very fast car, they are the fastest car over one lap this year.

“But operationally, reliability wise, they have issues. And I don’t think just changing the person at the top is necessarily the answer.”

A key change to the Ferrari culture which Binotto tried to introduce in his final season was to make it one of no-blame, wanting Ferrari to move on from the days of finger pointing.

At times though this went too far, especially with Binotto denying for much of the season that the team had a problem in the strategy department, when quite clearly they did.

So, Sky F1 commentator David Croft believes Binotto paid the price for sticking at that no-blame culture, rather than Ferrari’s perceived underachievement with the car they had.

“I was thinking about this, did Mattia Binotto pay the price for a season of over-expectation for Ferrari?” Croft pondered. “But no, is the answer to that, as you say they have engineered the fastest car.

“Did he pay the price for trying to protect the staff at Maranello from the intense scrutiny and any public blame? Yes, I think he did.

“It’s interesting. Toto Wolff creates a culture of no blame at Mercedes. Mattia Binotto tries to do the same thing at Ferrari, one is fêted for that and the other has to resign.”

Chadhok pointed out though that a no-blame culture does not really work if there are problems that need fixing, suggesting Binotto was guilty of being too protective of his colleagues at Maranello.

“There’s a difference though,” Chandhok began in response to Croft’s assessment.

“Because there’s one thing about creating a no-blame culture, however, if somebody is not performing and in their case, for example, the strategy team wasn’t, you have to make changes.

“And I think Mattia perhaps leans too much towards protecting the people and not sacking people mid-season, and maybe hesitated in making the changes that were required.”

Chandhok reckons that the drivers also must take responsibility for some of the strategical errors from Ferrari, though pointed out that it was Leclerc who often suffered when “blindly” following the calls, while Carlos Sainz made a point of arguing them at times.

“We can go back and count six strategic errors across the season and actually, they were all on the Leclerc side,” said Chandhok.

“Silverstone, Monaco, Brazil, where they asked Carlos to do certain things, and he said ‘what are you talking about? No, I’m going refuse’, whereas Charles, sort of blindly went with what the team did.

“So there has to be a certain amount of emphasis put on the driver as well in those decisions.

“For me, the turning point in Ferrari’s campaign was Baku. They arrived in Baku, Leclerc eight points behind Max. That’s, if he gets a win and the fastest lap, they are equal.

“They had a DNF, grid penalty for the next race in Canada, they left Montreal eight days later 49 points behind, to me that eight-day period turned the Championship.”

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