Mario Andretti’s advice to the next Ferrari boss: You don’t always have to prove you’re smart

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, drives in practice. Singapore, September 2022.

As Mattia Binotto paid the price after Ferrari’s 2022 title quest imploded, Mario Andretti has asked was that “really necessary”.

Formula 1’s first season under the all-new technical regulations heralded the return of Ferrari as race winners and even championship contenders. At least it did until it didn’t.

While the Scuderia had an incredible start to the season, two wins in three races, they only managed another two in 19 races and none in the back half of the season.

Instead their campaign was littered with reliability gremlins and botched strategies, each and every one of those playing into the hands of Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

By mid-season the fight was over, Ferrari relegated to second place with Binotto handing in his resignation after the season.

In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Andretti asked: “Was it really necessary to change the man at the top?

“You would need to know more about it to be able to make an informed judgement but what is clear to me is that there needs to be a change in strategy.

“When you have such a fast car, you don’t have to frantically do something different.

“There were scenes in which the opponents rolled out on soft tyres, but Ferrari drove on medium-hard. The other top teams never do that.

“You don’t always have to prove you’re particularly smart.”

In fact instead of smart, the 82-year-old says Ferrari’s strategies came across as the exact opposite.

“We saw certain stupidities there,” he continued. “I don’t know who was responsible for that but the system needs to be changed.

“Drivers need to be more involved, only they feel how the tyre behaves. Just when I think about how Charles Leclerc was sent onto the track in Brazil with intermediates – mamma mia!”

That Friday, Ferrari sent Leclerc out on a set of intermediates even though the track was dry as their forecast was for imminent rain. It didn’t arrive until later in the session, the driver crying “beautiful, f***king beautiful” as he qualified P9.

But it’s not all negative from the American as he believes Ferrari can challenge, they just need to cut out human errors that, ironically, are all too often the result of going with what the data says instead of the on-track facts.

“For me it is clear,” he said. “Ferrari has everything to be competitive. Except every now and then they experience human error.

“And I believe this failure is based on over-reliance on data and technology. Computers and high-tech are all well and good, but from time to time you also need experience.

“I expect us to see a strong Ferrari in 2023 and that’s good for the whole of Formula 1. If I had a choice and could pick a car for the coming season – from Red Bull Racing, Ferrari or Mercedes – I would choose Ferrari every time.

“It’s a risk, but a nice one. Ferrari remains Ferrari, everyone wants to work there. And when you can compete as a Ferrari driver, your career takes on a whole different meaning.”

Ferrari are said to be lining up Alfa Romeo team boss Fred Vasseur as Binotto’s replacement, the Scuderia expected to confirm him later this month.

Read more: Is Ferrari’s next F1 team boss right under their noses after Mattia Binotto exit?