Mattia Binotto on Ferrari DNFs: ‘I’m staying calm, but believe me, I’m depressed’

Jamie Woodhouse
Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, answers a question. Baku, June 2022..

Ferrari's Mattia Binotto looks to the side as he answers a question in the media pen. Baku, June 2022.

Behind the persona of calmness, Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto says the team’s reliability issues have made him “depressed”.

After the 2022 campaign got off to such a strong start for Ferrari, leaving many questioning who could stop them from returning to the summit of Formula 1, it is alarming how the situation has changed so drastically.

There has been plenty of talk about Ferrari’s strategical decisions letting them down this season, as well as driver errors, specifically Charles Leclerc crashing out while leading the French Grand Prix, but reliability has also been a major problem.

Twice a power unit failure caused has Leclerc to retire from the lead, first in Spain and then in Baku, while Carlos Sainz was threatening to make it a Ferrari one-two before his power unit gave out at the Austrian Grand Prix.

 

 

Leclerc now trails Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 80 points in the Drivers’ standings, while in the Constructors’, Ferrari are 97 adrift of Red Bull.

Despite all of these setbacks, Binotto at least on the outside has remained seemingly unflappable, though internally he admits that he is hurting.

Especially on the reliability side, having headed up Ferrari’s engine department in the past.

“It is very hard for two reasons,” Binotto told Motorsport.com when asked for his thought process and the difficulty when things go wrong in the public eye.

“The first if we are speaking about engine failure, I managed that [department] myself in the past. And to see smoke is never great. So this is more a feeling of being depressed.

“No doubt when you see that we are leading the race, as Charles was leading in Baku and even Carlos [Sainz] I would say in Austria, they are problems that you would never like to see.

“I’m staying calm, but believe me, I’m depressed. It’s difficult and you take a few moments, trying to react, then you really need to think about the next steps.

“So, what is needed and what is required? And not only in terms of technical, but more in terms of team. So, what can I do to help? What can I do to make sure that everybody remains calm and focused, protected even from external attacks and comment?”

Heading into the 2022 campaign, Ferrari spoke of moving on from the era of finger-pointing.

And Binotto explained that while he is “very strict”, it is his intention to “empower” people and show that he trusts them.

“I think I’m empowering the people which are around me,” said Binotto. “I think I’m not brutal, but I’m strict. And people around me know that I can be very strict.

“But I think more than that, I’m trying always to empower them, and give them all what’s required to do their job. And I trust the people around me.

“I’m not the one that will go into the detail of every single element. I more focus on myself, making sure that, as I said before, they have got whatever is required to do the job.

“I know how important is the mood in the team, I know how important is the mental approach and the culture. We are working a lot on it inside of the team, trying to change our culture compared to what it was us, and what we believe is the right attitude and behaviours to put in place.

“I can see that the team is somehow very united and I think that you can get that through transparency. Even I think you need to be smart as well, sometimes transparent and genuine.”

Clearly the change for Ferrari has not gone far enough yet

For all the talk of Binotto being depressed over the power unit issues, which over time Ferrari will look to fix, he has maintained that strategy is not a weak area for the team, which more comes across as denial rather than trust in the personnel at this stage.

Ex-McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley discussed the topic of Ferrari strategy recently, explaining that all of his friends who worked for Ferrari said there is a lack of freedom and confidence to make decisions, while Ferrari’s ex-press officer Alberto Antonini called for a culture overhaul so that Ferrari’s staff could be free from working in fear.

This information on both counts came from past Ferrari employees, so there is some pretty strong evidence to say that Ferrari has not eliminated this culture, but at the same time, they cannot go too far in the other direction and refuse to call out departments of the team which are not delivering.

Binotto has still yet to find that perfect balance.