Binotto eager to hasten Race Director improvements

Editor
Ferrari's Mattia Binotto with Mercedes' Toto Wolff in the paddock at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Baku, June 2022.

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says a lack of consistency in race direction during the early part of the season needs rectifying as quickly as possible.

Binotto admitted Ferrari have been left unhappy by some of the decisions made by the Race Director during the first eight races of the 2022 season, but is aware it will simply take time for the new personnel to find their feet in overseeing the sport.

With former Race Director Michael Masi ousted over the winter, he has been replaced by two men – Eduardo Freitas and Niels Wittich on a rotational basis. Both are highly experienced race directors from other categories of motorsport, but 2022 is their first time at the helm of Formula 1.

It has been a learning process for both and Binotto acknowledged the difficulties for both men as they quickly try to find their feet as an authoritative figure overseeing the races – something he said has not been achieved on all occasions.

“[It’s] certainly not an easy job,” Binotto told media over the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend.

“I think when you are there and you need to sit and decide, it’s not an easy one – as the strategy one.

“These guys need some more experience. It’s not something you learn from the very first race. If I look at the start of the season, certainly as Ferrari we cannot be happy with that. I think often we have been disadvantaged by decisions, but that’s the way it is. We understand the difficulty.”

While Binotto did not go into specifics, it is likely he was referring to an example such as Monaco where the Race Directors came in for some criticism after appearing to be overly cautious about starting the race.

The safety car leading the pack. Monaco, May 2022.

Also that weekend, Ferrari lodged a protest against both Red Bulls for touching the pit exit line as they emerged from the pit lane. According to the Race Director’s notes before the event, this was not permitted but was legal according to the Sporting Regulations – which meant Ferrari’s protests were thrown out as the Race Director’s notes do not supersede the regulations.

Binotto said close collaboration between the Race Directors and the teams is imperative to hasten their comfort and experience in dealing with F1-specific issues.

“I think in order to make them improve, we need to help them as well,” he said.

“I think it has to be a collaborative, let me say, collaboration between the teams and the Race Directors, to make sure they understand, they improve as fast as possible.

“Because [there’s] no doubt that so far in the season, sometimes there was no consistency in decisions, I think we cannot deny that. As we cannot deny, it’s not an easy job. So it will take some time. We just need to hasten it as much as possible.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff agreed with his Ferrari counterpart and said every race that passes by, the more experience Wittich and Freitas will have to call upon.

“It’s a difficult job because you are also in the spotlight and certainly Monaco, thrown into this weather condition, climate, and then suddenly you need to make decisions, that is very difficult,” he said.

“I think the more races will pass, the more experience they will get, the more they will cope also with the pressure Formula 1 brings with it.

“But they are part of Formula 1, as are the teams, as the teams make mistakes like wheels not on the car, or you get the strategy wrong, so in the same way the Race Director is in the firing line. So I think it’s the same for everyone.”

Haas’ team principal Guenther Steiner said Wittich and Freitas have been doing a “decent job” as their experience grows in F1.

“After last year, the Abu Dhabi race, the Race Director is a lot more in the spotlight than in the years before,” he said.

“So everybody looks at them and every little mistake, they are more criticised than before and that cannot be easy.

“But we just have to give them a little bit of time and I think they will get there. I think they came in not having done as a Race Director in Formula 1 before – they are doing a decent job.”