Binotto faces tough choices in year of truth for Ferrari

20-01-2022 10:32
F1 News
Binotto faces tough choices in year of truth for Ferrari

Carlos Sainz surprised friend and foe in 2021 with his performance against Charles Leclerc. With new regulations looming and a chance for Ferrari to compete for the world title again, the question is how the Italian team will handle a possible internal battle.

Number one at Ferrari

Ferrari and Formula 1 are forever linked. The Italian brand is indispensable to the sport and F1 without the legendary brand is not F1. The Italians have the most world titles to their name and have been involved in Formula 1 from day one. As such, they have quite a reputation.

That reputation ensures that the greatest drivers always want to drive for Ferrari. Alberto Ascari won the first title with Ferrari after winning the first with Alfa Romeo, and Juan Manuel Fangio was also brought to Maranello after world titles with Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Mercedes. Everything to bring the world title to Italy.

It is a familiar recipe that will continue for years. Ferrari spends by far the most money in Formula 1. Not only on the car and engine but also on the drivers. It is therefore not surprising that drivers like Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel choose to join the team.

However, for some it works out better than for others because spending a lot of money and contracting the best driver does not always result in a world title. Ferrari also misses the title for many years, as is the case now. The last world title was won by Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, after which attempts with Vettel and Alonso came to nothing.

Internal struggle

Under the leadership of Mattia Binotto, however, there has been a change of course at Ferrari. Where Ferrari previously always chose one-star driver and then looked for a second driver, there is now talk of a competitive duo. Leclerc was seen as the new man within Ferrari to lead the team, but Sainz appears to be closer than previously thought.

This situation is not entirely new for Ferrari. Consider, for example, the title fight between Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve in 1979. Villeneuve was the odds-on favourite, but it was the South African from Walter Wolf Racing who ran away with the world title. This duel also went hard against hard.

A similar situation arose from 2007, with Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. The Brazilian was the child of the team, but Raikkonen was brought in as the replacement for Michael Schumacher. Raikkonen won the world title in his first year, but when the Finn lost the duel to Massa in 2008 and 2009, the Brazilian received more support from the team. Halfway through the year, the team always took stock and chose one driver.

Leclerc puts on the pressure

After Alonso, and Vettel had been dominant within Ferrari, a new wind was blowing in 2019 with the arrival of Leclerc. Binotto emphasized prior to the season that it was a learning year for Leclerc and Vettel was still the number one driver. Soon, however, Leclerc proved faster, forcing Binotto to say after a few races that the two were on equal footing.

With this changed status, Vettel had more and more trouble. He lost the team's trust after his blunder in Germany during the 2018 title race, and never regained that trust. The team increasingly rallied behind the young talent and at Ferrari they hoped they had a new 'Verstappen' in the house.

In 2021, however, it turned out that Leclerc is not already as dominant as his former karting rival. Where Max Verstappen has already turned Red Bull Racing completely to his will, the Monegasque does not yet manage to do so. He finished ahead of Sainz more often in qualifying and in races, but in the Spaniard's first year at Ferrari the difference was very small.

Binotto under pressure

Many people are therefore looking forward to 2022 and not least because there are new regulations for this season. The cars will be very different and so there is a chance that the ranking will be turned upside down. With many resources available, Ferrari should always be at the top of the pack, but with the title fight between Red Bull and Mercedes in 2021, the Italians also had a unique opportunity to run away from the competition.

Should Ferrari indeed have a strong car for the coming season, an exciting battle awaits the team's two drivers. Both have ambitions to become world champions. Leclerc was faster in qualifying in 2021, but Sainz eventually scored more points. A unique duel and also important for the careers of both drivers.

However, it is also an important moment for Ferrari's leadership. When Ferrari was in a deep slump in 2020, Binotto mainly pointed to the process of which we would see the outcome in 2022. With these new regulations, he and his team will have a chance to return to the top, so the pressure is on.

The Italian team boss therefore cannot bear it if his drivers lose points because they are fighting each other. With clear frontrunners at Mercedes and Red Bull Racing Ferrari will have to strike directly if they have a good car. Will Ferrari then choose a number one, or will it let the two drivers race?

Who gets the preference at Ferrari

From the past you can see that Ferrari normally chooses a clear number one. Often prior to the season, but with two equal drivers, they also sometimes looked through the season. However, we can say that Binotto is not a typical Ferrari team boss. He is not as dominant a presence, not nearly as flamboyant as his predecessors and certainly does not seem to be a strict leader.

In 2019 and 2020, therefore, Binotto's policies faltered. First he chose Vettel, then he gave both drivers equal chances and rarely did the leader intervene in time. The team boss will have to have learned from this if he wants to avoid a similar situation in 2022. After two years of working in the shadows, the pressure is on again and that sometimes does crazy things to the Italian team.

This article was originally published by Tim, only the Dutch edition of GPblog

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