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Will Binotto follow this well-trodden path to Mercedes?

Will Binotto follow this well-trodden path to Mercedes?

30-11-2022 09:00

Mattia Binotto might be one of the most experienced members in the paddock, but at just 53 years old, there seems to be plenty of time for another chapter in his Formula 1 career following his Ferrari departure. It seems that Binotto walked away from the job himself if Ferrari's reports are correct. That brings to an end a long and lustrous career at the Scuderia. 

A young man joins forces with Schumacher 

Binotto was born in Switzerland to Italian parents in November 1969. Binotto grew up in Switzerland. In 1994, he graduated in Mechanical Engineering from the Lausanne Polytechnic and then studied for a Masters in Automobile Engineering at the Enzo Ferrari engineering department at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Following his graduation, Binotto joined Scuderia Ferrari in 1995 as an engineer in the engine department of the test team. In the same year, Michael Schumacher won his second World Championship with Benetton and Ferrari were frankly in the wilderness. Similar to when Binotto became team boss, Ferrari finished the 1995 World Championship in third place, but a long way behind the eventual winners. In 1996, Ferrari advanced to second place but finished almost 100 points behind Williams. A gap that would look far bigger in the modern day given the points format during that time period. 

In 1997 Binotto received a promotion. He became an engineer for the Ferrari Formula 1 team. Of course, it wasn't down to Binotto entirely but Ferrari's results improved dramatically. In 1999, they beat McLaren to the Constructors Championship. Ferrari then won every single championship for the following five years. A reign that saw Schumacher become a record 7-time World Champion. 

The engine

In 2004, he was appointed as head of the trackside Engine Department for the race team and then from 2007, he was in charge of Power Unit operations. He was appointed deputy head of the Engine and Electronics department in 2013 and went on to be Chief Operating Officer for the Power Unit. Ferrari went on to win both World Championships in 2007 before going on to claim the 2008 Constructors' World Championship. Binotto was certainly part of Ferrari's best times in Formula 1.

Ferrari then couldn't match Red Bull's dominance. Fernando Alonso came close a couple of times but ultimately Sebastian Vettel came away with the trophies. Mercedes then burst onto the scene and aced the turbo-hybrid rules and regulations. Ferrari were Mercedes closest challenger in some of the years, but could never keep the fight going. Ferrari promoted Binotto to Chief Technical Officer of Scuderia Ferrari in 2016. Perhaps the main target was to draw upon his engine knowledge and build a better power unit. 

Maurizio Arrivabene received the sack from Ferrari, leaving the team principal role open. Since 7th January 2019, he took on the role of Managing Director of the Gestione Sportiva and Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal. 

Time as Team Principal

Suspicion of Ferrari's engine started as early as 2018. Some teams started to question how they could generate so much more power. Red Bull and Mercedes started to speak up about the issues, and in Monaco, Charlie Whiting had to deny any wrongdoing. Questions were again raised in 2019, this time with greater authority. Renault also weighed in on the debate at this stage. Almost out of nowhere, Charles Leclerc secured back-to-back wins in Spa and Monza. The straight-line performance on these tracks is important and questions were raised again. Eventually, Ferrari had their wrists slapped, and any wrongdoing was kept confidential. From the moment this started, Ferrari's performance reduced drastically. Nobody knows whether Binotto was behind this but as Chief Techincal Officer, then Team Principal and a deep background in engines, you'd expect he had a high degree of input.

2020 marked one of the worst Formula 1 seasons in Ferrari history. They finished in sixth place. All focus then turned to the new rules and regulations for the 2022 season and it's fair to say Ferrari aced them. It was close, but most say Ferrari launched the best car. Their performance in a single qualifying lap was absolutely better than Red Bull for most of the season, but they couldn't turn this into good race pace. Combined with strategy mistakes, driver errors and less development, Max Verstappen went on to win the title without much of a challenge following the summer break. 

Ferrari didn't get the best out of their car and ultimately, that fact rests on Binotto's shoulders. 

What next for Binotto? 

Binotto is still young when it comes to top positions as an engineer and Team Principal. His best performance lies in the engine department and if he wants to stay in Formula 1 then most teams will go after him. His power unit knowledge will come in helpful. The engine rules and regulations will be changing in 2026 so perhaps Binotto would like to focus on the long term. Any changes made to power units in the coming years are very limited given the rule freeze, though reliability issues can be looked into. 

Audi are coming into Formula 1 and set to join forces with Alfa Romeo. A team that Binotto will know well because of their links to Ferrari. Binotto would be a good engineer to go after to help kick-start their project in Formula 1. Renault (Alpine) are lagging behind in the power unit department. A lot of reliability issues cost them huge points during the 2022 season. They will have to solve this if they want to return to the top. But is Binotto the right man to solve these issues? 

However, history has taught us that a common path for former Ferrari engineers is Mercedes. James Allison, Aldo Costa and Lorenzo Sassi all spent time at Ferrari. It's a well-trodden path from Ferrari to Mercedes. Over the last 12-24 months, Mercedes have lost a lot of engineers in the engine department to Red Bull Racing as they built up Red Bull PowerTrains. If they're still on the search for a high-profile replacement, then Binotto could be receiving an offer and therefore walking down a well-trodden path.