Fifth team boss already leaving Ferrari: Binotto is not the problem

Fifth team boss already leaving Ferrari: Binotto is not the problem

29-11-2022 12:53 Last update: 15:31

Mattia Binotto is leaving Ferrari and although the team boss himself has decided to quit, more and more reports are seeping in that Ferrari's top brass no longer had confidence in the team boss. It is therefore not surprising that few other team bosses fancy a move to Maranello.

The history of Ferrari

Ferrari is the iconic brand in Formula 1 and with 16 world titles behind their name, the constructor is also the most successful in the history of the sport. It should be added that Ferrari has been active in the sport from day one, has the largest budget and therefore sometimes has an edge with the F1 leadership and the FIA.

The 16 titles sound impressive, but most of them were won between 1999 and 2008 (eight constructors' titles). At that time, Ferrari was the number one team in Formula 1, but strangely enough not led by Italians. With Jean Todt (Frenchman), Ross Brawn (Briton), Rory Byrne (South Africa) and Michael Schumacher (German), the core of the team consisted mainly of Europeans who knew what it took to be successful, but above all were given time.

Competition takes a cue from Ferrari

Not surprisingly, competitors have adopted this example. Red Bull Racing has had Christian Horner as team boss since their inception in 2005, Helmut Marko has been their adviser from day one and Adrian Newey has been chief technical officer since 2006. With Sebastian Vettel (between 2009 and 2014) and Max Verstappen (since 2016), they were joined by a strong leader to achieve success. Despite weaker years between 2014 and 2020, Red Bull's top management stuck to this way of working and with success.

We also see this structure at Mercedes. Toto Wolff stepped in as team boss in 2013 and has not relinquished that role since. With Paddy Lowe (2013-2017) and with James Alisson (2017-present), the top technical job has also always been in the hands of one strong leader and in the cockpit, Lewis Hamilton proves that Niki Lauda was right in 2013 to persuade him to come to Mercedes.

As such, the two most successful teams since Ferrari's last world title in 2008 (BrawnGP/Mercedes and Red Bull Racing split the 14 titles) took a cue from Ferrari's formula for success, but the Italians actually lost track since then. At the same time that Red Bull had only one team boss (Horner) and Mercedes/BrawnGP had two team bosses (Ross Brawn and Toto Wolff), Ferrari had five team bosses. Jean Todt stepped down at the end of 2007 and Stefano Domenicali took over from 2008-2014 afterwards. Then Marco Mattiacci followed for one season, Maurizio Arrivabene was in charge between 2015 and 2018 and Mattia Binotto leaves the ship after taking over Arrivabene's role in 2019. In 2023, we will see number five since Todt's departure.

Worrying expectations

The changing of the guard is just the tip of the iceberg, but it says it all. Each team boss has his own ideas and designs the entire team according to his wishes. Binotto, for example, opted for a horizontal management structure, where there was no single top technical man, but a division among several managers. That structure may have to be completely overturned again if the next team boss thinks differently.

Expectations within Ferrari are also too high. The fact that Binotto, after a season in which the team returned to second place in the constructors' championship and often enough had the fastest car on Saturdays, does not get confidence from Ferrari's top ranks is worrying. So you can only do well at Ferrari currently if you become world champion. However, no team boss can guarantee that.

After all, even the golden era between 1999 and 2008 had to come from afar. Todt took charge in 1993 and in 1996, with Michael Schumacher, plucked the intended front-runner away from Benetton as well as technical leaders Brawn and Byrne. Yet despite all these investments, it took four seasons before the team won the constructors' world title and five seasons before Michael Schumacher won his third world title. In 1998 and 1999 (among drivers only), the criticism wasn't mild when McLaren and Mika Hakkinen outsmarted Ferrari, but patience paid off.

Sure, a lot went wrong strategically at Ferrari in 2022, but a team needs to be able to learn from that to get better. A new team boss with new ideas also needs time to be successful. Whereas the Ferrari top brass will expect that new team boss to win right away, they too will need time.

As long as Ferrari don't show (long-term) trust and patience with their new team boss, they will make no progress at all. Indeed, the problem is not the puppet in charge, but the constant changes at the top, the lack of trust and the internal turmoil that brings. A new team boss will not solve that problem.