Two full-time jobs for a single person: Mattia Binotto's job description isn’t an easy one. The Swiss-born Italian has the task of helping the once-dominant Ferrari to the absolute top after its predecessor Maurizio Arrivabene failed to do so. Can the calm Binotto turn the tide before the rules change dramatically in 2021?
Not a racer, but years of experience
Rumours about a change in Ferrari’s Formula 1 team management were strong throughout 2018. Arrivabene could get a job at football club Juventus and given the shape of the Scuderia that season, it would be a nice change of scenery for the Italian too. The big question became who would be suitable to step into the shoes of Ferrari's team boss.
The somewhat awkward Arrivabene fitted the Scuderia-role perfectly: say little, show little and, above all, look very grumpy while doing it. A glance at the hundreds of people employed by Ferrari gives enough candidates who meet those criteria. Nevertheless, just after the turn of the year Ferrari chose a different approach. Mattia Binotto, the technical boss at the works team until that point, was appointed as the new team boss.
Just before the winter break, there was already talk about Binotto and Arrivabene, albeit not so much about fulfilling the position of team boss. Rather a discussion that boiled down to: 'either he goes or I go’. Reportedly, Binotto didn’t agree with Arrivabene's choices and indicated this to the board. ‘Fake news', shouted Arrivabene: a few days later, however, the Italian was let go.
January 7th 2019 is the date on which Ferrari announced the technical director of the team (since 2016, from that year Binotto takes over from James Allison who moved to Mercedes) would take over as team principal as well for the 2019 season in Formula 1.
Binotto breathes Ferrari
In 1995, Binotto made his first steps at Ferrari, initially at the engine department of the Italian side. In 2009, he moved up to the top of that department, only to move on to overseeing everything to do with the engine after five years.
With his technical knowledge and knowledge of Ferrari as a brand, Binotto is, according to the top of the Scuderia, the man who can help the team back to winning ways. Charles Leclerc joined Ferrari next to veteran (and four-time world champion) Sebastian Vettel, making for an extremely talented line-up on paper.
After a few races Leclerc was used to his new team and was already making things difficult for his teammate, while Vettel still trusted to be able to claim his position as first driver in the team. In other words: Leclerc won't be pulled in front if that puts Vettel at a disadvantage.
After ignoring team orders and a crash between the two drivers late in the season during the Brazilian Grand Prix, Binotto had seen enough; the team always comes first, regardless who is the first and second driver. It has become clear, however, that the Italian has his hands full with both characters in 2020.
No title, but on the right track
Ferrari would only win races after the summer break in 2019 but in a convincing way. Binotto decided in which direction to develop and slowly but surely managed to cure the SF90's weaknesses. This didn’t go without the competition accusing Ferrari of tampering with sensors and the fuel flow, as the SF90 suddenly went very fast after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
The Italian Grand Prix was won on home soil (for the first time since 2010), but from that moment on the Scuderia were already under the microscope. Something that might be concerning for many new team bosses, but not for a Ferrari veteran like Binotto. The Italian said “you’re doing something right” if the competition investigates you more than others. A year without a title, but a season in which Binotto proves to can remain composed under duress.