Mattia Binotto exits Maranello despite 2nd placed success
“I’m not satisfied…We must continue to progress and that applies to the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers and obviously, the entire management team. Including the team boss. We have seen far too many mistakes, from reliability issues to driving errors and strategic blunders.”
The words are John Elkann’s, the Ferrari Chairman choosing the eve of September’s Italian Grand Prix to deliver an interview in Italy’s Gazzetto Della Sport. Hardly a pep talk.
Mattia Binotto’s departure two and a half months later didn’t come as a surprise. The Italian media had been trumpeting his replacement by Frederic Vasseur for some weeks. The Scuderia’s insistence that there was no truth in the story only added to the feeling that Binotto’s time was up.
Being undermined by the boss is not a nice feeling, although walking away is liberating. After two years running Cosworth’s F1 programme I well remember pushing a newly offered contract to one side of the desk and explaining I would be leaving.
Quitting a job and a company you truly enjoy is a big decision, but it’s hard to imagine how gutted Binotto will have felt after 27 years of commitment to the Prancing Horse. Particularly when the team and lead driver had just finished 2nd in World Championships.
If we have learned anything over the years it’s that building a fast car is a first order priority. Fixing bad pit stops, poor strategy calls and reliability problems can be tackled later. A dozen pole positions showed just how far Ferrari had come last season, yet instead of moving forward as one, new leadership is prioritised.
In Frederic Vasseur Ferrari has gone for an outsider with insider knowledge. Six and a half years of experience in F1, first with Renault then with Sauber, means he knows his way around. His long standing partnership with Nicholas Todt, co-founder of Vasseur’s all-conquering ART team in junior formulae and manager of Charles Leclerc, means he already knows much about Ferrari and the task ahead. He can always call Nicholas’s father for some advice.
Of the other team principal changes only one raises eyebrows, for the others are an inevitable consequence of the contracted rent-a-boss era.
When, at the end of 2021, I sat down with Jost Capito to carry out an interview for this magazine, I found someone happy and confident in himself, his job and the future prospects for Williams. He did not want to be critical of the previous leadership but admitted to structural and cultural problems at Grove.
Not everyone was pulling in the same direction, there was a tendency to blame, a default towards ‘this is not how we do things around here.’ This despite the fact that ‘how we do things around here’ had resulted in a single outlier race win since 2005.
The departure of Capito and Technical Director Francois Xavier Demaison is an abrupt change by the team’s owners at Dorilton Capital. Unusual that they did not have replacements lined up, unless there is a takeover in the wings.
Given recent history it’s hard not to have the impression that Williams has a tendency to spit out leaders for which it has little taste. Does the team, in its current form, want to be led? Whoever is handed this tainted chalice will need experience, a thick skin and the unstinting support of Dorilton in the long term. Building a team, in the purest sense, takes years not months. Williams needs to become a team again.
This article by Mark Gallagher was first published in GP Racing Magazine