Red Bull were the centre of attention leading up to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Ferrari shot back into the spotlight as reports surfaced that the team are planning to replace team principal Mattia Binotto with Alfa Romeo boss Frederic Vasseur.
Binotto took over from Maurizio Arrivebene at the start of the 2019 season and has overseen the team slump from title challengers to the back of the midfield and then return to the front of the grid.
However, with 2022 providing the best Ferrari in years, the team was unable to put together a consistent title charge and Charles Leclerc only took second from Sergio Perez at the final race of the season.
What have Ferrari said?
Mattia Binotto rubbished the rumours, saying they were baseless and weren’t consistent with the conversations he’s had with Ferrari‘s Executive Chairman John Elkann.
“When there is such a big passion around it there is always certainly the passion but always as well a lot of criticism and rumours,” Binotto told the press. “Those are speculations, totally, with no foundations.”
Leclerc entered F1 with Sauber in Vasseur‘s first year with the team, and put together such an impressive 2018 campaign that Ferrari immediately pulled rank and promoted him to the team in place of Kimi Raikkonen.
He arrived at Ferrari the same year that Binotto ascended to the top job and the pair have enjoyed a rollercoaster ride since then, but Leclerc backed his boss to continue leading the team.
“I think stability is paying off,” Leclerc said. “We’ve been showing in the last few years that we are improving, as I was saying earlier then there’s another step that we need to do. But we are working on that and I’m sure we’ll achieve that.”
Ed Spencer: Binotto deserves another year at least
Although I’ve been a strong critic of Binotto and his, at times, puzzling management of Ferrari, I feel Binotto should be kept on for at least one more year before deciding what to do next.
Yes, the buck does stop with him, but he hasn’t been at fault for the team’s poor strategy or the team’s lack of success in the second half of the season.
He needs more help around him, and despite John Elkann’s persisting meddling in affairs that he should be staying out of, it would be foolish to fire him when he still has plenty of internal support.
Andrew Wright: Nice guy Binotto can’t lead Ferrari
The pragmatist in me probably thinks now is the time to replace Binotto. He has overseen a Ferrari resurgence of sorts but must also take the lion’s share of responsibility for the litany of mistakes over the last four seasons.
The ineptitude of the Ferrari strategists was clear to see during the Sebastian Vettel era, when the German regularly appeared to be dictating matters from the cockpit.
Yet with all the clues, the blunders have only become more frequent, culminating in this year’s championship battle that featured so many gaffes Carlos Sainz had to come out and insist the team was ‘not a clown show’.
If you contrast that to Red Bull and Mercedes, while they don’t get every decision correct, they act with authority and clarity, allowing the driver to focus on driving without additional distractions or frustrations.
Even then, the UK-based outfits hold their hands up when they have made mistakes, while Binotto refuses to take accountability, publicly at least.
For all that the Italian seems like a nice chap and has undoubtedly made vital contributions to Ferrari’s F1 operation, a change of leadership style feels necessary if the team wants to end what is soon to be a 15-year title drought.
Nigel Chiu: Ferrari needs an overhaul, that includes Binotto
Changes need to be made at Ferrari from the top to the bottom. The current team is not ready to win the championship.
Following another strategy blunder at the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this year, I called for Binotto to step down as team principal.
If possible he should remain in a technical role because he has led Ferrari to make two cars that have improved significantly year-on-year and was also a key member of the 2017 and 2018 which should have put up a much bigger title fight.
However, he is not on the same level as Christian Horner and Toto Wolff when it comes to truly uniting a team and handling the pressure and politics that comes with being a team boss.
Other members must go too though, particularly lead strategist Inaki Rueda. These changes are more important than what happens to Binotto as Ferrari have an inherent race operations problem.
It’s never nice when you have to write or talk about people losing their jobs but that’s part of life and sport.
Deep down, Binotto will know he is under huge scrutiny and if Ferrari want to end, what will be a 15-year wait, for a title in F1, changes must be made in the management team.
Adam Dickinson: Don’t forget success under Binotto
In October, Leclerc said the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix was the moment he knew the world championship was lost, as Verstappen romped through the field from 14th on the grid and took the lead just 12 laps in.
But to have Ferrari fighting at the front stood in stark contrast to just two years ago. For me, Spa is the abiding memory of Ferrari‘s 2020 season as car after car blew Leclerc and Vettel on the Kemmel straight, illustrating just how far the team had fallen from Leclerc‘s emotional 2019 win in the Ardennes.
Even in 2021 they were well off the pace of the frontrunners and scrapped with McLaren for most of the season.
All this relevant because it’s easy to forget how far Ferrari have come despite some awful calls from the pit wall in 2022.
To be throwing away wins you first need to be fighting for wins and Binotto deserves more credit than he’s getting for the way they’ve turned their fortunes around and started the year with arguably the fastest car on the grid.
Ideally he’d step back into an engineering role but that would never be possible, and Ferrari need a fast car first and foremost before they can fix their other problems.
Also, I think the general consensus is overrating Vasseur. Yes he’s an experienced head but Alfa Romeo have been one of the worst teams in F1 ever since Leclerc left and despite having their most competitive car in years in 2022, still squandered plenty of opportunities.
There’s no way they should be level on points with Aston Martin given how they started the season and since 2020 they’re the only team who hasn’t earned a podium or pole position.
Don’t take Binotto’s technical head for granted Ferrari.