the five-year journey to the top of F1

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari boss, explains the five-year journey to the top of F1 Ferrari is finally back at Formula 1’s top spot after a half-decade and a pandemic. It has been a bumpy ride – including the demise of a four-time champion, an encounter with regulations, the team sinking at a 40 year low, and a rule modification.

Ferrari is the fastest car in this field, at least Charles Leclerc’s hands, and for a lap. They are again worthy title contenders, even though Red Bull and Max Verstappen seem increasingly difficult.

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How did they do it? Mattia Binotto, team principal, pauses for thought.

He says that it is an intriguing question, but also a difficult one. He explains that there are more to the transformation than technical improvements. “The correct reasons don’t come down to the technical aspect. We changed the engine combustion and we improved our aerodynamics. This is the only consequence.

It is all about building a team. Since 2017, we have worked step by step to build the perfect team. With the right team, it is possible to achieve your goals and target. It all comes down to the team.

He discusses:

  • Lessons learned from the 2017 and 2018 collapse of Ferrari’s title challenges
  • The legality of their engine in 2019 is the subject of much controversy
  • How they rebounded from 2020, their worst season for 40 years
  • Leclerc’s growth and rise

Their 2022 title challenge

  • Lessons from failure: The hard lessons
  • Five years ago, Ferrari was last in a similar situation. This is the story of Ferrari’s return into title contention.
  • F1 was launching a new era of regulations. Ferrari’s technical team was able to master the new regulations, and their car was full of innovations.
  • Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari’s leading driver, dominated the 2017 championship for almost two-thirds of it. However, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes won the last races.

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2019: A rollercoaster ride

  • Ferrari was working hard to improve its Maranello facilities, but another part of the puzzle was being worked on – the drivers.
  • After five disappointing seasons, Kimi Raikkonen, a veteran of the sport, was fired and replaced by Leclerc who had only one season with Sauber.

It was the move of Sergio Marchionne (future chairman and chief executive of Ferrari), whose restructuring of the team led to the production and innovation of their 2017 and 2018 cars. Marchionne was skeptical about Vettel and wanted to compare him with a driver who, although unproven, had all the signs of being a future star.

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A nadir in 2020

Both engine and chassis were affected by the engine controversy. Binotto explains, “That way of exploiting engine was powerful enough to us to have an important disadvantage the next year that we weren’t expecting to have.”

“Ferrari was not the only one that lost power in that year. At that time, power was lost by most of the manufacturers. We were the ones that lost the most power, and that made us a clear disadvantage.

“Also, we knew we had a power-unit advantage so we designed the 2020 car towards a lot more downforce and a lot less drag.”

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Keep the faith

A Ferrari team principal could have lost his job if he presided over such an event in the past. However, Binotto remained loyal to Ferrari.

He says that Louis Camilleri was our CEO at the time. He had the vision to see that stability was the most important thing for the team. He saw that we were already in the process of building.