AGAIN, Ferrari lost itself in 2022. The laughter and surprise of the three people on the podium when they discovered the wrong choice of tires on the car of Charles Leclerc made a sad summary – and funny, why? – the season lived with the Italians. The laugh-out-loud scene from the Hungarian GP also reveals something ominous: the biggest team in the formula 1 he does not know how to win races or manage strategies, hesitates when making decisions and is not even capable of executing a simple move that has been done since the game became a game. Failure in Budapest is symbolic and bad: after all, the championship is gone. Ines is dead. Max Verstappen won the Hungarian race and is now 80 points ahead of Leclerc – the Dutchman doesn’t even need to win from now on to claim his second career title.
And while there is humility in certain aspects, there is no way to minimize boss Mattia Binotto’s role in Ferrari’s failure. With great power comes great responsibility, Peter Parker’s uncle would say. Commanding the most traditional squad on the grid has its own measure of vanity and arrogance, but it also carries the weight of results, decisions and consistent behaviour. But that’s not what you see in Binotto. The statements in each new fiasco border on the ridiculous, not to mention those that are far from the truth. “We want to be competitive, not win championships.” It is strange to say the least.
From this point of view, Hungary becomes a symbol and questions the quality of the work done by Binotto. Shortly after a poor race in France, Mattia rushed to the loudspeakers to confirm that one-two will come to Budapest, as the Hungaroring copes well with the demands of F1-75. Furthermore, he said that the Reds could win all ten remaining races.
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In fact, Friday’s practice showed a fast and efficient car, but the rain and cold that hit the rest of the weekend required more attention and a change of direction – from getting it right to choosing the tires. Pole was won by George Russell, while Carlos Sainz was second, just ahead of Charles Leclerc. It wasn’t the end of the world, given the speed of the Italians. But it was necessary to understand the state of the track on Sunday.
On the coldest track on race day, Ferrari ignored something that was already being talked about on Saturday: harder tires would be more difficult to generate heat. So much so that rival Red Bull changed its plans shortly before the start – the Taureans had decided to make Verstappen start with white compounds, as he would start from tenth place on the grid. However, the laps leading up to the grid showed how difficult it would be to use these tyres. Therefore, the Austrians chose the used lines, leaving the new intermediate games for the final parts of the race. It was a success, also confirmed by Mercedes, that made Russell fly from pole and red. And Hamilton, who reversed the order.
Maranello understood differently: both drivers started on medium tires and would have another new game, including hard ones. And soft to use. Although it failed to win the first stage of the race, the Italian team even made some interesting decisions: Sainz closed on Russell at the first stop, while Leclerc was left on the way to beat his teammate. Verstappen was the first to go to the pits and also kept his rivals thinking.
After the pit circuit – the stops of Leclerc and Hamilton were later – the Monegasque returned to Russell in second place. The Ferrari’s strong pace soon showed, but Charles had to fight for the lead with George defending well. It was only a matter of time. It was on lap 30 that Leclerc pulled away and went further into turn 1 to overtake the British Mercedes once and for all. From there, the owner of car #16 established a solid performance on average tires. And it could have gone further, if not for Verstappen’s second stop at the age of 38. Ferrari reacted defensively and called Leclerc, against his will, on the next lap, but it was too early for soft tires (including used ones), so the strategists went for the only possible option: new solid tires. That decision took any chance of victory or podium out of Charles’ hands.
“The changes came too early, so we had to go with the wrong tires. It ended with me. I needed a third hole to replace the smooth ones. He said on the radio that he was satisfied with the intermediate and wanted to stay on the track as long as possible because he felt good. I don’t understand why we made a different decision. I was happy with my speed, but everyone will only remember the stint on hard tires. I lost today’s race there. 20s at the stop and another 6 and the hard ones because I was completely lost. That’s where we lost”, dismissed Leclerc, who is still looking for answers to the choices made by the pit wall. “And why did we choose this strategy?” The only thing he heard in the background was ‘let’s talk’.
It is important to say that before Alpine also chose a hard compound in an attempt to complete the race with only one stop – the approach seemed to be bad, so much so. Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon fell in the peloton. However, Ferrari continued with its plans, without even looking at the pits nearby. Mercedes, for example, stretched Hamilton’s middle leg as much as possible before changing the lines used at the end. The seven-time champion finished the race in second place, trying to chase down leader Verstappen.
Here comes Binotto’s twisted explanation: the car was at fault. “For the first time this season, we did not have the necessary results to aim for victory and at the moment we do not know why. It’s not just a matter of the heat of the race, we’ve had other races in similar conditions to the one we ran today and we’ve done well. There was definitely something wrong with the car, and I mean the setup. The result is that we cannot get the tires to work properly,” he said.
The Ferrari boss even used Sainz to prove the theory. It is true that the Spaniard faced more problems than Leclerc. But the rhythm was there. While leading the race, the Monegasque climbed steadily in 1min23s3. No one has done that consistently. Therefore, it is surprising when Binotto talks about the lack of performance and does not know how to explain the reasons why the planners did not take into account the opinion of the pilot or what is happening around him.
And the following statement is also scary, when the representative insists on not recognizing mistakes and hiding the truth. “We will come back trying to win every race. The championship is the result. There is also the Constructors’ World Cup, which we must not miss and which is not necessarily in us. But first we have to understand what happened today, out of the 13 races held this season this is the first time we have not been and the pace of the race, and that’s obviously disappointing. There was no reason not to do well in Hungary, so we’re disappointed, but it’s a bad first step after 12 races and I don’t think there’s anything to change. We need to understand and correct, we have a base strong and we will grow more.”
The fact is that Binotto is not a man who parachuted into Ferrari, as happened when Stefano Domenicali was replaced by Marco Mattiacci, who was not part of the coaching staff of the Maranello team. Mattia has been with the Italians since 1995 and closely followed the leadership of Jean Todt, the development and the most successful phase from the 2000s onwards. Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. He is the man who had faith in Sergio Marchionne and the man who was given carte blanche to rebuild the team. The engineer knew how to fix the factory, dismantled important sectors and renewed the team in the Leclerc-Sainz partnership. But today’s Ferrari needs to bear fruit, it needs to be ready. Mature, but he seems to insist on this bad posture of Binotto. So the question is: how long will Ferrari accept having a competitive car without winning a championship?