Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: Ferrari’s season ‘difficult’, says team principal Mattia Binotto

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto admits that he has had a “difficult” season in 2022.

Charles Leclerc clinched second in the championship at the final race of the season as Ferrari secured the same position in the constructors’ table.

But the team has been criticised for errors and reliability problems that torpedoed Leclerc’s title campaign.

“It has certainly been a difficult one because criticism is never easy to be managed,” Binotto said.

“More than that, for me trying to keep the team focused and concentrated on the job.

“The criticisms are there to distract the team. And keeping a team focused is never easy.

“It has been difficult, but that will make me only stronger in the future. We need to count only on ourselves and that is the most important lesson of the season.”

Carlos Sainz

Binotto is widely expected within F1 to be replaced as Ferrari team principal in the coming weeks.

Several sources have said that reports in the Italian media last week that Binotto will be replaced by current Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur are accurate.

But Binotto says he is “relaxed” about his future after talks with chairman John Elkann, and he told BBC Sport in Abu Dhabi that he would be “very, very surprised” if he was removed from his role.

Leclerc fought off a challenge from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez for second in the championship after the two went into the race tied on points.

Ferrari’s decision to go for a one pit-stop strategy compared to the two of Perez paid off and Leclerc crossed the line 1.3 seconds ahead of the Mexican, who had been closing in during the final phase of the race.

Overall, though, it has been a difficult year for the Ferrari strategists, who cost Leclerc potential wins with errors in Monaco, Silverstone and Hungary.

Engine failures in Spain and Azerbaijan also derailed a championship campaign that began with Leclerc taking a 46-point lead over eventual champion Max Verstappen after just three races.

But Binotto tried to put a positive gloss on the year.

“What was important for us was to be back being competitive and that was the objective,” he said.

“And fighting for a good position at the 22nd race is the best result because it means we have not been competitive only at the very start when we had a very strong car and no-one would have expected it, but we kept on fighting up to the end.

“We had some ups and downs. There are many races where we have not been good enough and we will review it. But more than P2 – and this is important – it is that at the 22nd race we are still fighting for positions at the final race.”

He added: “Our ups and downs came from different areas. Reliability I would put as a top priority because to win you need to be reliable and it has not been the case.

“The second is the speed of the car, because while we have been very competitive in qualifying, it has not always been the case in the race.”

He said he would review how Ferrari approached in-season development, after starting the year with a car that was as quick as the Red Bull only to inexorably fall off the pace.

“In terms of development, Red Bull had a clear plan which was reducing the weight of the car which was not our case and they knew what to tackle to get performance out of the car,” Binotto said.

“For us it was more complicated because it was more through aerodynamic development and trying to improve the car, the concept and the aero.

“If I look back, the development we did was not sufficient. We stopped very early because of expenditure reasons and that is something we need to review.

“Have we made the right choice by stopping so early in terms of priority between 2022 and 2023? Only 2023 will tell us what was the right choice.”

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