Despite it being rumoured for a few months across Italian motorsport media, today’s speculation seems realer than ever before, being reported by all major news outlets.
Maurizio Arrivabene is set to step down from his Team Principal role in Scuderia Ferrari, being replaced by Mattia Binotto, previously Chief Technical Officer.
Who is Mattia Binotto?
Binotto was born Lausanne, Switzerland and graduated in Mechanical Engineering and Motor Vehicle Engineering. He first joined the Scuderia Ferrari in 1995 as Test Engine Engineer. Throughout the years he fulfilled roles such as Race Engine Engineer, Head of Engine, KERS Operations and Chief Technical Officer. Such an impressive CV shows his high level of skill, long-standing involvement with the Prancing Horse and incredible achievements, considering he’s only 49 years old.
What happens now?
What follows is only speculation and is meant to be taken as my personal opinion on the matter. Many were the reports on the tense relationship between Arrivabene, Binotto and the Scuderia. Arrivabene came to Ferrari four years ago directly from Philip Morris sponsorship management, and not everybody was confident that he possesed the amount and type of skill required for his role in the team. His job in public relations was definitely great, and he did bring the Prancing Horse back to competitive levels, but the loss of 2018’s Championship has made him accountable for strategy and technical mistakes which, as many believe, could have been easily preventable. Of course it would be absolutely unfair to trace all Ferrari’s mishaps of 2018 back to Arrivabene, but as Team Principal he’s held resposible of what happens on and off track.
Furthermore, Mattia Binotto is considered the main mind behind the SF70H and SF71H, undoubtedly the most successful F1 cars put together in Maranello in the past few years. This has meant that his reputation with investors, engineers, drivers and executive board is extremely good. The Swiss could also count on the support of Sergio Marchionne himself, who had put his money on him as successor of Arrivabene in the future. Binotto had also received interesting offers from both Mercedes and Renault, presumably consequently asking for a better position within the team if he was to stay in Maranello.
However, being a great Chief Technical Officer does not necessarily make you a great Team Principal: will Binotto have the charisma and character to put forward those political stances that are so important within the F1 world? Will his departure from a technical role mean a setback in car development and competitiveness? Will Sebastian Vettel regain the mental stability needed to bring home the WDC, now that the new Team Principal notoriously has a soft spot for the young rival Charles Leclerc? All of these interesting and potentially dangerous questions will find an answer in the 2019 season, starting in a bit more than two months.