Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto will skip 2021’s races to prioritize the team’s work for 2022, their campaign helped by more wind tunnel time.
Binotto was absent at many of 2020’s final F1 races, spending time at Maranello factory to prioritise the team’s 2021 project. The Italian was replaced in his time away by Laurent Mekies, who oversaw the team during race weekends from the Turkish GP onwards.
Binotto, 51, says he entrusts Mekies to assume his role at selected F1 race weekends, as he remains in Italy to run the team. The Italian also says he will be present at early races, so as to ensure a smooth start to the season. It is only after the season is underway that he will consider returning to Maranello, he says.
“Last year I missed some races because at the end there is an entire company to manage and it’s not only the race weekend at the race track, there is a lot of things going on back at the Maranello, a lot of people to manage, to coordinate the activity itself,” Binotto told selected media like F1, Motorsport Network, Racefans, etc, on its launch day.
“This year will be hopefully a 23-race championship. It will be very long, it will be very intense in the second half. And there is quite a big challenge for 2022 as well to face. So my intention will be again not to be at all the races during the 2021 season. Certainly I will be part of the start of the season itself, that will be important to assess our performance at the start, to make sure that everything is working well on the race track.
“But at some stage I will start missing some races and being back at Maranello concentrating on 2022. Obviously when being back at Maranello, we’ve got our [virtual] garage so I will be always in direct contact with the race track. But as well we’ve got a racing director on track, Laurent Mekies, who has obviously got a lot of experience now as well with us.
“He has proved last year to be capable of dealing [with] and leading the entire team over the race weekend. So I’m comfortable for the choice and comfortable not being sometimes at the race track. Also, our organisation has to be dynamic. We are always facing new challenges and new projects and then there is budget cap too.
“The organisation had to be clearer with regards to their role, whether it is the power unit division or chassis department or even the supplier chain, etc. We have got more clarity and responsibility. That’s why we have integrated the race engineering with vehicle engineering. We are changing whenever necessary.
“And with regards to the results and future, we need to be realistic. The gap to the best last year was very important and not something that we can recover in a single winter. Our focus during 2021 will be developing the 2022 car. That will be the main target. So we will not spend much time on the 2021 during the season,” summed up Binotto.
In 2022, the F1 team will be hoping to return to the front of the field after facing significant setbacks that saw them finish P6 in the WCC. Binotto points out that their sixth place finish in 2020 means they have been allotted more time in the wind tunnel in 2021 than those who they seek to match in the coming seasons, and says that he hopes the team can use this to great effect.
He also recognises, though, that on-track performance will be the ultimate indicator of their new car’s capability. “Obviously we know how much we progressed in the wind tunnel and power,” said Binotto. “But more than that, what will be important is to see the track delivery, how really the car will be able to track compared to expectations.
“[But] sometimes you may have a mismatch from the wind tunnel to the race track and competitors. Because, again, having changed the regulations from the back of the car, I think there is a work of correlations which is needed. I think that would be a key factor for the season,” summed up Binotto.
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