Despite its fading title bid, Ferrari went into the summer break with defiant statements that its performance in the first half of the 2022 Formula One season means there is “no reason why we should change.”
The recent Hungarian Grand Prix was the latest race led by Ferrari’s championship leader, Charles Leclerc, which ended with him not even making the podium, let alone winning.
Leclerc has only one podium in the last eight races, his victory in the Austrian Grand Prix, as a combination of team and driver errors has caused his championship challenge to crumble.
In Hungary, he was hurt by the latest Ferrari strategy blunder: using the woefully ineffective hard tyres for his final stint.
As a result of the decision, Leclerc dropped from first to sixth place, and Ferrari had to pit him a third time to switch to soft tires.
In the two championships, Leclerc and Ferrari are now 80 and 97 points behind Max Verstappen and Red Bull, respectively. When asked if Ferrari needs to assess changes during the summer break, or if it has simply been unlucky, team boss Mattia Binotto said it is “not a matter of bad luck and there is nothing to change as well.”
“It’s always a matter of continuous learning and gaining experience and skills,” Binotto explained.
“Certainly, there is something we need to look into and figure out why.”
But, looking at the balance of the first half of the season, there’s no reason to change.
“I think we simply need to address what happened in Hungary, which we need to first understand, and then address and try to be as competitive as it has been in 12 races so far – and [there is] no reason why it cannot be the case at the next.”
When Leclerc said that using the hard tyres was the “turning point of the race,” Ferrari’s focus was on why those tyres did not perform as expected, rather than the strategic decision to use them.
It was consistent with Binotto’s other responses this season when Ferrari’s strategic decisions were questioned.
Ferrari has long been plagued by a culture of blame and fear, and Binotto has been dedicated to changing that.
To a large extent, it worked. Ferrari appears to be a more secure and cohesive operation under his leadership.
However, a no-blame culture, such as the one frequently mentioned during Mercedes’ dominance of F1 during the hybrid era, does not imply that a team denies the existence of problems. It simply avoids attributing them to a single person or blaming a department for a failed outcome.
There is room within that to say, ‘this needs to be improved.’ ‘This’ is strategy for Ferrari, but it is arguably overprotected. The emphasis on poor performance on various compounds in Hungary does not negate the fact that the strategy was also poor.
Binotto’s defiant stance that Ferrari does not need to “change” is presumably a reference to personnel. He is correct in that regard.
Mid-season, advocating for the firing of specific employees would accomplish nothing, and the priority should be on getting the most out of the current team, sharpening processes, improving tools, and empowering sharper, bolder decisions.
Within that, there must be room to educate people about mistakes and work to prevent them from happening again.
Ferrari does not have to publicly acknowledge this in order to take steps behind the scenes to address it. However, the recurrence of problems suggests that it either isn’t or isn’t proving to be a successful endeavor.
Only one week before Hungary, we were reflecting on another Binotto “no reason for X,” this time using the car’s inherent performance as evidence.
After France – where Leclerc crashed out of the race – he said there was no reason Ferrari could not win all the remaining races to save its championship bid. Obviously, it was a glass half-full attitude. But Hungary was a painful, immediate example of how misguided it was.
Ferrari is not as consistently sharp as it needs to be as a race team. If there’s truly no reason to change, then there is no reason to think Ferrari’s mistakes will stop.