Feature Image: skysports.com
The last time the prancing horse was etched onto the Formula One Constructors Championship trophy was 2008, their second following a controversial year the season before which saw McLaren-Mercedes excluded from the constructor’s championship after the Belgian Grand Prix following the infamous espionage case against them. However, you’d have to go back a few more years for the best example of when Ferrari were at the top of their game.
Led by the genius of Ross Brawn off-track and the mesmerising Michael Schumacher on-track, the oldest team in F1 absolutely dominated the competition from 1999 to 2004. They won six Constructors World Championships in six years with five of them also being double World Championships as no one could get close to the German to throw him off his throne. The 1999 Championship came after a ‘rebuild’ period between 1996 and 1998 and was the first for the Scuderia since the 1983 season, when René Arnoux and Patrick Tambay took the glory.
Déjà Vu for Binotto
In 1995, a year before Ferrari headed into their ‘rebuild’ period, an engineer by the name of Mattia Binotto joined the engine department in Maranello and has since worked his way up to the Team Principal. As someone who has been through a rollercoaster of ups and downs with the Scuderia since then, he can’t help but see some similarities to where the team was when he joined as an engineer versus the team he is now managing. In a recent episode of Beyond the Grid, Binotto admits ‘I often compare it myself; I think there are smiliarities no doubt’.
One of the biggest similarities he highlights is the young talent that is being taken on both on track and also off track, ‘we were investing like we are investing today. Investing in technology but investing in people as well, young engineers’. In terms of on-track, when 21-year-old Charles Leclerc replaced Kimi Räikkönen for the 2019 season, he became the second youngest driver to don the rosso corsa coloured overalls for Ferrari. In addition to that the newest member of the team, Carlos Sainz Jr., was 26 in September giving Ferrari their youngest ever line-up in Formula One which Binotto is very ‘keen’ about.
Binotto also talks very highly of Leclerc and sees him as a leader who can take the team forward and again hints to the similarities of the ‘rebuild’ period, ‘We had a leader, a driver, Michael at the time. I think today we’ve got Charles. Obviously, he’s not as experienced as Michael because he’s not a world champion like Michael was, but I think that we have a clear leader on track and that is important’.
Mounting a Championship Challenge
With the new addition of the talented Spaniard, they look like a team who really can mount a challenge for the title if the team can provide for them. Heading into his seventh season now in Formula One, Carlos Sainz has proved himself to be one of the most consistent on the grid, scoring points in more than half of the races he has entered which is impressive considering he spent three years at Toro Rosso and the rest in the midfield at Renault and McLaren. When talking about Ferrari mounting a championship challenge for 2021, Mattia states that ‘the Constructors Championship is very important for Ferrari. You need to score as much points as you can every single race and I think that Carlos is a very consistent driver.’
You can’t just have consistency to drive for Ferrari, you need the pace as well which Binotto knows Carlos has. Carlos regularly showed up his future team during the 2020 season, finishing above both of the Ferrari’s in the Driver’s Championship and taking home a P2 at Monza with a further nine top six finishes. Knowing that he would be moving to Maranello from before the first race of the season in Spielberg, Sainz also knew that he would be under the spotlight, ‘We believed he was fast; I think he has proved this season to be very fast if you compare him to Norris who has already proved himself to be a very fast driver.’
Following on from the form of the Scuderia in the 2020 season, some see the change for Sainz as a step backwards after he helped McLaren take third in the constructor’s championship whereas Ferrari finished a dismal sixth, their lowest since Jody Scheckter and Gilles Villeneuve drove for them in 1980. McLaren’s improvements over the last four seasons have seen them move up from a backmarker to kings of the midfield and with the addition of Mercedes power next season, they could well be in a few fights for the top step of the podium.
[This was originally posted in December 2020 on DriveTribe.com]