Binotto: Schumacher a ‘good candidate’ for future F1 seat

Mattia Binotto believes that Mick Schumacher is a “good candidate” to take a seat on the Formula 1 grid in the future.

The 20-year-old son of seven-time World Champion Michael completed his first F2 season and his first test days in F1 in 2019, and bigger things are expected of him by many going forward.

While many were disappointed that he only managed P12 in his F2 debut year, Binotto sees it as a successful maiden season.

“We are very proud having made him part of the FDA,” the Ferrari team principal told Autosport.com.

“Not only because he is Michael Schumacher’s son, but because I think he’s a good driver, he actually performed well even in this season.

“If you look at the standings you can see some experienced drivers on top, but he had one good season to gain experience. And if you look in term of rookies, too, he was doing well. He was a rookie.

“So, I think that next season will be key for him to understand how much he’s progressing. We are expecting much from the next year because he will have one season of experience and we are pretty sure he’s a good candidate for F1 in the future.”

Binotto did not, however, go so far to say that the German may well be in a Ferrari seat soon, saying that it’s too early to tell and that the team will want more experienced drivers until after 2021.

“Will he be a candidate for Ferrari either in the future? It’s really too early on,” he added.

“But again, the aim of the FDA is to find the next talent for Ferrari and he is part of the FDA because we believe he’s got the talent to stay in this group.

“2021 will be too early for one of our young talents, too. In 2021 some experience from drivers will be important because it’s a completely new type of car.”

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Ferrari rewards Leclerc with new five-year contract!

Ferrari has rewarded Charles Leclerc’s efforts during his maiden season with the Scuderia by offering the Monegasque a new five-year deal.

Leclerc’s seat at the House of Maranello should therefore be secure until at least the end of the 2024 season, leaving F1 with a clear indication of Ferrari’s faith in its young charger. He is the team’s future and therefore perhaps the Scuderia’s de facto number 1 driver.

And since good news never comes alone, Italy’s Corriere dello Sport is reporting that Leclerc’s annual retainer will rise to €9 million euros from next season!

In only his second season of F1, Leclerc secured two victories with the Scuderia, winning in Belgium and clinching an emotional triumph in Ferrari’s home race at Monza.

But the 22-year-old also left his scorching marks on Saturdays, snatching seven pole positions over the course of the season, the most for any driver in 2019.

“I am very happy to be staying on with Scuderia Ferrari,” said an ecstatic Leclerc.

“This past season, driving for the most illustrious team in Formula 1 has been a dream year for me.

“I cannot wait to enjoy an even deeper relationship with the team after what has been an intense and exciting 2019.

“I’m keen to see what the future holds and I can’t wait to get going again next season.”

Charles Leclerc (FRA), Scuderia Ferrari

Team boss Mattia Binotto added: “With each passing race this year, our wish to extend our contract with Charles became ever more self-evident and the decision means he will now be with us for the next five seasons.

“It demonstrates that Charles and the Scuderia have a firm future together.

“Charles has been part of our family since 2016 and we are more than proud of the results we are achieving with our Academy.

“We are therefore very pleased to be able to announce that he will be with us for many years to come and I’m sure that together, we will write many new pages in the history of the Prancing Horse.”

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Vettel and Leclerc 'difficult to manage' from the start

Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto had admitted that the problems managing the team’s two highly competitive drivers started early in the season.

The problems only grew more public as the year went on, with Charles Leclerc complaining when the team seemed to be giving Sebastian Vettel preferential treatment in terms of race strategy.

Then when Leclerc hit a purple patch of pole positions and two race wins, it was Vettel who appeared angry and frustrated. Eventually the two clashed in Brazil, forcing both cars into retirement from likely points-paying positions.

But Binotto revealed this week that rather than getting worse as the season progressed, it had been tough to manage the pair right from the start – and actually got better toward the end, despite appearances to the contrary.

“Believe me, that type of meeting at the very start of the season was full of embarrassments and difficult to manage,” he told Motorsport.com when asked about his early briefings with the pair.

“Both of them are good drivers and need to be respected as individuals,” he said. “Both of them, when starting the race, have one objective – not just beating their teammate, but being first to the chequered flag.

“We are now getting used to it,” he insisted. “By the end of the season it became more and more comfortable, which means that we are getting used to it as a team.

Binotto also held up his hands to times when miscues on pit wall had added to the tension between Vettel and Leclerc.

“In the race we can still make eventually mistakes, but I’m pretty sure that mistakes are part of this process,” he said. “Certainly it was not an easy exercise and everybody can do better.

Mattia Binotto (ITA) Ferrari Team Principal in the FIA Press Conference.

“It is often said we should have let them race in the very first race,” he continued. “But we are still very convinced that trying to manage them is the best way in order to score team points.

“If you are optimising the team points at the end as well, you also optimise what may be the outcome for the drivers. So we were trying to manage them in the very first race.”

As for the clash near the end of the penultimate race of the season at Interlagos, Binotto continues to believe that it’s better that it happened when it did, when the 2019 titles had already been decided, rather than simmering over the winter to cause more problems in 2020.

“I believe that we can be stronger next year,” he stated. “We now have meetings with the drivers before the race to discuss scenarios – what may happen, what can be the team’s strategy.”

It remains to be seen just how successful the team is in achieving lasting harmony between its two highly rated drivers when the cars line up on the grid for the next race in Melbourne on March 15.

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Proud Binotto says Ferrari engine suspicions are 'a shame'

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto says he is “proud” of the hard work done by his engineers to improve the Scuderia’s power unit, insisting that calling into question its legality is “a shame”.

Ferrari’s edge in terms of sheer power has been clearly demonstrated on the track.

But the magnitude of the Italian outfit’s advances on the power front has generated suspicions among its rivals, who have queried the FIA on certain elements of the engine that they believe are perhaps transgressing the technical regulations.

Binotto confidently responded to the rumors by encouraging a formal protest, as it would allow Ferrari to clear its name once and for all.

“First, all the F1 teams are working very hard to build competitive advantages,” Binotto told Motorsport.com.

“We have worked very hard to improve our power unit package which was not the best when the regulations came into force in 2014.

“If we are in front now, we should simply be proud of it. We need to be clear, it’s somehow a shame reading what I read on the internet or in newspapers.

“Other competitors had an advantage in the past and nobody put any blame on that,” added the Swiss engineer.

“As Ferrari, when we got a disadvantage on the power unit, the only thing we put is effort in trying to address it and improve our power unit.

“It would be a lot more fair to not read or hear some comments.”

©Ferrari

Binotto insisted that all F1’s manufacturers are consistently under the scrutiny of the FIA. To date, he has not been given any indication by the governing body that something fishy may be going on under the bodywork of Ferrari’s SF90.

“The FIA is always and continuously looking at the telemetry data, always looking at all power unit’s compliance to the regulations, and is always inspecting as they did every single year and every single race,” Binotto said.

“I have no clear facts of protests or anybody indicating anything special to the FIA.

“We’ve got an advantage there, maybe not as big as people may believe, but it’s only down to hard work and we are very proud of it.”

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Binotto: Ferrari 'determined to win' in Mexico

Ferrari is clearly smarting at missing out in the last two races in Sochi and Suzuka, with team principal Mattia Binotto insisting that they will bounce back this weekend.

The team lost out to Mercedes in Russia after an early spat over team orders, while in Suzuka a stuttering start from Sebastian Vettel allowed Valtteri Bottas to sweep into an unassailable lead at the start.

“After two races in which we could have done better, we arrive in Mexico determined to win,” he said in the team’s preview for the Mexican Grand Prix.

“We will be aiming for our sixth consecutive pole, before looking to convert that into a victory.

“The Mexican track has plenty of elements that can catch you out, some of these linked to the fact we are racing at over 2000 metres above sea level.

“That makes fine tuning the settings on both the chassis and Power Unit side particularly complex, as the requirements are very specific to this track.”

Last year’s race saw Red Bull on top, with Daniel Ricciardo starting from pole and Max Verstappen clinching victory in the race. But Vettel and his then-Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen were second and third, after a hydraulic failure sidelines Ricciardo.

©Ferrari

“Over the past couple of years, we have been on an upward trend in Mexico,” confirmed Vettel. “Although Red Bull has been the team to beat.

“I think the gaps between us are getting smaller, so let’s see how we get on this year.

“Obviously racing at altitude has an impact on how the car feels,” he continued. “We are racing with maximum downforce level in terms of car setup.

“But since we are racing so high above sea level, the air is very thin and the cars actually produce very little downforce.

“On the long straight, I think we see the fastest top speeds of the season, which makes it difficult to manage the corners because we’ve got so little downforce physically on the car.

“The car is moving around a lot and it’s difficult to get the tyres to work. In fact, it’s hard to get the whole car to work and to get the right feel from it. It’s a relatively short lap but not an easy one.”

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 and Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF90.

Vettel’s current team mate Charles Leclerc made his Mexican GP debut 12 months ago with Sauber, and managed to finish in the points in seventh place albeit two laps down from the leaders.

He’s hoping to me much nearer the front come Sunday.

“I have done one FP1 and one race there, so it’s one of the tracks that is still pretty new to me,” he commented.

“I really enjoy driving there, especially because the walls are quite close and this is something I like as a driver.

“The circuit in Mexico is an unusual one. We race at such a high altitude and all the teams try to put as much downforce on the car as possible. Despite that, it still feels quite weird and the grip is extremely low.

“The atmosphere is amazing,” he added. “Driving through the stadium part of the track is truly unique, because you can see all the fans in the grandstands.”

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Ferrari: We arrive in Mexico determined to win

Ferrari preview the Mexican Grand Prix, round 18 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Maranello, 22 October 2019 – This weekend’s race will be the twentieth Mexican Grand Prix. The race has always been held at the same venue, although its name and layout have changed over the years. The track is not far from the centre of Mexico City, at the vast Magdalena Mixhuca sports complex after which it was originally named and which also hosted the 1968 Olympics. It features a long straight, a mixed middle sector and a final part featuring the Peraltada, much modified today from its past as a parabolic corner reminiscent of the one at Monza.

Early years. Mexico’s inaugural Formula 1 race was held in 1962 and was a non-championship event. The win went to Jim Clark, who took over Trevor Taylor’s Lotus after his own car broke down. The event was marred by the death of the local youngster, Ricardo Rodriguez. It was also a sad loss for the Scuderia, which had an agreement in place with the Mexican that, the previous year, had seen him become the youngest ever driver to make his Formula 1 debut with the Maranello team, at the age of 19 years and 208 days, a statistic which still stands today. The following year, Scuderia Ferrari took part in the first race to count for the world championship, but posted a double retirement with John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini.

The second title. In 1964, Ferrari turned up with the same driver pairing, along with Ricardo Rodriguez’s elder brother, Pedro. The three cars raced in the colours of the North American Racing Team (NART) because at the time, Enzo Ferrari was at loggerheads with the Italian sporting authority that had not supported his homologation as a GT car of the 250 LM destined for the Le Mans 24 Hours. This was the last race of the season and both titles were still up for grabs. The contenders were Graham Hill in the BRM, Surtees in the Ferrari and Clark in a Lotus. Clark led from the start, followed by Dan Gurney in the Brabham, while Surtees was fifth. Hill and Bandini were having a good scrap for third, but when the championship leader Hill tried to pass the Italian, they collided. Hill spun and was out of the race. It looked as though Clark was therefore heading for the title, but with ten laps to go, his car began to have some problems. Ferrari ordered Bandini to let Surtees pass into second place and he won the title when Clark stopped on the final lap. There were great celebrations, as John became the first and, to date the only, driver to win world championships at the highest level on two wheels and four. For the Maranello marque it was its second Constructors’ title.

Crazy one-two. Scuderia Ferrari did not enjoy much success in subsequent years in Mexico City, until 1970, when Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni finished first and second. However, the race was held in chaotic conditions and the start had to be delayed by an hour, when many of the 200,000 strong crowd broke down the crash barriers to stand perilously close to the track. Having repaired the safety installations, the Grand Prix got underway, but as the laps ticked by, the fans once again began to creep onto the grass at the side of the track. Ickx dashed under the chequered flag the clear winner and the crowd surged onto the track to celebrate the Belgian’s win. It meant that Regazzoni and Denis Hulme, second and third, as well as the rest of the field, had to tackle a scary slalom through the crazy crowd. No one was injured, but that was the end of the Mexican Grand Prix for now. The country’s fans suffered another much worse tragedy, when Pedro Rodriguez was killed in an Interserie race at the Norisring, in Germany, in 1971.

Comeback. This race is run at higher altitude than any other, around 2,300 metres above sea level and it returned to the calendar in 1986, with the circuit having been revised and also renamed, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, in honour of the two brothers. Scuderia Ferrari secured a notable one-two here in 1990. Qualifying was difficult: Nigel Mansell was fourth on the grid and Alain Prost way down in 13th. However, it was clear from Sunday morning’s warm-up that the potential of the F1-90 was good enough for the tifosi to dream of glory. Gerhard Berger led in the McLaren from his team-mate, Ayrton Senna, while Mansell was battling Nelson Piquet for third. With 15 laps to go, they were passed by Prost who set off in pursuit of the McLarens, quickly dispensing with Berger. The Frenchman then overtook Senna and the win was safe once the Brazilian had to stop with a puncture. Stealing the limelight from the Frenchman in the closing stages were Berger and Mansell and their duel for second place. For the fans, the crowning glory came with just a few kilometres to go, when the Englishman pulled off one of the most spectacular passing moves ever, passing the Austrian around the outside of the high speed Peraltada.

New era. The Mexican Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 2015, again at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, although this time the layout had been substantially modified by F1 track architect Hermann Tilke. The most significant change was the disappearance of the original Peraltada, replaced with a very slow part in the Arena section, which actually runs through a huge grandstand from which the spectators get a great view of the cars at slow speeds. Sebastian Vettel took pole in 2017, going on to finish fourth behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen. Last year, the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers finished second and third in a race won by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

FERRARI STATS
GP contested 987
Seasons in F1 70
Debut Monaco 1950 (Alberto Ascari 2°; Raymond Sommer 4°; Luigi Villoresi rit.)
Wins 238 (24,11%)
Pole positions 227 (22,99%)
Fastest laps 252 (25,53%)
Podiums  768 (77,81%)

FERRARI STATS MEXICAN GP
GP contested 18
Debut 1963 (John Surtees dsq; Lorenzo Bandini ret.)
Wins 2 (11,11%)
Pole positions 2 (11,11%)
Fastest laps 4 (22,22%)
Podiums 10 (55,55%)

Sebastian Vettel: “Obviously racing at altitude has an impact on how the car feels. We are racing with maximum downforce level in terms of car setup, but, since we are racing so high above sea level, the air is very thin and the cars actually produce very little downforce.
On the long straight, I think we see the fastest top speeds of the season, which makes it difficult  to manage the corners, because we’ve got so little downforce physically on the car. The car is moving around a lot and it’s difficult to get the tyres to work, in fact it’s hard to get the whole car to work and to get the right feel from it. It’s a relatively short lap but not an easy one.
Over the past couple of years, we have been on an upward trend in Mexico, although Red Bull has been the team to beat. But I think the gaps between us are getting smaller, so let’s see how we get on this year.”

Charles Leclerc: “The circuit in Mexico is an unusual one. We race at such a high altitude and all the teams try to put as much downforce on the car as possible. Despite that, it still feels quite weird and the grip is extremely low.
I have done one FP1 and one race there, so it’s one of the tracks that is still pretty new to me. I really enjoy driving there, especially because the walls are quite close and this is something I like as a driver.
The atmosphere is amazing and driving through the stadium part of the track is truly unique, because you can see all the fans in the grandstands.”

Mattia Binotto, Team Principal: “After two races in which we could have done better, we arrive in Mexico determined to win. We will be aiming for our sixth consecutive pole, before looking to convert that into a victory.
The Mexican track has plenty of elements that can catch you out, some of these linked to the fact we are racing at over 2000 metres above sea level. That makes fine tuning the settings on both the chassis and Power Unit side particularly complex, as the requirements are very specific to this track.
The circuit features a variety of corner types as well as long straights on which, year after year, the record relating to top speeds has been beaten. The necessary compromise between having good top speed and sufficient downforce in the corners dictates the aero settings with which we will take to the track.”


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Binotto explains why Leclerc was 'forgiven' at Monza

In the Ferrari euphoria over Charles Leclerc’s victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday, there was a curious exchange over the team radio in which team principal Mattia Binotto told the driver “I forgive you”.

It emerged that Leclerc had been in hot water with his boss the previous day after failing to follow the plan for qualifying.

Leclerc had already taken provisional pole with his initial Q3 run, in part thanks to getting a tow from his team mate Sebastian Vettel. But the team’s plans to reciprocate the favour in the second flying lap ended up going awry as time ran out at the end of the session.

“You need to push now,” the team told Vettel, to which his reply was “Yeah, well tell him to come in front then,” adding: “Tell Charles to go.”

“You can overtake Sebastian,” Leclerc was duly told. But although he crossed the line in time to start a new push lap, Vettel was too late and missed out.

At the time, Vettel publicly blamed Leclerc for not sticking to the plan: “I thought we had spoken about it,” he grumbled after the end of the session. “I definitely listened to what we intended to do.

“I thought it was clear what we communicated beforehand,” he added. “It was clear that I should be the one going second in the second run getting a tow, because I was the first one in the first run.

“But obviously we waited too long, so in the end there was no margin. Not happy.”

Race winner Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari SF90 celebrates in parc ferme.

It wasn’t just Vettel who was annoyed by Leclerc’s actions. Binotto later admitted that he had also been unhappy, but had chosen to keep his feelings private behind closed doors.

Only when Leclerc went on to record a major victory in the race itself over the two Mercedes drivers did it emerge, when Binotto came over the team radio to tell Leclerc “Oggi sei perdonato” in Italian – meaning “I forgive you.”

“It means whatever happened in the last days which we discussed – and that’s something that will remain between us three – at least [on Sunday] he did a good job,” Binotto subsequently explained.

“It was a way of saying at least we were happy for the job he did.”

Binotto insisted that Saturday’s conflict between Leclerc and the rest of the team would not have any longer lasting consequences.

“It will not affect [anything],” he said. “It’s something we discussed internally. There may be different points of view. The outcome was certainly a very strange situation for everybody.

“But we are looking ahead. I know I can count on them. I think it will not affect [the working relationship.]”

“It doesn’t mean that it will not happen again, because you never know,” he admitted. “[But] the spirit is whatever you may do there is something to learn.

“It’s important to make sure it’s a lesson learned.”

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