Ferrari chairman John Elkann says the competitiveness of the team’s Formula 1 cars has been undermined for a decade by fundamental weaknesses which it is now trying to address.
Following Ferrari’s poor start to the 2020 season Elkann gave his full backing to team principal Mattia Binotto to lead the team on a “long path” of rebuilding to become competitive again.
Ferrari’s sporting division is “undoubtedly going through a difficult period that starts from afar”, Elkann told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We have not won a manufacturers’ world championship since 2008 and one drivers’ since 2007. There have been Red Bull’s winning cycles for aerodynamic capacity and Mercedes for their great ability in hybrid engine technologies.”
Ferrari has made a poor start to its 2020 campaign, which Elkann blamed on “machine setting errors” – a reference to the correlation problems the team discovered when it began testing its SF1000.
“We have had a series of structural weaknesses that have existed for some time in the aerodynamics and dynamics of the vehicle. We have also lost in engine power.
“The reality is that our car is not competitive. You saw it on the track and you will see it again. Today we are laying the foundations for being competitive and returning to winning when the rules change in 2022. I am convinced of it.”
Elkann insisted he has “total trust” in Binotto to turn the team around. “Mattia Binotto, who has taken the helm of the Scuderia for a year, has all the skills and characteristics to start a new winning cycle.
“He was in Ferrari with [Jean] Todt and Schumi [Michael Schumacher], he knows how to win, and from next year he will work with two young and ambitious drivers.”
The team announced a long-term deal with Charles Leclerc in December, then chose to replace his team mate Sebastian Vettel with Carlos Sainz Jnr for 2021. Elkann said this decision was made after the team realised the extent of the changes it needs to make over the coming seasons.
“In the past 10 years we have had champions such as [Fernando] Alonso and Vettel. But it is undoubtedly more difficult to rebuild a cycle and ask patience from those who have already won compared to those who have the future ahead of them.
“We are laying the foundations for building something important and lasting, and the contract we signed with Charles proves it: Five years, never so long in Ferrari’s history. Leclerc and Sainz will take home in Maranello, will be close to our engineers. The new machine will be born with them.”
Following its poor start to 2020, Ferrari will be unable to make significant changes to its car next year due to restrictions F1 has introduced to control costs. However sweeping new technical regulations will arrive in 2022.
“We started off poorly and must be realistic and aware of the structural weaknesses of the machine with which we have been living for a decade and which the transition to hybrid has underlined,” said Elkann.
“We have given the ‘okay’ to the new rules starting from 2022, because we believe it is right that there is greater competitiveness within F1, and we do not see the limitation of budget caps as a constraint on our ability to win, we take it as a challenge.
“Our engineers, our mechanics and our drivers will find in those constraints the strength and creativity to bring Ferrari back to the top. Personally I have never seen in the last 10 years such a cohesive and strong spirit.”
Elkann warned Ferrari’s fans it may take several seasons for the team to become championship contenders again.
“The fans are suffering as much as we suffer, but we know they are close to us. This is why it is important to be clear and honest with them. A long path awaits us.
“When Todt opened that historic cycle in 2000, we came from a fast that lasted for more than 20 years, from 1979. It took time from when he arrived in 1993 to when he brought Ferrari back to victory.
“The important thing then is to work on and off the track, bringing cohesion and stability, building the Ferrari we want, step by step.”
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2020 F1 season