W as has in the second half of the season works better than in the first?
Binotto: Very simple. The car got better. After the winter test drives, we expected more, but the car just wasn't fast enough. We still haven't understood what happened between the winter test drives and Melbourne. Apparently we took a step back and the others improved. We then found more downforce step by step. That's the whole secret.
Was the Singapore package the breakthrough?
Binotto: The Singapore package was the one most important building block, but not the only one. There was also a better understanding of the vehicle balance. But Singapore gave us the extra downforce that was important to improve cornering speeds. We didn't have the fastest car after that, which was particularly evident in the race.
You had a chance of winning races in the first half of the season too. Could it have won the title under perfect conditions?
Binotto: I don't think so. It's true that we could have won a lot more races, but to win a title you need the fastest and most reliable car. We didn't have either. But we're not that far away. We have to fill a gap, and that is doable.
The aerodynamic concepts of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari differed greatly from one another. Is the solution in the golden mean?
Binotto: He has the perfect conceptMercedes. You had the best car and that's why you won both titles. We lacked downforce, and that's the benchmark in Formula 1 these days. We had an efficient car, but that was obviously not enough.
Can the downforce that you are looking for come at the price of more air resistance?
Binotto: That happened in the second half of the season. The air resistance has increased, our advantage on the straights decreased. But we were able to reduce our disadvantage in the corners from half a second to two tenths.
Why was the Ferrari a Saturday car?
Binotto: On a single lap, the extra grip of fresh tires covers your deficits in aerodynamics. You pay for it on Sunday with higher tire wear.
So the plan cannot work to put two cars in the front row on Saturday and then control the race from the front?
Binotto: It's not working, and it was never our plan. Where we had the fastest car in qualifying, we had to live with various compromises on Sunday. Our goal must be to have the fastest car in the race.
There has been a lot of talk about the performance of the Ferrari engine. Your opponents spoke of up to 50 hp. What is true?
Binotto: The truth is far from this value. We're assuming a maximum of 20 hp, which is still a respectable number. At a time when the motors are becoming more and more similar, 20 hp is a great advantage that will help you in qualifying and in the race. I am proud of this development. I can still remember the first hybrid year 2014 well. The gap to Mercedes was huge. We have made a tremendous effort at the Maranello factory to fill this void. I have to say we did a great job in this area.
How big was the backlog in 2014?
Binotto: It was over 80 hp.
When one component is superior in a racing car, it becomes reflexiveassumes that something cannot be rightly done. Are you annoyed or complimented by your competitors' doubts?
Binotto: I'm not sure if you really doubt them. You are probably using the circumstance to put us under pressure. Pressure distracts. It is part of the Formula 1 game to make your opponent feel insecure. Our business is not just about sporting and technical competition. Anything that harms the opponent benefits me. Everyone plays the cards they hold in their hand. Should that make me proud? I am only proud when we win.
Your opponents claim that Ferrari's advantage on the straights has diminished since the FIA took a closer look at the issue and sent out various technical directives ?
Binotto: That's right. But they draw the wrong conclusions. We haven't changed anything in the conditions of use of the engines. In order to generate more downforce, the air resistance has increased. That is why we are now a little faster in the corners, but slower on the straights.
Are you satisfied with the technical directives on the subject of engines?
Binotto: We are satisfied with it. Because there is more clarity in a very complex set of rules. Will they be completely clear? Probably not. I am sure that there will be a few more directives in the future. As a team, we should support the FIA in clearing up any ambiguities in the rules.
Ferrari has an explosive driver pairing. Is it more difficult to manage than the constellations in other teams?
Binotto: We have a great driver pairing, not an explosive one. Our drivers are very fast, very ambitious. What happened in Brazil shouldn't happen anyway. Even if it was just a small contact, it had a big impact. Outside the car, Sebastian and Charles get along well. They know that the collision was not acceptable and they talked about it in private. They know the path we want to go and they know that the team always comes first. There is a good atmosphere. The perception from the outside is deceptive. They talk to each other, they exchange information, they are open. I don't think it's difficult to manage them.
Wasn't the discussion about the collision in Brazil a storm in a tumbler? Neither driver tried anything impossible. It looked more like a normal racing accident.
Binotto: It's true that it wasn't a crazy action. But when you're racing against your teammate, you have to be a little more careful. In the end, there are zero points for Ferrari on paper, and that is not good.
Mercedes also had its problems with collisions between teammates. Hamiltonand Rosberg collided a couple of times. In the end, Mercedes had to set up a few rules of conduct. Do you have to do it if it crashes even more often?
Binotto: I don't know what Mercedes did back then. So I can't make a comparison. At the moment I don't see any reason for rules. I expect my drivers to be smart enough to avoid that in the future.
Sebastian Vettel had problems with the car in the first half of the season. That changed after the summer break. Why?
Binotto: Sebastian lacked confidence in his car. It was unstable in the rear, especially when braking. If you lack confidence, you cannot drive to the limit. The more downforce we found, the more this trust returned. And his lap times got better. Charles was a good benchmark for him. That also drove him. What I liked about Sebastian was that he stayed calm, worked his way into the matter to understand what he needs to improve on himself and on the car.
Maybe Vettel has a little thought too much and tried to cure the car somehow while Leclerc just accelerated?
Binotto: Seb has experience. He's very analytical. He tries to understand things. But once you're in the car, you want to do your best. It has no effect on your driving style.
Ferrari has long been one of the skeptics of the 2021 regulations. Nevertheless, you voted for it in the World Council. Why the change of heart?
Binotto: It is true that we had our doubts about various points in the new regulations. We have repeatedly made this very clear at the meetings of the working groups or the team leaders. In our opinion, a few things should be changed. We have succeeded in some things. The gearbox and braking system are no longer standard parts. The rules for aerodynamics now offer a little more freedom. The last package, overthat was voted on was better than the first one that was presented to us.
We voted for it in the World Council, although we are still not completely convinced by the package. Our voice wouldn't have mattered anyway. The majority would have been enough. But then we would have been the only vote against. That made no sense. We said to ourselves that the only correct approach is to get the train rolling now. We also represented the teams on the World Council. There was no unanimous vote of the teams against the rules.
Where else would you like changes?
Binotto: I think that will only find out when we start developing the 2021 cars. In this process we will determine where the weak points are. Since it is really a completely new beginning, I am sure that we will find a lot of things that need to be improved. We do not consider the regulations as they are currently written to be final. Everyone should be open to change.
You now have to develop two cars with limited wind tunnel time. How difficult is that?
Binotto: The coming season will be very difficult, very challenging. Running two projects in parallel is complicated. We will start with the 2021 car soon, much earlier than we would have done in a normal year, when large parts of the old car can be carried over into the new season. That means more resources, people, money. The first difficulty is to provide that. Only when we know what we can afford are we able to decide where to use them. The 2020 car is almost completely developed, but of course it will still take up wind tunnel time, especially now over the winter. When the new season starts and we know where we stand relative to the other teams, we will have to make a decision on which project we put how much work into.
A budget cap will apply from 2021. Ferrari is one of the teams that have to disarm. How do you do that?
Binotto: We have to disarm. It is not yet certain by how much. The financial regulations are very complex. We are in the process of testing and finding out. If we have to cut people, and I am assuming that, it will be much more difficult for us in Italy than in other countries. We can't just send people home. Our employees will then probably switch to the GT department or to the road cars. It will be a major turning point. We have hired a group to do this specifically. The next month will be exciting.