JULY 5, 2020
Former drivers think Binotto's job at risk
Mattia Binotto's job may be on the line after Ferrari got its 2020 campaign off to a miserable start in Austria.
Sebastian Vettel failed even to make it out of Q2 at the Red Bull Ring, but engine customers Haas and Alfa Romeo also struggled badly.
Indeed, compared to 2019 at the same circuit, Haas' pace has dropped by six tenths, Ferrari's by almost a second, and Alfa Romeo's by 1.1 seconds.
The implication is that the engine legality scandal of 2019, leading onto Ferrari's controversially secret agreement with the FIA, has resulted in a huge performance drop for the Maranello-made power unit.
"It's hard to say why, but both we and Ferrari had major problems today," said Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.
When asked if it might be connected with the engine cheating accusations, the Dane told BT newspaper: "People can think what they want, but it's not something I'm thinking about."
His teammate Romain Grosjean responded simply: "Ask Ferrari."
Having led the cheating queries last year, Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko could not resist a swipe, insisting: "It's amazing what Ferrari's engine was doing last year."
Ferrari had warned that it may struggle this weekend, but those wearing red on Saturday appeared stunned at the obvious extent of the problem.
"Our deficit is difficult to understand," admitted sporting boss Laurent Mekies.
With that the case, the questions about Binotto's leadership have already begun.
"There would be a lot to be said about putting someone new at the top," former F1 driver Nick Heidfeld told Sky Deutschland. "It hasn't gone smoothly for years now."
Ralf Schumacher agrees: "In football, we would be talking about a change of coach at this point.
"All the internal fighting, the engine issue, and now teams like McLaren and Racing Point in front of them."
He thinks the problem could be that Binotto is overwhelmed with his combined managerial and technical roles.
"That workload cannot be done by one person. It must be a group of people," said Schumacher.
"In Michael (Schumacher)'s time, there were three leading people, and I would say there are five now at Mercedes."
Another former F1 driver, JJ Lehto, told Iltalehti newspaper: "The politics will begin now, and then there will be changes in the management very quickly."