Ferrari season ‘may be very difficult again,’ Binotto admits

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto has warned 2021 could be a very difficult season for the Scuderia once again as it focuses on long-term improvements.

2020 saw Ferrari slip from second in the constructors’ championship to sixth, with a big part of the drop in competitiveness being due to its power unit performance. While Binotto says that is no longer an area of weakness, and Charles Leclerc noticed a better atmosphere within the team, pre-season testing suggested there will still be an extremely competitive midfield this year and he is wary that Ferrari could find itself in a similar fight to last season.

“It’s very difficult when you are not performing as you are expecting,” Binotto said. “As Scuderia Ferrari, your ambition and objective is always for the maximum, the best. But I have to say that although last year the atmosphere was difficult as (Leclerc) said, we remained united.

“It would have been easy to fall into a different situation seeing the bad performance we had, but the team remains united, continuously tried to work and improve. We are now at the start of a new season, you have got a different car, you’ve got new hope, so it’s normal that now the atmosphere is certainly better. But we know it will be a long season, 23 races; it may be very difficult again so I think we need to be prepared, be focused on what is our objective — which is long-term — and then not forget it.”

Despite his warning, Binotto says there are multiple areas where Ferrari has progressed, and with Sainz joining the team he has been pleased with how the Spaniard has settled in so far.

“That was another very important (aspect) for us. He drove some old cars in the last weeks and months, which was important for us to integrate him into the team and with the engineers and our procedures. He did a lot of work to prepare himself for the test and the start of the season — as well back at Maranello in the simulator — and he’s very well integrated, I have to say.

“Also with Charles he’s fitting very well, not only at the track but outside the track, and things in that respect are very encouraging so I’m very happy.”