RACE DEBRIEF

    Mattia Binotto has brushed aside rumours that his future as Ferrari Team Principal was hanging in the balance, after the Scuderia were moved to deny speculation regarding possible replacements for the Swiss earlier this week.

    On Tuesday, Ferrari issued a statement addressing rumours in the media that they were considering alternatives to Binotto – who took over the Ferrari Team Principal role in 2019 – to lead the team going forward, with the Italian squad’s bid to challenge both for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles having fallen away in 2022 after a strong start to the season.

    READ MORE: Leclerc says he won’t ‘give too much attention' to rumours on team boss Binotto's future

    "In relation to speculation in certain media regarding Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto's position, Ferrari states that these rumours are totally without foundation,” the team wrote in their statement.

    Asked about the rumours in Abu Dhabi ahead of the season finale, Binotto replied: “Ferrari is the most loved team. Seb [Vettel] said once that everyone’s a Ferrari fan, and if they’re telling you it's not the case, as a matter of fact, they are. And when there’s such a big passion around it, there’s also... always a lot of criticism and rumours. That has been true in the past, it's the situation right now, it will be in the future.

    “When this speculation came out, I had a chat with my chairman, John Elkann. Together we discussed openly what was the best way to move forward and we decided that to release a statement was maybe the best way to close any speculations. Clearly those are speculations, totally with no foundations.

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    “When there’s such a big passion around Ferrari, there’s also always a lot of criticism and rumours”

    “I think for me right now,” added Binotto, “what's the most important is to make sure to stay focused on the race weekend and for the team not be distracted, because certainly the rumours are always there.”

    Asked if he was 100% convinced he would be leading the team in 2023, Binotto said he was “pretty relaxed” about the situation – while pointing to Ferrari’s improved performance in recent seasons under his stewardship, which has seen them go from their 2020 nadir of finishing sixth in the constructors’ standings to fighting for second in both the drivers’ and the constructors’ championships in 2022.

    READ MORE: Leclerc admits Ferrari ‘lacking a bit of pace’ in Abu Dhabi as Sainz says ‘there’s still a lot to catch up on’ after missing FP1

    “Obviously it's not down to me to decide,” he said, over whether he’d lead the team in 2023, “but I’m pretty relaxed. The reason why I'm relaxed, I have always open, frequent, constructive discussions with my bosses, with my chairman, not only on the short-term but the medium and the long-term.

    “More than that, I think if I look back at season, yes we had a few up and downs, we’re not today the best yet, the fastest car on track. But I think we achieved our main objective, which was to be back, to be competitive in that new era of the 2022 cars.

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    Binotto pointed to Ferrari’s upward trajectory in recent seasons

    “If I look at the way we started season, I think no one… would ever have imagined Ferrari to be so fast at the start of the season, and that is proving that the team has worked very well through difficult moments, such as 2020 and 2021. We remain united. I think it's a team that not only works well but has proved to be capable.

    “Yes, there are still a lot of things that we need to progress, weaknesses have been shown, but I'm pretty sure that, as we did in the past, we will review, we will try to address them. The team back at the factory is fully focused on 2023, trying to improve.

    READ MORE: 5 things we learned from Friday practice at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

    “Furthermore, I think this season has been outstanding in terms of pole positions, so qualifying pace; not as good in terms of race pace. We know that we have somehow to improve more the race pace, because then strategy or whatever is around it is a lot easier if you've got a strong car in the race itself. So yes, I’m relaxed, but more than that, I'm really focused on what we need to do.”

    Charles Leclerc heads into the Abu Dhabi season finale in P2 in the standings, tied on 290 points with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez – while Ferrari hold P2 in the constructors’, 19 points clear of Mercedes.