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Mattia Binotto determined to improve Ferrari but admits focus already on 2022

Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
·3-min read

Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto has admitted the Italian giants cannot afford a repeat of last year’s horror show – but said the beleaguered team’s focus is already on 2022.

Historically the most successful outfit in Formula One, Ferrari recorded their worst season in 40 years after they finished a lowly sixth in the constructors’ championship.

For the first time since 1992, a scarlet car failed to lead one lap of a grand prix.

The Scuderia also were an agonising 442 points behind Mercedes in the standings and, with few changes to the rulebook over the winter, Binotto expects his team to be off the pace when the season starts in Bahrain in four weeks.

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A major overhaul of the sport’s regulations will take place next year.

“Last year was a big, big disappointment and we know that we cannot repeat such a bad result,” said Binotto. “Somehow we have to do better in 2021.

“As the team principal of Ferrari, I am fully aware of the responsibility I have got. I don’t feel the pressure, but the responsibility and the pride. We simply need to do better and that is part of my responsibility.

“But we need to be realistic, too. The gap to the best last year was not something you can recover in a single winter.

“So having finished sixth last year, our focus during 2021 will be on developing the 2022 car. That is the main target.

Ferrari finished sixth in last year's constructors' championship
Ferrari finished sixth in last year’s constructors’ championship (Bryn Lennon/PA)

“We will not spend much time on the 2021 car during the season.”

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel was dispensed of by the Ferrari hierarchy, with Charles Leclerc seen as the man who will finally end a drivers’ championship drought which stretches back to Kimi Raikkonen’s title triumph in 2007.

Leclerc, set for his fourth season in F1 and his third with Ferrari, will be joined by Carlos Sainz following the Spaniard’s move from McLaren.

Leclerc has won two races and, although he conceded he was initially starstruck when he made his F1 debut in 2018, the Monegasque no longer fears going wheel-to-wheel with Lewis Hamilton, who will this season be bidding for an unprecedented eighth world championship.

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“For me, whenever I put on the helmet, every driver is the same,” said Leclerc, 23.

“In the first few races, it was quite a shock that all the drivers I used to watch on TV, I was now racing against. I was quite intimidated. But you cannot go on like that and after a few races you just get used to it.

“Now, every time I fight a driver on track, I don’t think about what this person has achieved.

“I have huge respect for everybody on the grid and Lewis has achieved so much in the sport but when I have the helmet on I fight him as much as I do with anybody else on the grid.”