Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto says he’s never seen such a fierce level of competition in Formula 1 before.

The Italian squad went into 2019 with high hopes of winning both team and individual championships, only to stutter at the start of the season and hand Mercedes what ended up being an unsurmountable advantage.

Mercedes finished the season with 739 points compared to Ferrari’s 504 in the constructors standings, with 15 wins in total for Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas compared to just three for Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.

Leclerc even lost out to Max Verstappen to third place in the drivers championship, after the Red Bull driver scored three wins in Austria, Germany and Brazil.

Binotto said that this showed just how close things were in F1 at the moment and how the smallest of advantages made all the difference.

“In my opinion, competition in Formula 1 has never been as strong as it is today,” he told Ferrari’s official magazine this week. “As a team, we have everything we need to perform.

“Formula 1 is a complex machine,” he continued. “It is not just about making a 1000 horsepower engine, but also to manufacture it before, faster and better than your rivals.

“But in this sport there are no guarantees,” he admitted. “So we must work even harder and use our great brand advantage, as well as our great fan advantage, to get the title in 2020.”

One of the problems that Binotto faced last year after taking over as team boss from Maurizio Arrivabene was how to manage a growing rivalry between his two drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Four-time world champion Vettel didn’t appreciate being pushed by 22-year-old Leclerc who joined the team at the start of the year in place of Kimi Raikkonen. The pair eventually clashed on track in Brazil, putting both cars out of points finishes.

The Monegasque driver went on to beat Vettel in the final standings, and the rumours of friction within the team led to criticism that Binotto wasn’t up the task of cracking the whip as principal.

“Each team leader does it in his own way, that’s obvious,” the 50-year-old responded. “But from my training as an engineer, I am convinced that the rigorous approach works best.”

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari; Mattia Binotto (ITA) Ferrari Team Principal and Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari.

Now Binotto faces the task of ensuring that the same rivalries don’t erupt all over again in 2020.

“Individual relationships with people are very important,” Binotto agreed. “Really you have to take care of it, because the human aspect of an organisation is fundamental to your success.

“If you look at the two drivers at the moment, how they behave, it works well,” he told motorsport-total.com. “The driver duo is good.

“Of course there are differences when it comes to driving style or experience,” but this is an advantage for us,” he argued.

“You have to accept that they are like this because obviously both are top drivers and both want to do their best and win.

“It’s simply about clarity and transparency,” he added. “That they understand what the ultimate goal is and what the overall situation is in a race.

“After all, you never have a complete overview from inside the car.”

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