Interesting question that — who is Formula 1’s Man of the Year? Many will straight away say Lewis Hamilton, but that’s too easy. Sure his mesmeric performance was pretty close to perfect, but armed with that Silver Arrow, well Max seems to think that’s an advantage too.
And the same applies to Bottas. Max himself? Nah — way too arrogant. Charles or Seb? No, really… Of the drivers maybe Sainz, but he’d need more than just his first podium and there really isn’t any other driver that fits.
So we move on. Toto? Really…? He’s so bored winning that he even missed a race. Fail. Runs a great operation though. Helmut? Yeah – maybe if it was Le Mans ‘71. Well, what about Mattia Binotto…? Well … hang on a second — I think we’ve found our Man of the Year… You probably don’t agree, but I don’t care — if anyone really deserves our gong it’s old Mattia.
See, he was drafted into the Ferrari hot seat in that turbulence in the wake of the inevitable realignment following former Ferrari capo Sergio Marchionne’s untimely passing, replacing the boss’ former racing lieutenant Maurizio Arrivebene. That was in itself an unenviable task — being Ferrari’s team boss is almost papal in significance and unlike our dear Francis, there is no room for error at Ferrari (merry Christmas, by the way!)
So to pick up the reins in so tumultuous a time was trouble enough, but… his first year proved an absolute baptism of fire too.
It looked good on the face of it — Ferrari emerged certain winter world champions, but that promise was shattered in a pedestrian performance on the streets of Melbourne. It looked better in Bahrain but there was already some sulking our Mattia had to deal with way back then. That was surely nothing compared to taking the Italian media flak when the SF90 failed to deliver again in China or Spain?
Then the Scuderia rallied but was robbed of two race wins in a row as stewards first fingered Vettel, costing him a great win in Canada and then let Verstappen go for a far more aggro move on Leclerc in Austria. F1 consistency at its best! So lots more sulking and then the Prancing Horse went lame again heading into the holiday break, leaving a piranha-like media gnashing out all kinds of questions.
But it was how Ferrari returned from the mid-season break that really makes Mattia stand out — he somehow managed a little Ferrari perfection for that trio of wins and even massaged Seb back onto the podium. Alas, the casino set in from there and it was either his statisticians, his wheel nuts or his nuts behind the wheel that did their best to cock it up every time through to the end of the season. One can hardly blame Binotto for all those catastrophes.
So there you have it — the man who took up the reins at a terrible time and held them through the season to bring Ferrari home second in spite of his drivers missing theirs championship podium; the manager behind the car that was probably the class of the season and the ringmaster who had to calmly face the media and pick up the pieces every time his clowns dropped the ball, is our undeniable Man of the Year.