Mattia Binotto: “To be team principal was never an ambition”
The calmest Italian inside Monza following Ferrari's first victory on home soil for nine years will perhaps come as a surprise.
Mattia Binotto is steeped in Ferrari history. He joined the Scuderia in 1995 and over the past 24 years has worked in various roles prior to, by his own admission, "reluctantly" taking on the position of team principal in January this year.
In interviewing Binotto, he speaks quietly, yet assuredly. There is a touch of OCD to his mannerisms because as he sits upright, and while he talks, he continually ensures his mobile phone and pens are maintained in an orderly fashion on the desk in front of him. You can imagine such organisation extends to his handling of the 1,000-plus staff that are now under his authority at Maranello.
Leadership is not something that sits easy on Binotto's shoulders at this stage of his career. Yet he concedes that when he was approached by chief executive Louis Camilleri, following the departure of Maurizio Arrivabene just weeks ahead of the start of pre-season testing, he could hardly say no.
"To be team principal was never an ambition," said Binotto. "It's not something that in my time with Ferrari I was looking for. It was not the final goal. It was not an objective.
"But since I joined Ferrari, I have always had the opportunity to grow. It's something Ferrari has always offered me at least, and something I have always appreciated.
"When Camilleri came and told me, I can't say it was a surprise because I felt the time was mature for it. I knew as well the decision would have been taken. The future of Ferrari, how to develop the team and its organisation, would have been decided."
On the face of it, you would assume Binotto would have felt a certain pressure on his shoulders in suddenly being tasked with again finding a pathway to success for a sporting icon, not just in Italy but globally. After all, it is 12 years since Kimi Raikkonen won the last of Ferrari's drivers' titles, and 11 years since the team last collected the constructors' crown. Due to Ferrari's lack of success, Stefano Domenicali, Marco Mattiacci and Arrivabene have all departed over the past five years.
Binotto at least has pedigree on his side, steadily working his way up the career ladder, starting out as test engine engineer before becoming race team test engine engineer, race engine engineer, chief engineer for race and assembly, head of engine and KERS operations, deputy director engine and electronics, and then chief operating officer, power unit.
Due to his knowledge and understanding of Ferrari, as he points out: "I do not feel the pressure. I understand and I feel the responsibility. I know that leading Ferrari is certainly a very high responsibility and therefore there is pressure from the outside rather than internal.
"But I think we are so focused on what we are doing, trying to do our best, and that's only what counts, that in the end there is no time to consider or to think about the pressures.
"If there is any feeling toward the lack of success it's simply unhappiness for the team itself and for our drivers, and not because that makes life more complicated from the pressure point of view.
"I know pretty well that success can bring a boost to the people, so it's not a matter of dealing with the pressure but dealing with the team and making sure that the team is delivering well and has the right boost."
Leclerc's back-to-back victories in the last two races in Belgium and Italy have at least put smiles back on the faces of everyone connected with Ferrari after a year without a race win, never mind challenging Mercedes for championships.
In describing himself as "pragmatic", however, Binotto conceded before the team's triumph in Monza that due to weaknesses with the car, the performance gap to Mercedes was "too big" on corner-dominated, maximum downforce circuits.
Given such a frank assessment, do not expect Ferrari to make it three wins in a row in Singapore next time out. It could be it may not win another race this season.
Yet given Binotto's methodical equanimity, and with a full winter to stamp his mark across the entire team, 2020 could be the year Ferrari finally steps out of the shadow that has been cast by Mercedes since the dawn of the current hybrid era in 2014.
"I like to look at the rationale of the facts, to see what happens through reasons, cause and consequence, and always try to build from there," said Binotto.
"I know with F1 there is nothing magic in there. It's about us investing for the medium and long-term, with short-term a consequence of how good you've done in investing for the future at the time.
"What's important, as Ferrari today, is looking at the future, that we are making the right decisions for the medium and long-term and being capable of managing the current situation with calmness because the team needs to stay focused on what we are doing, and hopefully there will be a time when things come back to us."
Under Binotto, it would appear Ferrari has a leader who can finally end its long wait for a title, just as he and the team finally ended its Italian Grand Prix drought.