Ferrari is facing a bit of a cliff-edge moment in its rich history. The resignation of team boss Stefano Domenicali and the assignment of Marco Mattiacci as new team boss is a bit of a surprise for those who orbit Scuderia Ferrari as mere fans and pundits.
Current driver Fernando Alonso has urged critics to be patient with Marco until he gets his sea legs and suggests that he will prove himself in time. He certainly did as Ferrari North America’s president so one might be wise to tarry a bit prior to offering damnation on a plan.
Ferrari doesn’t offer V6 turbo engines to their customers. They have not been fans of the new regulations. They, unlike Mercedes and Renault, were not threatening to leave F1 if the series didn’t become more germane to their green marketing and development efforts.
Having said that, Ferrari did take the opportunity to create the LaFerrari which is their first hybrid super car and perhaps it was an effort to pre-test their F14T chassis prior to the 2014 season or simply a knock-on of the technology they were developing for the F1 car. One cannot say they aren’t trying to offer a car that matches the Zeitgeist.
While fans and detractors chuckle at the arm-waving and eye-rolling of president Luca di Montezemolo’s performance in Bahrain, the prudent observer would be wise to not underestimate the intelligence, power, control and cunning of a team as comprehensively popular and iconic as any known corporation on the planet.
Are Ferrari behind the proverbial 8-ball? Sure. Are they down on power and pace? Absolutely. Are they unhappy with the current regulations in F1? You bet. Are they a Neolithic car company on the wane and without brilliant leadership, engineering and resources? Hell no!
Ferrari may not be leading the 2014 F1 championship but they have done more for the sport of F1 than Red Bull or Mercedes combined so some quarter should be given when considering giving the raspberries to the Italian squad over their new team boss selection.
I found last week’s commentary, offered by “non-executive” chairman of Mercedes Niki Lauda, castigating Luca di Montezemolo for his outspoken position on the current format of F1 interesting. One of the reasons Niki was a rent-a-quote for F1 journalists during his hiatus form F1 is because of his “no bullshit” approach and being outspoken about what is wrong with F1.
Last week’s diatribe was an utterly compliant, affable and endorsing Lauda who seemed to really like these new regulations now that the team is winning. The Niki Lauda I recall would have slated the change and reasoned the move as pragmatic bandwagon mentalities while claiming it all “total bullshit”.
One thing F1 fans say they want is candid, outspoken characters in F1 but when Luca opens his mouth and says the new format is left wanting, well, the audacity of his saying things publicly is simply base behavior. Odd…coming from Niki—in fact, it’s “total bullshit”.
This format isn’t fitting Ferrari’s reason for being and while it may cater to Renault and Mercedes and presumably Honda, it isn’t a big hit with the Italian team. As for Red Bull? They don’t have a knife in the fight—as a team who doesn’t make engines or road cars—so they just seem intent on pummeling the fuel-flow meter as the proverbial punching bag and bane of their existence.
I’ve been to Ferrari and in areas not usually seen by tourists. I’ve looked behind the curtain and met the team responsible for the new power unit and chassis. I know first hand how committed, resource sensitive, dedicated, passionate and epic they truly are. There is no one like Ferrari and while that may seem a wild boast, it is fact. McLaren has its own panache and culture that perhaps one day I will get a chance to see so I reserve room for iconic brands but no one does it like Ferrari.
Ferrari’s history is littered with good, bad and tragic consequences, decisions and outbursts. But that is what makes Ferrari the company it is. Even Apple had its less than savory side but that made them a historic company.
Ferrari’s outbursts, threats and posturing is all part of the milieu and while those in the know can determine when it’s smoke screens and when it’s serious, I tend to think that it adds to the overall appeal to F1 in total. It’s controversy that is interesting to fans and adds tension to the sport.
Ferrari are in it to win it but they haven’t done so for some time now and they run the risk of losing Fernando Alonso who is, arguably, the best driver on the grid. They have Kimi Raikkonen in the second car and no shortage of resources but missing the mark in 2014 is not acceptable so changes were made.
They don’t wait for the end of the year to see where they are. They made a big, quick decision because their passion for doing what they do is being damaged by the illness that is losing. The very core DNA that makes Ferrari is being eroded by the cancer of failure and that is not something anyone in Maranello takes lightly.
Will Marco be the man to turn it all around? Time will tell but status quo wasn’t working so Luca made a huge change and time will tell if it was the right one. Luca said he wasn’t looking for mercenaries and while there are times and reasons that justify hiring a mercenary, perhaps the future goal of Ferrari is to have leadership that is completely steeped in the brand and sales of their road cars in order to understand how to bridge that gap.
Perhaps having a leader from the road car division is missing your keen eye. Isn’t this what the cult of the 2014 regulations are chanting? Road car relevancy, tehcnology and sustainability? If that’s the case, what’s shocking about having a person join the team from the road car side of the operation? You know, McLaren just did the same thing by bringing Ron Dennis back in the F1 team leadership? Ron was running their road car division for the past several years. Is anyone mocking them for such a move?
Is anyone mocking Mercedes for having a bigger road car influence on F1? What about Renault demanding that F1 match their road car format in order to keep the in the series? That’s all fine but when Ferrari hires a leader in their road car operation as the head of the F1 team, well that’s silliness. Actually that’s “total bullshit”.