“If we carry on not winning, it will be my fault,” he said.
“It’s what I already tell Ferrari fans who approach me and lament the long winless streak.
“Don’t expect promises. Last time around I was incautious.
“Now I only ask to do better than in 2016 – it doesn’t seem hard to me.”
The words of Ferrari CEO Sergio Marhcionne are those of a man who learned a hard lesson in 2016—bravado only works when you have the measure of the field and can deliver on your statements.
When the 2016 season began, Sergio felt the team could look to 2015’s three wins and capitalize on that. Sitting at home, I was relatively sure that was never going to happen. How I knew and he didn’t is beyond me but I’ve been watching Formula 1 for decades and I know that if winning championships or even races were easy, everyone would be doing it. Sergio surely knows that as well.
Now it seems that he’s walked back his bravado and “there’s a new sheriff in town” attitude in favor of trying to get the team in a more realistic expectation. There’s an interesting caveat though. When asked about approaching Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe, Ferrari said they didn’t need him.
“We don’t need a Ross Brawn-type of hero who solves all problems.
“All together, working in the right way, we can make it.
“I don’t want to continuously change the team.”
It’s an interesting insight to me because they had just lost James Allison, a man the team hired for a Ross Brawn type role and now they say they don’t need it. To Sergio’s credit, he’s not convinced that the team need an Anglo-Saxon component to be successful—as others have argued—and has chosen to create a completely flat organization structure with no pyramid of management. My hunch is that this will not work but as a big Ferrari fan, I have to have faith in the process.
Having spent a weekend with Sergio, I can tell you that he’s a brilliantly intelligent guy and knows the car business very well. He knows where to place bandages on car companies that are bleeding out, how to turn them around and how to mold a P&L. The question I have is, does he know how to race? Is he a pure racer at heart? Ron Dennis is, Sir Frank Williams is, Christian Horner is, Toto Wolff is and so was Luca di Montezemolo. Is Sergio?
I know he understands the financial impact a racing program can have on the balance sheet and I know he understand enterprise structure and divisional efficiencies but in his heart, does he get emotional about an apex? If I’m honest, I didn’t quite get that impression from him but to be fair to Sergio, I didn’t spend much time speaking with him about the history of racing, what it means to him and how pervasive it was in his youth. He may very well be a racer at heart but it doesn’t always come through the initial tsunami of bravado, blunt words and chest-pounding as well as overt threats to the team to get its s**t together.
As a Ferrari fan, I love the passion Sergio brings to the table and as a businessman, I respect his no BS approach to getting stuff done, I really do. I just am not feeling the Ferrari passion from Maruizio and Sergio like I did Luca and Stefano Domenicali. It’s there, it’s just not as prominent as it has been in the past.
What I do know of Sergio is his ability to take the heat or blame for things he’s done and I respect the heck out of that. He’s made comments early in 2016 that didn’t come to fruition and he owns that. Now he’s being cautious and any new team boss would do the same.
In many ways, what I think I see is a team who went from veteran F1 leadership who understood every nuance of the challenge before them, to a man who knows cars and has taken control of a F1 racing program only to find that it is more difficult than he could have imagined. A man who’s car company management changes had an impact physically and mentally on a team that will now take time to gel from such drastic changes.
Clearly, last August was a big month of change for them and I’ve given Sergio every benefit of the doubt since he fired Luca do Montezemolo but only time will tell if the changes he’s made will work. Many F1 pundits say it won’t and maybe that’s the very reason Sergio is doing what he’s doing. He has a history or turning excrement into gold…he’s that good.
Hat Tip: Autosport