Is Ferrari too Italian?

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There is a narrative that ranges from subliminal to outright exclamation that states Ferrari are too Italian to win in Formula 1. The idea is, in part, born on the halcyon days of Jean Todt and Ross Brawn turning things around at the Italian team and that the combination of Ferrari’s Italian know-how and rank and file at the factory with some very intelligent Anglo-Saxon racing people is nothing but lethal. It’s been argued that Ferrari lose their way when the Italians run the whole show without this lethal mix.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone alluded to the narrative over at F1.com saying:

“All I hope is that Ferrari get their act together and start winning races,” said F1 boss Ecclestone in an interview with the official F1 website.

“When I got Jean Todt to take his position and go to Maranello – which was a bit of a risk for Jean to do – it was an all-Italian team and they were a bit concerned about taking a foreigner.

“But I told them: when you win the championship you sure will find ancestry in Jean’s family that comes from Sicily.

“Now it has gone back to being a very Italian team again. And it is run like an Italian team.

“So I don’t envy Maurizio’s job. I wouldn’t want to do it.”

The reality is, and Mr. E knows this much better than I do, that Ferrari IS Italy and Italy IS Ferrari. They are symbiotic and combined at the granular level. I spent some time at Maranello interviewing Ferrari’s Chief Marketing Officer, head of engine development and the racing management and toured places in the factory that not everyone gets to see. I left Italy with the incredibly obvious notion that Ferrari and Italy are one.

While this continued narrative swirls, I found Mr. E’s second comment more to the point:

“Well, probably what Maurizio desperately needs is a good back-up support like Mercedes have got, for example,” he said.

“If he had the support that Mercedes has, they would win races – for sure. I am also sure that you will see a different Ferrari next year.”

In Luca di Montezemolo, you had the support of Ferrari. In Sergio Marchionne, you have, seemingly, the public admonishment of your performance and the scars of a massive management purge two years ago that is still resonating in the halls of Maranello. Sergio’s public flogging of Ferrari and its management isn’t helping matters and it’s not securing them wins.

To add commentary to Mr. E’s statement, it was Ross Brawn who set the Mercedes machine and structure in motion that has delivered such dominant performances and that’s the guy who did the same thing for Ferrari back in the day. Fact is, I think Ferrari, like any other team, need to find the right people at the management level who can deliver. They need the next Ross Brawn/Jean Todt combination much like Red Bull have found the Christian Horner/Adrian Newey combo and Mercedes now have the Paddy Lowe/Toto Wolff duo.

Will the McLaren duo of Joest Capito/Eric Boullier work? Can Williams make the most of Pat Symonds/Claire Williams (Rob Smedley)? Where is Renault? They’ve been accused of having real struggles at the management level.

Ferrari isn’t too Italian, it’s too slow. It needs proper support from the top, not daily flogging and it needs to find the right combination. Having visited, there is no other place like it on the planet.

It’s combination that Ferrari need to find and if they are Italian, more power to them. If they aren’t, I think Ferrari need to get over the desire to have Italian race management in favor of having victories the Italian people can enjoy.

Hat Tip: F1.com

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Sakae
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Sakae

Progress by Ferrari, as with other teams, is impeded by cost down measures, which weigh down testing, and experimenting. People forgot about token system, and limits how many hours a team is permitted to spend on development. Dennis, Boullier, and Alonso, all of McLaren on more than one occasion were quite direct about this subject. Paraphrasing Alonso, if you commit an error in winter, your whole year is gone these days, because regulations do not permit necessary recovery, regardless how much money you have. To make a long story short, this goes beyond IQ of Italians. There is rational explanation… Read more »

Angela
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Angela

I only partly agree with your comments. Mercedes have done a better job with their PU than Ferrari. Red Bull have done a better job with their chassis and aero than Ferrari. I hear what you are saying about time constraints on development, but wouldn’t it be fair to say that it is the same for all the teams? I am an avid supporter of team Ferrari and I have been for over 30 years, but even I am running out of new excuses for them.

Sakae
Guest
Sakae

Angela, it is of course not the same, because for that to be true, they would have all started on the same starting line (simplistically put), they would have to have on Jan 1, 2014 the same equipment. Problem is, that’s not true, as you know, and therefore each team was facing different challenges, which, with different rate of success, they tamed with some limitations only 3 years later. Even today some of us are suspicious, that Mercedes is far more advanced and ahead, than let out, and so called close racing, is for political purposes de facto gap-controlled racing.… Read more »

Angela
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Angela

Fair comment.

MIE
Editor

Looking after both chassis and power unit should give Ferrari an advantage when compared to customer teams. Mercedes has done this, Renault are rebuilding and may get there next year, but for Ferrari it has historically been a source of tension with each side blaming the other for the lack of performance. This approach seems to be deeply ingrained in the team and dates back to when Enzo was alive. In Ross Brawn’s recent BBC 5 Live interview (available as a podcast) he stated that there a number of third generation Ferrari employees. It is no surprise that they hold… Read more »

Sakae
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Sakae

Advantage of having full control over integration IMO has not come yet to Ferrari in full force, because vehicle engineering and PU represents two different animals, in different stages of development, and therefore always in mismatch. Since PU technology is now maturing, I hope that next year Ferrari will be able to take advantage of in-house job, and get upper hand over “customer” teams. There is enough info on the internet about compromises one or the other of areas had to make in 2014 and also less though in 2015. Not much different what Renault or RB were facing. The… Read more »

MIE
Editor

Ferrari haven’t yet got the advantage of full control over the integration of the power unit into the chassis.
Well they have been building the complete car (power unit, transmission, chassis) for at least sixty six years, but apparently the next few months will make all the difference? Sorry, but I don’t see that they will be doing it any different from how they have done it for generations. It is ingrained in the team’s behaviour.

Sakae
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Sakae

I hope we are not comparing, or even worse, equalling, normally aspirated engine of the last century with modern hybrids, consisting of ICE, MGU-K, MGH-H, ES, TS, and CE. Next few months, in my estimation, nothing much will change, however what I intended to suggest, and sorry if that was not clear enough, that the new vehicle, call it SF17, will benefit from maturing technologies of three years in development, and a vehicle should be overall in better balance (chassis, powerplant, aero). Being a “factory team” should come to its full fruition. That’s of course is merely my expectation.

MIE
Editor

I am well aware of the additional complexity of integrating the current power units when compared with the much simpler previous F1 engines. However my point is Ferrari have a long history of not successfully integrating even the simple engines into the chassis, so why would taking the same approach with the more complex current power unit be any different?

Sakae
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Sakae

I am not aware that Ferrari are experiencing difficulty with integrating the power unit. What I am however aware off, that due to ongoing developments, up to certain point of time, power plant form, weight, and CoG were a moving target, and not always perhaps optimized with its environment (inevitably integration is more of a compromise). Honda after all also resized (at least so I heard plans were for next year in Japan) whole PU, and that will affect consequently McLaren’s vehicle integration as well. Back to Ferrari, PU development should be now stable, vehicle design can go through optimization… Read more »

MIE
Editor

When ground effects came to the sport in the late 1970s, the Ferrari flat 12 prevented the team from generating the levels of downforce that the opposition (using V8s) were able to get. When turbos were banned in 1989, Ferrari reverted to a 12 cylinder engine, and persisted with that layout even when it became apparent that the V10 was more effective. With the current generation of hybrid power units the power unit team has criticised the chassis team for restrictions on space and cooling, the chassis team has responded that the power unit doesn’t produce the power of the… Read more »

Tom Firth
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Tom Firth

I read this yesterday. I was more interested I must say in what Bernie exactly said… “When I got Jean Todt to take his position and go to Maranello – which was a bit of a risk for Jean to do – it was an all-Italian team and they were a bit concerned about taking a foreigner.” Were you aware that it was Bernie that formed ‘The dream team’ at Maranello? I mean its a perfectly acceptable thought that he did, because Bernie knows what matters to make F1 work, and what mattered then, possibly more than now even was… Read more »

Sakae
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Sakae

I would rather ask for confirmation from JT and RB in an off the record conversation.

Tom Firth
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Tom Firth

Well it certainly wasn’t Ross Brawn who planted the seeds to get Jean Todt to Ferrari, because Brawn didn’t join until ’97. Ross Brawn was responsible in my opinion for the relationship Ferrari had with Schumacher though and masterminding the strategy of course and so played a major role in what was to come.

Sakae
Guest
Sakae

People share info, phone numbers, intro-contacts, etc., and BE surely might have assisted in that area, but without Sig. Montezemolo who let the relationship develop and blossom, nothing would happen as far as “Team Schumacher” is concern, IMO. JT is getting far less credit than he deserves for ensuring existential framework was intact for so many years. Ross seems to be really good guy, and I am sure he deserves big slice of credit for success they had, but, with all due respect, he was not alone, and we cannot deny contribution of others.

Tom Firth
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Tom Firth

O sure, I’m not trying to diminish the enormous contributions of Jean Todt, Rory Byrne, Schumacher himself, Paulo Martinelli or Luca Di Montezemolo in what happened during that glorious era for the Scuderia. When Jean Todt arrived at Ferrari, the team didn’t have the facilities related to windtunnel development. They had to use British Aerospace’s for a good few years. it didn’t have the resources being focused, It was disorganised, split in bits and generally struggling to find direction. He established that direction, not every decision was great. The John Barnard design office was rather disastrous, but Jean Todt realised… Read more »

Sakae
Guest
Sakae

I would rather say, that it was JT who brought to the team cohesion, and harmony. It was world in which Brawn was able to create, undisturbed, while Schumacher responded.

Angela
Guest
Angela

So they brought on board a french team principal, an english engineer, a south african designer and a german driver. But lets not forget that it took the dream team a little over 5 years to achieve success. I think that it would be fair to give the current management team an equal amount of time. Marchionne should give them time and encouragement instead of thinking that he will get results with threats. I think that one of Marchionne’s biggest blunders was letting other teams poach their best talent while he was busy blood letting. The Italians are very capable… Read more »

Negative Camber
Guest

I completely agree in the time factor. I’ve argued that many times when people talk about Ferrari domination…it took five years. So did Mercedes. Red Bull took 5-7.

Alianora La Canta
Guest
Alianora La Canta

That’s just it. I don’t see the patience within Ferrari to give themselves 5 years, not when they’ve waited 6 years prior to the current regime since their last title. The inclination towards destabilising management (and quite un-Ferrari over-conservative engineering) helps nobody.

Member

As a Ferrari fan, I knew we, the fans, and the team would endure hard times when the Band broke up(Brawn, Schumacher, Byrne). But I had thought they(the team) had learned their lesson about not operating like it had in the late 1980s or early 1990’s. Not quite as chaotic as the Prost years, it has not been better either. Sergio Marchionne’s management purges have only made the situation worse and the team can’t attract the talent it needs to improve.

Tom Firth
Guest
Tom Firth

In answer to the original question. I think Ferrari has to hire the best talent, no matter the nationality. The team will always be Italian in its style and that’s fine, even if a lot of its largest talents are from other nations. I do wonder if what we have now, would of worked if it wasn’t for the tragic unfortunate events that happened to James Allison and his family. I think last year Ferrari proved it could work, and sadly things have gone awry in the absence of Allison.

Sakae
Guest
Sakae

Are you sure you are stating facts? SF16-H is Alison project! From last year till end of this year. No doubts about it. With little bit of search you will find enough of confirmation. If you are however suggesting that before Alison left that car was in tip top shape in best colors of a champion, and all disintegrated a morning after, than I have rather very different opinion about it. Whilst not confirmed, some people on the inside indirectly actually confirmed, that Alison was asked to leave. We can speculate about reasons for that, but there is no point… Read more »

Tom Firth
Guest
Tom Firth

Yes, I’m fully aware Alison was responsible as technical director, for this years car, and Simone Resta was responsible for the cars design. It was not as good of a car as the ’15 car. There’s no denying that. However I don’t think its wrong to say Ferrari’s 2016 season from March onwards, was certainly impacted by their Technical Director’s attention, rightly so been on things far more important than motorsport, and that has to have impacted the Scuderia’s in season progress.

Negative Camber
Guest

I would argue that contextually, this year’s car is better for Kimi. He is doing much better than last year and even told JPM that in a recent interview.

Tom Firth
Guest
Tom Firth

Fair point, for Kimi last years car was much worse.

Tom Firth
Guest
Tom Firth

Suppose Seb hasn’t had a bad year on results, just frustration and as a team have clearly slipped behind Red Bull.

Member
Fast Freddy

I’m disappointed in Sergio Marchionne’s public admonishment of Ferrari. Sure they are struggling, but so is everyone else compared to Mercedes. It’s just too easy to come up with half backed ideas for a teams lackluster results.

Steve Wyant
Guest
Steve Wyant

You can also point to the Lauda era when Niki Lauda got Ferrari back to the front. While the team itself was mostly Italian, there was the very strong personality of Lauda present.

meine
Member
meine

Ferrari is indeed too Italian, in the sense that people fear more for their job then that they fear bad results. Time to get things working is not given or taken.