In the 2014 season, Scuderia failed to achieve a single victory. The last time this happened was 21 years ago, and to rub salt into the wound, the team only attained fourth position in the F1 World Constructors’ Championship.
Ferrari’s new power unit has been off the pace since its introduction and the two podium finishes achieved this year were due to the skill of Fernando Alonso and not the cars’ performance. The results of his team mate Kimi Raikkonen reflect this.
With the prospect of yet another poor season, it was team Principal Stefano Domenicali who was first to go when he was replaced last April by the CEO of Ferrari North America, Marco Mattiacci. It was a strange appointment as Mattiacci had absolutely no experience of running a race team.
In June, company president Luca di Montezemolo began threatening that Ferrari may leave F1 as, in his own words, “Formula 1 isn’t working”. Montezemolo claimed people don’t want to watch racing that concentrates on efficiency but provides excitement. Perhaps, he said, the team should redirect its efforts into sports car racing.
This was not the first time he had delivered this message; he usually raised this subject whenever the team was not performing well.
Mattiacci, determined to get Ferrari back on track, started his restructuring program by replacing the director of the Engine and Electronics department, Luca Marmorini. There was a lot more to come when Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat, decided that things were still not going well in the F1 team and took a more hands-on approach. This resulted in Montezemolo’s resignation and the end of his 23-year reign with Marchionne assuming the presidency of Ferrari.
Since then the axe has fallen several times in the team including Mattiacci, Pat Fry, Nikolas Tombazis and tyre specialist Hirohide Hamashima. Replacing Mattiacci was an old friend of Marchionne, Maurizio Arrivabene.
Apart from these dismissals the team has only retained Kimi Raikkonen, with Fernando Alonso off to McLaren. Raikkonen is joined by four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel, who suffered a disappointing year in his last season with Red Bull. Even the test driver lineup has changed with Pedro de la Rosa also off to McLaren and the young Mexican Esteban Gutierrez filling his seat at Ferrari.
This is not the first time the Scuderia has undergone major personnel changes in a bid for better results, but
it was the 1990s that was most significant. In 1993 Montezemolo brought in Jean Todt as team principal. The Frenchman came with an impressive record, having taken Peugeot to victory in the World Rally Championship, Paris-Dakar Rally and Le Mans. Todt was the first non-Italian to head the Maranello outfit and proved his worth when less than a year later Gerhard Berger won the German Grand Prix, Ferrari’s first victory since 1990.
But it was Todt’s decision to secure the services of Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne in 1996. The ex-Benetton crew became the ‘Ferrari Dream Team’ aimed at taking the championship for the Leaping Horse. And the rest is history, as they say.
So could we see another dramatic revival of the Italian icon? Certainly not in the near future, because it takes a considerable period of time to create a true team where all involved work harmoniously, and with the current management, decision making could be a bit of a problem.
Marchionne has admitted 2015 is going to be a difficult year.
Personally, I think the scarlet team will need more than one season to pick up the pieces, and replacing staff on a regular basis certainly does nothing for confidence and stability.
Add to this the problem of the power unit freeze and the new team principal, who has never run a racing team before, and the difficulties become apparent. Despite Arrivabene’s credentials with the Marlboro Company and representing Formula One sponsors on the F1 Commission, he has had no direct involvement with a race team on a daily basis.
In some ways the whole Ferrari situation reminds me of the Japanese style of running F1 teams, when it was all about constantly changing management, all of whom appeared to be like headless chickens. This resulted in the collapse of the teams.
Running a racing team through purely business practices rather than using personal track experience has never been a success story. Let’s hope Ferrari proves to be the exception.