As Ferrari’s tepid Formula 1 season has rolled into Silverstone for the British GP, new team supremo Marco Mattiacci; who took over from Stefano Domenicali in April, has had no honeymoon period to settle into his team principal role of one of the most famous teams in the world of motorsport.
Ferrari, having not had their own way in the sport for a couple of years, made it very clear that Stefano Domenicali’s time was up and he was made to walk the plank.
Fernando Alonso has not exactly worked out either. With the driver in his 5th season after three second-placed finishes in the championship, he will have to cut his losses, look for a strong second half to 2014, and re-build for 2015. Rumours of Alonso wanting out have ruffled a few feathers in the Ferrari paddock in the past. Not since Kimi Raikkonen’s world championship success in 2007 has a Ferrari driver tasted overall victory by the end of the season. Kimi has been firmly behind Alonso during his second term at Ferrari, but both he and Alonso seem to lack pace with an underperforming car.
Both have cut a frustrated figure so far as the car looks to lag behind Mercedes and even Red Bull. As teams strive to gain that extra inch, all teams are working arduously towards the package best suited to each GP weekend. Ferrari’s lack of progress has startled many and Fernando’s wandering eye confirmed that all was not well within the Ferrari camp.
The much publicised budget cap was supposed to be introduced for 2015 but again it was scrapped. The smaller teams wanted a more affordable limit on spending as they try to fight to compete on a more level playing field. The excessive spending by the bigger teams will continue to drive an even bigger wedge between top and bottom and make it less attractive for new entrants to enter the fold.
After ex-FIA president Max Mosley tried to introduce a cap of £30 million back in 2010 and after it was revised at £40 million it was quickly rebuffed by the F1 teams, most notably Ferrari. With threats of a breakaway from the FIA discussed in the not so distant past, the constant announcement and subsequent withdrawal of a budget cap will continue on for the foreseeable future.
One thing that has been abundantly clear the last few seasons is that Ferrari is seriously lagging behind the other top teams. The primary concern for Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo, who directs his tirades from their Maranello HQ, is that they must improve, and improve quickly.
Before Michael Schumacher’s dominance in the late 1990-2000s – with a unique marriage built around a highly formidable team managed by Jean Todt, then Ross Brawn, Ferrari produced this unique partnership that quickly blossomed. For the best part of nearly twenty years Ferrari suffered a significant lull period without a world driver’s title. Not since Jody Scheckter’s world championship victory in 1979 did Ferrari achieve success. A repeat of this is simply out of the question and looks highly unlikely considering the name and prestige the team still commands.
Considering the pedigree Ferrari dictates all across the motoring world, it’s incredible to see that it took, until Michael’s success in 1999, twenty years to deliver another driver championship-winning car. It would be absurd for them to suffer in vain for another long strenuous period on the Formula 1 circuit but Ferrari needed a change and Marco Mattiacci is the man they have thrust into the spotlight.
He is no newcomer to the Ferrari family, having worked within the confines of their expansive operation since 1999, mainly based in North America. He understands the brand considering his background and will add something different going forward. With his experience in PR and marketing he may lack racing pedigree and this association may blow up in smoke but it’s an intriguing angle none the less. Kimi gave his assessment on his appointment:
“He’s a good guy to work with, something different from Stefano. People come from outside F1 with a different view of things and that help.”
Both drivers have secured points in every race since he took over, but the implementation of new ideas and ground work will most definitely have been discussed at Maranello and at each race thus far. Who knows, maybe this approach of hiring an individual with no racing pedigree could prove a turning point in the right direction.
Being one of the most recognised brands in the world does not mean instant success will always be guaranteed. Like any business Ferrari is results driven, with a lot of people investing their time, money, and effort. Furthermore, there are shareholders that need to see the brand succeeding well on the track. The commercial might of the brand needs no introduction or re-invention but a strong competitive Formula 1 team is a must.
Luca di Montezemolo had this to say:
“I’m sure Mattiacci will do a good job, even though he has just arrived, but I don’t believe in a one-man show, I believe in a good group and we are working very well to try to improve the situation.”
All drivers past and present want or wanted a seat with the prancing horse emblem within hands reach. Ferrari are not at the head of the grid as preparation for next season will have already begun in earnest, but the team reshuffle will hopefully get the right package together for the better of Ferrari.
“It is not a matter of going on a shopping spree but making sure the right team of people are in place.”
Sentiments shared directly with the hierarchy of Ferrari. One thing is certain, Enzo Ferrari would have had the guillotine out long ago if he were still alive. For certain Alonso would have gone elsewhere due to his apparent lack of interest in the cause and his flirtation with Red Bull that did not go unnoticed.
On the other hand it’s safe to say that Stefano would not have been given the job as head of the Formula One team either, as he lacked almost every ounce of quality that Enzo demanded from every individual associated with the brand. He had flashes of brilliance at times, winning the constructors title in his first season in 2008. Stefano lived, breathed, and held Ferrari deep to his very core. He wore his heart on his sleeve and would have no doubt clashed with Enzo, then again a lot of people did. This passion alone only means one thing, but if you don’t show your worth at Ferrari you are on borrowed time.
Enzo’s fickle approach and lack of empathy would have put an end to proceedings long ago and Luca di Montezemolo’s patience finally ran out. The team has had its fair share of upheavals in the past, some self-inflicted, others due to tragic circumstances, but the allure has always remained the same. Through an expert solid foundation, this team has always marched on, exorcised its demons, and proven dozens of times over that it never gives up without a fight.
Liam Cairns, Pundit Arena.