Once upon a time the legendary Ferrari Formula 1 team was spoken of in awe and starry eyed worship. The dream team of Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn and their towering supremacy defined the entire era of the 90s and early 2000s. The crimson red of Ferrari was in every corner of the world, worn proudly by their dedicated Tifosi.
Since then the wave of Ferrari’s success has dramatically diminished. A disappointing 2014 campaign has effected several changes in the team’s structure but the new regulations haven’t been solely to blame for their struggles. The 2008 constructor’s title was the team’s last championship triumph and since then a few second place finishes is all the team has to show for itself. In the world of Ferrari second place is wholly unacceptable, even downright appalling. Here the only thing that matters is being the best, being number one. Here, the walls of the Maranello factory are saturated with the legacy of success and here being the best is ingrained in the very fabric of its existence.
In 2014 alone several incidents have combined to provide a decisive indication of a team in decline. In Australia someone forgot to fasten Kimi Raikkonen’s seat in the practice session; later the team fitted the wrong tyres to the car, and several glaringly dubious strategy calls in qualifying and races have had significant consequences on grid slots and results. It’s as if the clinical racing machine that was Ferrari has slowly perished over the last several years to be replaced by a slapdash team of headless chickens.
For all of their struggles and non-informative press statements and less than convincing promises of improvement Ferrari has had one thing going for it – the belief that they can do better. That belief, along with major changes in the organisation, has seen it start the transformation it so badly needs. First, team Principal Stefano Domenicalli was expelled and replaced with Marco Mattiacci. The CEO of Ferrari in North America Mattiacci’s appointment was somewhat surprising. The silver-haired Italian is a suit, used to boardrooms and PowerPoint. Yet, the move makes sense. He doesn’t have a blinding infatuation with the Scuderia and he isn’t lovesick about its near mythical greatness. He is a man used to setting out a singular strategy and remaining focused on the objective of reaching it. Mattiacci is no fool either; he knows what changes need to happen where. “It’s not just the power units, the aerodynamics, [or] the chassis; it’s the team, the car – it’s a huge amount of work that needs to be done.”
Last year, James Allison joined the team but not with enough time to have an impact on the design of the F 14T. Allison, second only to Adrian Newey in reputation, is a level-headed bloke. He doesn’t profess to have the secret to fixing Ferrari’s problems overnight. He is a solid team man though with an impressive technical mind. His last two cars, the 2012 and 2013 Lotus were good pieces of kit which allowed for development and improvement. Contrastingly, the F 14T is right mess. It started the 2014 season with a grossly deficient and overweight power-unit. The horrors weren’t confined to one area though. It yearns for downforce and its loose rear-end makes it a nightmare to balance.
The F 14T is fundamentally flawed in design which means any significant improvement can only be made with a remodel of the chassis. In other words, it’s not happening in 2014. But the team can put the groundwork in place for next year. They’ve put Allison in charge of leading the 2015 project and he has already presented his plans to Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Yes, unlike previous years Allison’s plan is for both drivers to have a say in the design principles of the car.
A dodgy and erratic power-unit hasn’t done the team any favours this season and the result is a restructuring in the engine department. Engine chief Luca Marmorini has been sacked by the team in favour of Mattia Binotto who will serve as the chief-operating-officer of the power-unit department. The design of the power-unit will fall on Lorenzo Sassi who has been with the team since 2006.
Ferrari has responded to news of engineering director Pat Fry’s dismissal by rejecting it as mere “rumours.” However, as Allison has all but slotted in as the de facto technical head it fuels speculation as to where Fry will fit into the all-new shiny Ferrari line-up.
You are in an era of change Ferrari fans and this team should be commended for that. They’ve realized their miscalculations and they’re big enough to admit their mistakes and, more importantly, to do something about it.