Everything is now awesome in Ferrari-land since the horrible Spanish Matador was banished from the ring and the new benevolent dictator Sergio Marchionne and his deputy grasped the red reins of power. Some say, if you listen carefully early in a Maranello morning, you will hear strains of the Mark Mothersbaugh version of the Lego Movie anthem being heartily sung by the Ferrari operatives before they begin their morning’s work.
Unlike within the Mercedes F1 team, the Scuderia driver pairing is doing more than getting on just fine; Kimi loves Seb and Seb adores Kimi and the joie de vivre that is now at the heart of Ferrari forms the core message of every press release approved by HQ.
Yet beneath this veritable fount of bonhomie the reality of being obliterated on track for two consecutive seasons by their German racing rivals is never far from the mind of each and every Ferrari minion. As in the movies, behind the scenes in Ferrari-world is a big bad boss – and Sergio Marchionne is beginning to wield the whip.
Given the vagaries of the Italian-English translations offered for the Ferrari president’s Christmas message, we can’t be sure of the exact level of expectation Sergio is creating, though the broad gist is not in doubt. Here at TJ13 we translated Ferrari’s big boss claims made in La Gazzetta as, “We will already be the team to beat in Australia”. A more conservative conversion had Marchionne demanding, “it is important to win the first race of the season in Australia.”
Comme ci, comme ça – as they say in France. What is crystal clear, is that Ferrari’s president demands in 2016 far more from his Maranello mob than they have delivered in recent times. Marchionne has already dismissed excuses which suggests the Scuderia is suffering from lack of investment: “We have made all the necessary investments in order to bring the title back to Maranello,” he insisted in a speech at the Christmas factory shindig.
Sergio also refuted in advance claims that time has been too short: “Maurizio [Arrivabene] will tell you we delayed some things to allow for the 2015 car to be finished,” said Marchionne. “Hopefully he will not bitch about this. We pushed back the start of some of the work on the chassis for the ’16 cars, it was delayed a little. But we still have had adequate time and adequate financial resources to do the right thing given the rules”.
So the pressure is on for F1’s race weekend 1 in Australia; and in less than 8 weeks we will know how awesome everything at Ferrari really is. During the wet tyre test this week at Paul Ricard, Sebastian Vettel revealed to some extent the way the Maranello minions are feeling. “It’s natural that we all want to win – the team is quite big, there’s a lot of people and if you ask everyone, I think [they all agree] our target is to win.”
Vettel believes Ferrari has closed the gap to Mercedes over the winter but questions whether the target set by Marchionne – of a win in Australia – is realistic. “But we know it’s very ambitious, we know that the gap has been quite big last year. I think we did a good job over the season to come closer. This year we have some changes and we will have to see – obviously the testing is crucial to start on the right foot and then we go from there.
“But Australia is one race from 21. If you win there, it’s great, if not – you try to finish as close as possible to the top step and collect as many points. And after that it’s a long year.”
This is not quite doing an Alain Prost – who called his expensive handmade Ferrari racing machine ‘a truck’ and suffered the consequences. In fact Vettel’s loyalty to his team principal Maurizio Arrivabene is most admirable.
However, it may be better for young Seb to keep his neck away from the chopping block and allow others to suffer the consequences of not building a Ferrari racing car capable of beating the Mercedes. After all, Sergio Marchionne is considered a bright guy and could always choose to free up another several tens of millions by following the Mateschitz model of hiring young talent at a fraction of the cost of a world champion or two.