While F1 fans have their favourite teams and drivers, the magical allure of Ferrari and their history in Formula One has many rooting for their return to the top of the sport.
The iconic red team last won the drivers championship last with Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 and their most recent constructor’s victory was the following year when Hamilton claimed his first F1 title.
1980’s Ferrari F1 doldrums
Prior to that the Italian team had delivered the most dominant string of results ever seen then in Formula One when they claimed six constructor’s championships from 1999-2004 and five titles for Schumacher 2000-04.
Their success began when Ferrari chairmen broke with the tradition of hiring Italian’s only to the top positions in the team. In Jean Todt, Luca de Montezemolo remarkably appointed a CEO of the Scuderia who had no experience in Formula One.
Todt was an ex-rally driver and had plotted the rise of Peugeot Talbot Sport and their endurance team won Le Mans in 1992. The Frenchman joined Ferrari the following year and set about ringing the changes in radical fashion.
His challenge was to lead Ferrari back to glory at a time when the team was experiencing some of the worst results in its history. The Italian team was undermined by internal quarrels and a production system that was dislocated.
Non Italian boss turns Scuderia around
It had been thirteen years since their previous title winning F1 season so Todt set about the restoring of the entire racing division.
Barely a year later Gerhard Berger won the German Grand Prix, Ferrari’s first win in four seasons, yet the team dominating the sport was Michael Schumacher’s Benetton-Ford which delivered the to be iconic German driver his first two F1 titles in 1994/5.
Jean Todt realised the best way to win in F1 was to recruit winners with experience and he persuaded Schumacher to join the Scuderia along with Benetton’s star designer Rory Burns and Technical Director Ross Brawn.
The results were quickly obvious as Ferrari came close in both 1997/98 to winning the drivers’ championship, missing out by a few points each time. The in 1999 an injury to Schumacher derailed what looked to be a winning season for the German as he broke a leg at the British Grand Prix.
F1 boss critical of current Ferrari personnel
Yet Todt’s revolution delivered the constructors’ title that year and five more titles for Schumacher the following seasons.
Former F1 boss Eddie Jordan argues that to return to wining ways Ferrari should adopt the Jean Todt philosophy. He believes the qualify of the management below Fred Vasseur is just not good enough.
Speaking on the latest edition of the Formula For Success podcast, Jordan observes, “He brought in Rory Byrne, he brought in Pat Symonds and there was Jean Todt, and they were the nucleus. I’m saying to Ferrari, you have absolutely, in my opinion, have slightly got the pecking order wrong.
“You have brilliant guys on the perch, brilliant engineers who are able to design great engines, design great cars, but it’s the finer details to making that race car into a winning car. That’s the difference.”
Lower Formula the clue
Jordan argues that Ferrari should look to the lower echelons of single seater racing for people with experience.
“And I think you need people who have gone through the formulas for karting, Formula Three, because what’s happening is they are appointing people who don’t have the inner knowledge, the experience and recall rate that they can think about, ‘what did I do in Formula Three, when that happened? What did I do there?’”
Eddie then makes a dramatic claim and believes Ferrari’s fortunes could be turned around easily.
“I’d be really quite brutal if I was in Ferrari, but I big-headedly think that I would actually turn it around a bit.”
Ferrari’s last genius designer
The story of Ferrari design genius John Barnard may also have some lessons for the path ahead for the Scuderia today argues Jordon.
Barnard joined McLaren in 1980 and during his subsequent stay with the team, they became the dominant force within F1. Attracting gate likes of Niki Lauda who claimed the drivers’ championship for McLaren in 1984 and was followed by Alain Prost in 1985/86.
As is relationship with Ron Dennis deteriorated, Jean Todt tapped him on the shoulder and persuaded him to become the Technical Director for the Scuderia.
Whilst Barnard agreed, he cause a huge stir by refusing to relocate to Maranello in Italy and set up his office in England instead.
Barnard sets up English Ferrari F1 office
The tradition had previously been for non-Italian members of the Scuderia to live and work in Maranello as was the case for the then Ferrari chief engineer British born Harvey Postlethwaite.
Yet Barnard was insistent arguing he could get more work done without the distractions of the goings on in the factory or the scrutiny of the Italian press who had been scathing of Ferrari’s F1 efforts.
He also put a ban on the team’s long-standing tradition of having wine at the mechanics’ lunch table during testing, something that proved unpopular with the team’s mostly Italian mechanics.
Eddie Jordan refers to these kind of Ferrari traditions suggesting they should be revoked with immediate effect.
Italian working practices too shoddy
“They stop for lunch for an hour and a half, just the whole philosophy of the place is…don’t get me on my high horse!,” Jordon snorts.
“Remember how they got very good. They got very good when John Barnard designed the car for them. But it was designed and made in Britain, most of the car 90% of the car was made in England, and they need to start thinking about going back to that method.”
Ferrari have recently lost a number of key individuals including their head of vehicle concept David Sanchez being signed by McLaren while sporting director Laurent Mekies will be leaving to become AlphaTauri team principal.
And team boss Fred Vasseur recently claimed recruitment for the Scuderia is made more difficult by their Italian location and for the English based teams the challenge is more simple.
Vasseur bemoans recruitment problems
“It’s not the same situation – you can move from Red Bull to Mercedes, keep the same hours, keep children in the same school and from the Friday to the Monday you can change and everything is perfect,” Vasseur told Sky Sports at the Canadian GP.
“If you want to come to Italy, it’s a different approach. You have to change the family environment and so on.
“Sometimes it can play into discussions because they have to move the family, it depends on the situation of the children, it’s not always easy but as soon as we are able to attract someone they are staying,” Vasseur explained.
The seven English based F1 teams are relatively close together and staff moving from one to another can mostly commute from their present home meaning family life is undisturbed.
In Italy “the food is much better”
Ferrari’s boss was previously at the Swiss based F1 outfit and observes there were similar recruitment difficulties there.
“I had the same situation at Sauber, it was difficult to ask them to come but as soon as they were in Switzerland they stayed in Switzerland.”
Vasseur concludes there are hidden appeals to life in Italy and the plump Frenchman ironically states:
“But as soon as you are in Italy I think it’s more difficult to leave – the food is much better and the quality of life in Italy is mega.”
Ferrari sub-division could be UK based
The modern F1 teams are behemoths when compared to the size of the Ferrari outfit Jean Todt inherited in 1993. So the importance of being able to easily recruit new personnel is bigger than ever before.
Dr. Helmut Marko revealed this year that AlphaTauri will be relocating a significant number of its functions to the UK for next season. They already have over 100 staff already based in England.
The Faenza based team will retain its Italian base, though it may become merely a fabrication and assembly unit and skilled technicians in this field in Italy can be easily found.
Of course Ferrari can never relocate to the UK from its iconic and historic base in Maranello. Yet there could be some mileage in Jordan’s suggestion that would see some of their design functions and roles find a base in England’s “motorsport valley.”
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