F1: Ferrari – What If? Then What?
Let’s start with Ferrari’s form, last season. It was disappointing for the team to say the very least. So much so, in fact, that half way through the season, the team decided to scrap development and focus on the 2012 challenger.
Haven missed out narrowly on the drivers’ championship in 2012 and having not won a championship since 2007, the team decided to take some risks with the car design. Ferrari had come under fire by many, especially the punishing Italian media for playing it “too safe” to paraphrase.
By far, the most radical redesign the storied manufacturer made in years, the F2012 has yet to really show its potential. Many technical analysts have said that this new car may be the one with the most potential on the grid IF Ferrari find a way to unlock it. Its configuration is lacking in the areas of downforce as has been the case in recent years. Thus, a complete re-think on the exhaust layout and redesign of the cars rear is expected.
Reports are emerging now out of Maranello that the team has been unable to complete all the upgrades planned in time for the F1 in-season tests in Mugello which are to kick off tomorrow. Many of the other components that were planned are now set to appear only by the Spanish GP in two weeks’ time.
Despite its lack of pace and overall level of grip and competitiveness, Alonso sits in the top 5 just 10 points out of first place. In part, this is due to his miraculous win in a wet Malaysian GP. The rest of it comes down to picking up points while other leading drivers took points away from each other.
So now we get to the “What If”?
What if, all of Ferrari’s efforts are all for not? Other teams are certainly not going to sit back and not develop their cars, so what if Ferrari’s improvements are not enough to be competitive? What if the planned upgrades don’t have the desired effect? What if they don’t gain the team a single tenth?
Does the team scrap this season as they did last? Do they now start to concentrate on next season and try to use this season as a testing bed for the following season. Again..? Will heads roll? If so, who’s?
Domenicali is a sweetheart, but perhaps it’s time to hand things over to someone else. Will Pat Fry be able to change the antiquated methodologies in Maranello? This would not be the first time Ferrari have had to make changes to their methods. Remember in yesteryear, Enzo Ferrari dismissed disc brakes until it became apparent that they were clearly better than drums and absolutely critical to be competitive. Similarly, Enzo hesitated to switch to a mid-engine design until John Cooper proved in the late 50s that it was clearly a much better configuration.
Ferrari went through a championship winning drought that lasted over 20 years until a similar revolution of thinking was made. Luca Di Montezemolo, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn were key to the change. Brawn is gone, Todt has left and Luca may be looking to a political future. Many others that made up the dream team that allowed Ferrari to dominate the sport have also gone. Who or what must now happen for the Scuderia to turn things around and avoid having their arses handed to them every GP weekend?
With possibly one of the best drivers on the grid behind the wheel, will they be able to retain Alonso if they do not become competitive quickly?
Perhaps that is in a question for another day. One thing is certain, the time for half measures and pussy footing is over.
AUTHOR: Ernie Black