Scuderia Ferrari: the most famous racing team in the history of wheeled competition. Few could argue with that statement or deny that the Prancing Horse is one of the most recognised brands in the world – right up there with Apple, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. People who don’t – or can’t – drive, or care not one jot about cars, let alone follow motorsport, know exactly what a Ferrari is.
If you’re well-versed in your Italian stallions, you’ll know that the iconic Italian manufacturer continues to churn out road-going world-beaters – F12 Berlinetta, FF, 458 Italia and California – but the same can’t be said of its Formula 1 effort.
“As a racing-obsessed school kid, I couldn’t help but be a Ferrari fan and I find Ferrari’s current predicament rather sad”
For the first time in 21 years, the team failed to win a grand prix during the season, instead having to watch as Mercedes beat Red Bull 16-3 in the 19-race campaign. And that sort of statistic is a damning indictment of a team that finds itself in disarray and certainly a shadow of the dominant boss/designer/engineer/driver superteam that was Jean Todt/Rory Byrne/Ross Brawn/Michael Schumacher.
As a racing-obsessed school kid, I grew up watching Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann and Gilles Villeneuve win in scarlet machines so couldn’t help but be a Ferrari fan. Add to that success for proper racers Patrick Tambay, Rene Arnoux, Michele Alboreto, Gerhard Berger, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost and I find Ferrari’s current predicament rather sad.
And the fall-out from this epic failure by a Maranello squad that can boast 221 race wins on its world championship CV, as well as 16 world titles, has been a catalogue of high-profile sackings and departures. In the space of a single season, Ferrari has changed its president (Luca di Montezemolo for Sergio Marcchione), its team principal twice (Stefano Domenicali was replaced by Marco Mattiacci, who soon made way for Maurizio Arrivabene) and lost its star driver Fernando Alonso after five years of big effort but little reward for the Spaniard.
As well as that, four of its key architects – engine chief Luca Marmorini, engineering director Pat Fry, chief designer Nicolas Tombazis and tyre guru Hirohide Hamashima – are gone.
Sweeping changes, indeed, but the suits, led by Ferrari parent company Fiat Chrysler CEO Marcchione, feel this is the only way to stop the rot. It’s also wooed four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel away from Red Bull as part of its rebuilding plan. The German helped haul the energy-drink-backed outfit, whose resources rival those of Ferrari, to the top of the pile in 2010 and kept it there for a four-year, title-double rout. The pressure’s on for Maranello to build a car with which Vettel and his former champion team-mate Kimi Raikkonen can end the drought.
Ferrari has been through slumps before but its global tifosi, which includes me, will be hoping that Alonso, who still came within a combined seven points of winning the world title in 2010 and 2012 with the Scuderia, is proved right when he says, ‘next year they will be very strong’.