Ferrari’s history of quit threats
Surely the most celebrated breakaway threat in Ferrari’s long history was the one that took a real, physical form. In 1986, designer Gustav Brunner was commissioned to conceive what became the 637 IndyCar, which was shown to the press and even tested at Fiorano in the hands of Ferrari F1 driver Michele Alboreto and Bobby Rahal. Truesports, for whom Rahal raced in the US, looked set to run an IndyCar programme set up primarily to rattle F1. The motivation? Future engine rules that didn’t comply with Ferrari’s own belief in what direction grand prix racing should take.
The Indycar never raced – another motorsport ‘what might have been’ – but discord over future engines and increasingly Ferrari’s financial stake in F1 would continue to provoke threats to walk away, and if anything they have increased in regularity during the post-Enzo era. In 2004 chairman Luca di Montezemolo broke tradition by joining forces with rivals DaimlerChrysler (Mercedes), BMW and Renault to form GPWC Holdings, which offered a direct threat to create a breakaway series, in defiance of the throttling control represented by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone. The accord didn’t last, but for a time the GPWC threat was serious.
Mosley’s drive for standardised engines and a budget cap in 2008, just before his fall from grace as FIA president, provoked further quit threats from di Montezemolo. In this regard, Mosley deserves credit for his foresight – but his ousting pushed budget caps back into the peripheries, until the reality of the current two-tier F1 of the ‘haves’ (Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull) and ‘have-nots’ (the rest) revived economic control as entirely necessary and actually inevitable.
Di Montezemolo pulled the old card again when the current hybrid turbo era was ushered in, but his successor was particularly drawn to the tactic. At times, the late Sergio Marchionne seemed solely intent on driving Ferrari away from its defining relationship with F1, even saying a divorce would make him feel “Like a million bucks, because I’d be working on an alternative strategy to try and replace it. A more rational one, too.”