28 Mar THE RED WINTER- with David Hall.
Editor’s note- David wrote this piece for our social media page during the off season. After this morning’s qualifying performance by Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia, we decided to run it again.
Reading through the headlines of Ferrari articles during the year it would be easy to think George R. R. Martin was putting together a House Maranello special for Game of Thrones.
The Spaniard has headed North.
It wasn’t supposed to end like this for the relentless Alonso, but his quest for titles has now taken him away from Ferrari. For years he has been Vettel’s nearest challenger and has twice been defeated at the death by the German.
In some ways, it seems to be history repeating itself, much like Alain Prost leaving Ferrari in ’91, although I don’t remember Alonso calling the F14-T a truck! The Spaniard’s demeanour had changed during 2014. While the podium selfies and tweets were a powerful positive tool for Ferrari when things were going well, the emergence of the beaten Samurai left many Tifosi wondering why their warrior was not being given the weapons to fight at the front of the grid. The connection between driver and fans was something Alonso worked and it focused attention on the plight of Ferrari. Here was a driver who promised to give the maximum and was desperate to win. With the team clearly in transition, relations were becoming strained.
Change had come too late for Fernando and, with no seat available at Mercedes, the prodigal son returned to McLaren.
All Men Must Win.
Ferrari’s worst season since ’93 came despite Stefano Domenicali stepping down early in the season. Luca di Montezemolo would also follow suit, as it quickly became the season of the long knives. His resignation very much signifying the passing of an empire and the severing of the final links to Enzo Ferrari. Those that serve harsh words about his final years in charge would do well to remember that di Montezemolo oversaw possibly the greatest Formula 1 team ever assembled. Ultimately though, his resistance to change cost him his job.
Marco Mattiacci and Sergio Marchionne replaced Domenicali and di Montezemolo respectively. The former’s abrasive style did not go down well with many behind the scenes and an exchange between Mattiacci and Alonso seemed to seal the former’s fate.
Mattiaci commented upon Sebastian Vettel’s arrival that Ferrari looked forward with “the utmost motivation and commitment”.
“With Sebastian, we get one of the youngest world champions ever, four championships. I met him personally in the last few months. He is an extremely hard-working guy, humble, disciplined.”
Alonso responded “I read the comments and I don’t think they were very good. If he tried to mean I was unmotivated then he arrived too late at Ferrari. He has only a few months here and he didn’t probably see all the five years I spent here and I fought every single race and World Championship.”
Step forward the politically astute Marlboro man, Maurizio Arrivabene. Ferrari have not won the title since Kimi Raikkonen in 2008, their hope now lies with Arrivabene replicating Jean Todt in reawakening this once great team.
Sebastian Vettel must wonder who he’ll be left to work with when the season starts. His hope lies in the hands of those that arrived from Lotus after Kimi’s impressive season before jumping back into the prancing horse. Not the Finn himself, who is struggling to come to terms with the new turbo era F1 cars, but the men who arrived with him, James Allison and aero man Dirk de Beer. They may have arrived too late to impact the design of the disastrous F14-T but if Vettel is to have any hope of being competitive he desperately needs them to get this one right.
For years Ferrari won by being bulletproof. Not always the fastest car, but usually the fastest one that finished. Lotus under Allison and de Beer were competitive because they were the closest to matching Red Bull’s exhaust blown diffuser, while leading the way on FRIC development. Red Bull and Mercedes have both shown innovations that meant that Ferrari’s approach was no longer effective. That doesn’t meant that Ferrari don’t have the people to turn things around. If they are to win then they need to allow the designers to do just that. Let the leash off and allow innovation to lead.
If it doesn’t work they’ll be grateful that at least now neither driver is on Twitter.
Until the next time,