Last week, news emerged that the chairman of Ferrari, Sergio Marchionne, wants victories and would do anything necessary to get them. Niki Lauda, always quick to enlighten us with his opinion, told German RTL that Marchionne is doing what the late Enzo Ferrari always did; put the pressure on. “The fact that Ferrari is so far behind is very surprising,” the triple Formula 1 world champion said. “The problem with Ferrari is that they are under pressure – the more Marchionne calls for wins, the more the Italians are likely to make mistakes.”
Marchionne replied a day later suggesting that the pressure on the team is to motivate them. “While I do put pressure on my team I’m also motivating them. We have to improve the car again, deeply and quickly.” For a while now, Ferrari’s new president has enjoyed a reputation of getting things done. He’s seen as the savior of the Fiat (and Chrysler) empire, showing his unique management style at the highest level in the automotive industry. As a direct man, he preferred to deal with the all his people face-to-face – unlike most CEO’s nowadays. Marchionne even has his bureau at Fiat on the same floor as the engineers thus leaving the executives bureau empty.
But like most people at this level, he has a ruthlessness streak in him. A ‘do what you have to do’ attitude. His character and managing style are, in my opinion, why he went for someone like Maurizio Arrivabene, despite Ferrari’s new team principal having no real sporting background as such. Arrivebene’s experience is, more or less, that he was the vice president of Marlboro global communication and promotions for Philip Morris international, and a little later the vice president of consumer channel strategy and event marketing. There, that was a mouth full! Those titles alone are worth some money, haha. It was this work that helped Arrivebene get his foot in the door at Ferrari’s formula one team. Later on, Arrivebene even sat on the Formula One commission as a representative for all the sport’s sponsors. Pretty big deal if you ask me.
All of this wouldn’t have gone unnoticed to Marchionne. For a ‘face-to-face’ type CEO, this shows the people skills that Arrivabene clearly has. So, Arrivabene was appointed as team principal of the Ferrari Formula One Team. And for us fans, the harmony of the team became visible once they got rid of the caustic Fernando Alonso and hired Sebastian Vettel in his place.
In 2015, the team appeared the healthiest it had been since the golden Schumacher era. Prospects looked glorious after a decent year with hopes for a title challenge in 2016 rising to high levels. Fast forward now to the 15th May 2016, two hours before the fifth race in the year. Saturday probably even the worst qualifying session Ferrari experienced this and last year combined. And maybe a sign that it’s close to ending for Arrivabene with Marchionne telling sky that he has his total confidence in the former Marlboro man.
We all know what that means in F1… The more you hear about confidence and certainty the bigger the chance is that you’ll get sacked! The only thing pro-Arrivabene is that Marchionne also says he has never seen better harmony in the team. That part of the job is done, but is it enough to continue to cover the team for not getting anticipated results?
On a sidenote, Belgium has the same problem with their national football team, golden generation and a coach who brought the best atmosphere to the team in thirty years, but doesn’t get results. After awhile, people tend to not like that.
Where to from here? Some say if Arrivebene gets the sack, the most likely to get the job at Ferrari would be James Allison – designer, engineer and current technical director at the Scuderia. And this is where I have to join in to give my opinion about it all. As it is an article from me, I am allowed to do that, haha. (Of course, you are allowed to / encouraged to do the same in the comments section below.) I think this would be the wrong way to go. Allison is very good at the job he does now, even when the Ferrari doesn’t seem to challenge the Mercedes as much as we had hoped. But, that’s more due to Mercedes’ unprecedented PU superiority. Last year’s car merly had Allison’s fingerprints on it; this year there is more of him. So to prematurely take him off the job might be the wrong solution.
Despite the fact Ferrari did get both guys on the podium at the Spanish GP, I don’t think Arrivabene’s position has changed. Clearly if the Mercedes boys hadn’t taken each other out the Ferrari’s would’ve been fourth and fifth. And the big boss asked for a win. In both scenarios they’ve failed.
So back to Allison and whether or not he’d be the correct choice. Of course I am just a punk behind a mobile phone, so who cares about what I think, and my views don’t have all the data nor do I know any of the above mentioned people in real life. But the fact is that since Allison is in charge of technical aspects, the Ferraris seem to be better cars than before. Why change that? There is the fact that they didn’t catch the Mercedes cars, yes. But if you change to much now it might not happen next year either. They say don’t change a winning team (right Lewis?) but changing a team that’s trying to catch up might not be the best solution either.
If Marchionne does decide, like the red queen, that it’s ‘off with Arrivabene’s head,’ then there might be a choice that could be a real shocker. And I’d love to see Mercedes’ collective face if this choice would go for what I’m proposing now. One man who can bring fortune back to the scarlet boys. A man I can think of with a high prospect of winning. Maybe even the highest one. Ross Brawn. He who can build on the balance Arrivabene brought to the Scuderia. He who brought eight World Drivers’ Championships and World Constructors’ Championships to his teams when he was in significant roles of responsibility – either as team principal or technical director.
We all know he is not one for monumental cock-ups like we’ve seen in the last couple of years on the wall of both Ferrari (Australia ’16 is the first example which comes to my mind. the second one is gifting Verstappen his first win by covering Ricciardo when Red Bull put him on the wrong strategy.) and Mercedes (Monaco ’15). Brawn knows – and understands – racing like no one else on the pit wall right now. Furthermore, he would be a piece of the puzzle Vettel needs to achieve what Schumacher did. Brawn helped Schumacher, so Schumacher’s protégé can only be happy if the Ferrari team appoint Brawn to help him win seven – or more – titles. Don’t forget, Brawn brought the first wins to the Mercedes team in it’s second incarnation as a full works team.
For me, Brawn is the architect of that team and both Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe are riding the gravy train. Brawn is a firm leader with a plethora of examples, but showcased this no better than at the Malaysian GP in 2014. With him there would be no multi 21 drama or young Verstappen saying no to the team when they order him to let Sainz jr trough. Furthermore he brought succes to different teams in formula one: Benetton, Ferrari and after some page filling drama to his own Brawn team. And he designed the Jaguar Xjr 14, which won the ’91 world sportscar championship. Hard to call him a one trick pony. But he did more than design and lead, he is known for being in a league of its own when it came to race strategy. Who among us doesn’t remember the masterstroke he did at the Hungaroring back in 1998. Deciding to call Schumacher in for a risky 3 stop strategy and Schumacher in turn raking in the qualification laps, during the race. Granted, it did need the finishing touch of Schumacher, probably only he could deliver that kind of laps in a race on command. But the command had to come. Without Brawn and his idea Schumacher wouldn’t finish any higher than third instead of winning like he did that day. Even as a non schumi fan I was sitting on the edge of my seat, watching the telly. Baffled by what was happening…
Or to put it like Wtf_f1 said it: If Brawn can get Button a WDC, then he can get anyone a WDC! 😂
So I hope someone at Ferrari dares to ask him. Then it might be that Brawn finally realises that fishing is boring and Formula One isn’t. I know, in all fairness, it won’t happen even when it’s a good idea. So I might have to write a letter to Bernie (yes, Mr. Ecclestone, I too can write) to ask him to think of Brawn as a successor when he finally kicks the bucket. Everybody on the grid respects Brawn and he would have a big impact; a positive one. He’ll never, ever come up with stupid ideas like sprinklers on track. I’ll leave it at that. Again special thanks to @wtf_f1 for editing.