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Ferrari upheaval: "Vettel is not naive, he knows what's happening at Ferrari. He's taking a gamble"

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Ferrari upheaval: "Vettel is not naive, he knows what's happening at Ferrari. He's taking a gamble"
Dec 23, 2014, 12:01 PM

Don't expect too much from Ferrari in 2015.

Don't expect too much from Ferrari in 2015. That was the message from the pre-Christmas gathering at Maranello yesterday with the new captains of the ship, Chairman Sergio Marchionne and Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene at the helm.

So what is behind their statements and what are the prospects for Ferrari in the next few years?

Managing expectations is number one item on the agenda. When you storm in and fire everybody, including a chairman who has steered the company for 23 years and then your race team does just as badly in your first year in charge, questions will be asked. Better to forewarn everyone that next year will be another bad year, because of other people's decisions. That buys you time.

There has been immense upheaval after a period of stagnation at Ferrari with two changes of team boss, a change of chairman, chief designer, engine chief, operations engineer and other departments too.

"We have renewed everything. We are starting again," said Marchionne yesterday. "What I am afraid of is that we are starting late because of decisions made by others. So 2015 will be a difficult year, which will test us. We have a delay which will leave us trailing for the whole season. A season of rebuilding."

What else could he have done? Was Ferrari showing any signs of making progress towards the front under its previous management team of Montezemolo and Domenicali/Mattiacci? Or was it in a period of decline, exacerbated by the change of regulations to hybrid turbos, which another competitor got spectacularly right?

Marchionne wants to emulate Mercedes, mature Ferrari's technology and team over the next two years and be ready to challenge "from the end of 2015."

Ferrari

To achieve this, he and Arrivabene need stability. He needs talented people working together with a shared vision and he needs them to feel protected as they work. Deputy heads have been promoted in key areas; Simone Resta replaces Nicolas Tombazis as chief designer and Lorenzo Sassi as designer on the power unit side. Marchionne said that he had done this because this has been policy that has served him well through his career. It's about giving good people with ideas the chance to "express themselves, knowing that there is space for them to do so, with their backs covered."

F1 needs a strong Ferrari, it is good for business. A eek Ferrari is bad for business. They don't have to dominate, as they did in the Schumacher years, which was as big a turn off for fans as anything that has happened in more recent years. At least Mercedes let their two drivers race, so despite having a supremely dominant car, the title battle went down to the final round. Schumacher won one of his titles at the French Grand Prix in July!

But Ferrari needs to compete and to win from time to time, to be a protagonist, that is important for F1's sense of self.

Ferrari

The outside world's perception is that the team has revered to its headless chicken days, with lots of unpleasant stereotypes about Italians. Another German driver, a champion, is walking into this supposed madhouse, Sebastian Vettel.

"Vettel is not naive, he knows what is happening at Ferrari," said Marchionne. "He is making a big gamble, we have to move quickly to reconstruct."

The great achievement of Montezemolo was to show that "Made in Italy" was a badge of honour and prestige when it came to F1 racing cars. The road cars are always highly prized, but he blended Italians with Brits, a Frenchman, a German and and a South African and made an unbeatable team, based in Italy, carrying the national flag.

Marchionne and Arrivabene know what they are doing in business and they have both seen plenty of what F1 is about, both on and off the track. But finding the magic sauce for a racing team is very difficult. Ross Brawn learned what it takes from his winning Ferrari days and reproduced the formula at Mercedes. A rule change provided the opportunity to plan and to execute flawlessly and Paddy Lowe and Toto Wolff finished off what Brawn started. The upheaval there 18 months ago, with Brawn's removal, in no way adversely affected the outcome for Mercedes, and Wolff even remembered to say "Thanks" to Brawn when they closed out both world titles this year.

Jock Clear

Why Ferrari has taken Jock Clear

Having failed to persuade both Adrian Newey and Ross Brawn to join the team at this point, to lead the rebuilding process, Ferrari moves ahead with a new team of talented people, but no stars. That's not necessarily a problem; all have something to prove and are hungry to succeed. But they need to have the protection from outside forces and interference that only a strong leader can give them.

This is Arrivabene's principle task. He cannot get side tracked on F1 politics, rule changes, dealing with Ecclestone or defaulting to areas of comfort for him, like commercial matters. If he takes his eye off the ball when it comes to shielding the race team, the project will fail.

He has hired Jock Clear to replace Pat Fry as head of track operations. Clear brings with him the current Mercedes 'lustre', but also he has worked closely with Schumacher and knows exactly how he worked and why it was so successful. Jock was a keen rugby player and he is a real competitor, a real fighter and he has immense experience as a race engineer.

He's in his 50s, so could and probably should, have made the step up to this level of engineering management some time ago. But he has been happy to stay at the coal-face, in day to day race engineering because he enjoys it. He was on Hamilton's car alongside Peter Bonnington this year but rather than go again in 2015, he's decided that the moment is right to cash in while his stock is high and to take the Ferrari role.

Ferrari is hiring now, the opportunity was now and might not come around in 12 months time. Also as he has an impressive CV, so a stint in a senior role at Ferrari will add a flourish to it and provide him with a potential exit strategy in a few years time, with a healthy bank balance. He could easily move into broadcasting from there, as he is one of the best communicators in F1.

He will bring discipline, focus and tremendous motivational power to the race team. But on the downside he will have to learn to transition into managing a whole operation rather than just one car. Rob Smedley has done that well this year at Williams, so it's likely Clear will be able to do the same.

XPB.cc

Under him will be Dave Greenwood (above), who was recently technical director at Marussia and is clearly held in high regard by Ferrari from their dealings with him there. He's on Raikkonen's car and Ricardo Adami is also joining the team to engineer Vettel.

Simone Resta is in charge of chassis design and has Dirk de Beer and Loic Bigois as heads of aerodynamics. James Allison continues to manage the whole technical operation and carry responsibility for the competitiveness of the car.

The door at Maranello remains open to Newey, should he change his mind and want to take the Ferrari challenge. He looked at it very carefully this April before deciding it wasn't for him. He will be immersed in America's Cup racing for a while, but you only need to look at his contribution to the forthcoming Zoom Auction - a photo of his garage, like an Aladdin's cave of racing stuff, to realise that racing is his heart and it's likely that he will feel its pull again at some point.
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