For the last few years, it has been no less than torture being a Ferrari fan. A typical schedule of the season for a Ferrari fan goes something like this – Ferrari unveil a red car, make wild predictions, do fantastic glory runs in testing and catch everyone’s eye, leading to speculation of a competitive Ferrari, eventually making way to rash management and strategic decisions both on and off the track. This usually implies a maximum of third or fourth in the constructors championship, save for a few odd years and Ferrari end up second.
Now, for a team that, till the end of the last decade, was remembered as a wildly dominant force that would win nearly everything in sight, this is quite a bit of a downfall. But I’m here to tell you how Ferrari has been falling short of expectations and performing well below the potential offered by its huge budget and the amount of prize it gets from the FOM just for being in the sport.
Ferrari road cars and Formula One do have a connection
There is a theory, widely prevalent in motorsport circles, which says that Ferrari doesn’t perform well in F1 when it makes brilliant road cars, and vice versa. The evidence speaks for itself. In the glorious years of Schumacher domination, Ferrari produced some of its most mundane and broadly chided cars, including the 360 Modena, the 612 and the 550. Granted, they were good cars in their own right, but they could never get past the competition, which was going out of its way to produce amazing cars, like the Ford GT and the Porsche 996 GT3, both of which performed better in tests conducted by reputed publications including Road and Track and Autocar. On the other hand, in the current cycle, we are going through a bit of a renaissance of the Ferrari road car division, with gems like the 458, F12 and LaFerrari coming out of the Scuderia while the Formula 1 division struggled and finished (from 2010 onwards) third four times, second twice and once even as low as fourth in the constructors championship points table. Another example could be the tail end of the 80s, when Ferrari created artwork out of cars such as the F40 and the Testarossa, while the F1 team was struggling to break the hegemony of the British Garagistas.
This is not the only reason Ferrari disappoint at times. A very common root of underperformance is this: Italian drivers. Every time an Italian has put his bum into the cockpit of a Ferrari, with the exceptions of the great Farina and Ascari, the car changes spirits from a possessed Race Horse to a mule, with results hardly ever coming by and the car breaking down randomly and very much. An efficient way to make an unreliable car? Hire an Italian driver. I don’t know where Ferrari is going with the Giovinazzi and Fuoco situation, but I know, as a Tifosi, I had better watch out.
Examples include the left-out-in-the-cold sizzler called Michele Alboreto and the rather absurdly average Ivan Capelli. Both were pitted against brilliant teammates, Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi respectively, and got it handed to them right on the road. Since then, very few Italians have succeeded in F1, as we were fortunate to witness the arrival of the mercurial driving God, Luca Badoer. Look him up, I insist.
Random and hasty management changes also affect the team’s performance, as shown by the inefficiency in the 80s and the entirety of the V8 era in the late 2000s. Ferrari likes to think they are a thoroughbred team, coming from the land of tomato with sauce running in their veins, and a die-hard spirit in their heads screwed on. But the one thing we know of the Italian automotive industry is this: Italians are terrible mechanics and worse managers. I read somewhere of how a bumbling Italian monkey garage is ruining the atmosphere within the team, and making horse poop out of their legendary scarlet Grand Prix cars. Their most successful cars were designed by outsiders, people who are good at their job. Ferrari does have a knack for finding startling talent, but it often is a bit tardy with it.
The one thing Ferrari have going for them now in this new era is that they have two dependable and fast drivers, both with a bit of a legend around their name. They have good engineering and aero teams developed by the great James Allison, who unfortunately had to leave for Mercedes because of personal reasons, and they have a brilliant Team Principal, who, although a bumbling Italian in the true sense, is also ridiculously cool and passionate about the team, and has the whole team behind him. With proper cultivation, the current team can bring back the Scuderia back on top.
And seeing how they are going rapidly downhill in their road car division, what with weird things nobody wants like the 812 Superfast, I think we may have a good future on our hands.