Ferrari blinkered to Formula 1’s plight

Mat Coch Roar Guru

By Mat Coch, Mat Coch is a Roar Guru

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    “If you’re attacking make sure you get it right, else the Horse Whisperer will eat you for lunch.” Ferrari’s Twitter account, the Horse Whisperer, delights in shaming journalists and it’s best to avoid being the subject of one of its posts.

    It was grand advice from a fellow hack as we discussed Luca di Montezemolo. As the President of Ferrari, Monte is one of the more influential figures in Formula 1. He heads Formula 1’s oldest and most commercially valuable asset.

    However, such a lofty position does mean he’s immune to daft statements. A Ferrari old boy who has been with the company since he had spots on his face shows signs of loyalty bordering on ignorance, and it was this which prompted a conversation.

    In the wake of the season ending Brazilian Grand Prix there were two stories of note. One was a storm in a tea cup stirred by an otherwise respectable publication and the other was the sad demise of HRT.

    While few will likely miss the squad, its demise should be seen as a reality check. Budgets in Formula 1 are stratospheric; even Sakon Yamamoto’s mother couldn’t afford to keep a team going.

    Much has been done with regards to cost cutting, most of it window dressing. Max Mosley, during his reign as FIA President, introduced draconian new regulations aimed at reducing costs. It was in the teams interests but McLaren boss Ron Dennis and William’s chief Frank Williams took the matter to arbitration.

    A decade on and nothing has changed; the demise of HRT is evidence of that.

    And so in the wake of HRT disconnecting the phone lines, Di Montezemolo’s comments appeared ill-timed and ignorant. Having long lobbied for a return of testing, which costs teams more than racing itself, Monte reaffirmed the team’s position just days after a rival closed its doors.

    “I’m no longer happy that we can’t do testing on tarmac and that you can’t give any chance for young drivers to emerge,” he argued. “We are constructors, no sponsors.”

    Ferrari is one of the privileged few. It receives financial benefits from Bernie Ecclestone, acknowledgment from the sports supremo that Ferrari is key to its longevity. Many other teams do not enjoy such security.

    Force India is investing heavily, though is saying nothing on where the money is coming from, while Caterham has taken on more debt to help improve its fortunes.

    Just what happens when Red Bull gets bored of Formula 1 is an especially frightful thought, and there are strong suggestions it is growing tired of its current level of investment.

    To therefore lobby for increased spending at a time when teams are doing well to survive is one blinkered opinion at best.

    Ferrari is just one, spoiled voice among the Formula 1 paddock and it would do well to consider the position of its rivals before making sweeping statements.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • December 28th 2012 @ 10:22am
      Tlux said | December 28th 2012 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Yes, but the demise of HRT is more about their complete shambolic approach to F1 rather than the the likes of the scuderia.

      • Roar Guru

        January 2nd 2013 @ 2:21pm
        Mat Coch said | January 2nd 2013 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

        HRT did not enjoy an easy life. It’s owners did not wish to invest in it at the level required to be truly competitive in Formula One.

        Under Perez-Sala the team was stronger but had a budget less than the financial incentives thrown at Ferrari each year.

        Ferrari needs to gain some perspective. What is good for Ferrari is not necessarily good for Formula One. If Formula One suffers, so too will Ferrari, though not to the same extent as perhaps Williams, Sauber or Force India.

    • January 2nd 2013 @ 7:18pm
      David said | January 2nd 2013 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

      Unfortunately HRT didn’t have the necessary financial backing from the beginning, it seems ridiculously difficult to have something even close to a competitive car ready in one year these days. At the 1977 Argentinian GP Jody Scheckter drove his Wolf car to a win in its very first race, which seems impossible, seeing how uncompetitive Marussia and HRT have been. The costs of the sport DO need to decrease, certainly, but it’s really a double-edged sword. Costs have sky-rocketed essentially since Bernie Ecclestone took over the sport and turned it into a huge commercial spectacle… which makes tons of money for the big teams, but not much for the poor teams which rarely score points.

      But Ferrari is one spoiled voice? That’s an interesting point of view, as it was Ron Dennis who went out of his way to drive Minardi and Prost GP out of F1, being against the former receiving prize money from the 2002 season and preventing Mercedes from supplying the latter with engines, and protested the bans on testing and other cost-cutting measures. It was also Ron Dennis who along with Bernie was largely responsible for turning F1 from a “garagist” sport into big business, which helped costs skyrocket.

      I’ve honestly never understood why McLaren are so popular in Britain. The current team was essentially founded by a cigarette company, Ron Dennis is one of the two most dislikable men in F1, alongside Bernie Ecclestone, the team has stooped to the lowest of depths (lying, stealing…) in recent seasons, and there’s another fairly competitive British team called Williams which has a winning heritage, an extremely likeable owner who speaks fluent French and Italian, and arguably a longer history than the current McLaren team, when you consider that the original team was essentially replaced by Dennis’ Marlboro Project Four in 1980.

      …Also, for all the praise I just gave the Williams team, they’ve also always been against cost-cutting measures in F1. They’re one of the most-established teams and although they haven’t challenged for championships in recent seasons, they’re not one of the tiny underdog teams like Sauber and Force India.

      I also saw Luca’s comments and agree that they’re short-sighted, but F1 has a lot more to lose from Ferrari leaving than vice-versa. Ferrari carry their myth with them, they have a continuous racing heritage going all the way back to pre-war racing and names like Tazio Nuvolari. =) Sports car racing would certainly be glad to have them back, given how boring it is these days.

      • Roar Guru

        January 4th 2013 @ 11:24am
        Mat Coch said | January 4th 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        Excellent post. The Wolf is something we’ll likely never see again, but even back then it ran out of money.

        Ron Dennis’ objections in 2002 were as a result of the Prost collapse and legal wranglings surrounding the distribution of funds as a result of an entity which was eligible no longer competing (or existing). Interestingly a rogue businessman whose name escapes me tried to assume Prost’s position, much like Stefan GP tried a couple years back (the ‘cargo’ it shipped to Bahrain consisted of garden furniture).

        Dennis’ logic was that nobody had helped him in, so why should others help Minardi. He perhaps forgot Ron Tauranac’s generosity when he an Neil Trundle set up Rondel Racing. Ron is a nice guy, but has little patience for the media (much like his former boss, really). Think of Tauranac and Chapman; one was brilliant, one was good. One got on well with the media, the other not. Only one is really remembered, and then for the exploits of his staff rather than himself.

        You mention McLaren being caught cheating. It was found guilty, though the circumstances were dubious in the extreme. Others have been caught with worse but escaped punishment. Toyota wholesale copied Ferrari while its known that one team ran down the pitlane with drawings from another complaining about the components legality. Patrick Head was manhandled out of a Lotus in the late 1970’s while the original March ran Brabham uprights, a mechanic having purchased a set so March could copy them.

        To the Mercedes point I believe McLaren blocked Mercedes backing of Jordan. Eddie was vocal about the fighting fund before arriving in Spain with new Mercedes trucks. His defiance soon wavered, and there was talk of Mercedes powering Jordan for 2003, which did not happen.

        Finally, I must point out that Ferrari, as we know it, was founded in 1947. Prior to that Enzo Ferrari ran Alfa Romeo’s works team, for which Nuvolari raced. Ferrari was not present at the first world championship Grand Prix.

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