Ferrari chief Sergio Marchionne set high targets for 2016. But was this very pressure responsible for their Scuderia’s downfall?
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne set the bar high even before the SF16-H turned a wheel. In an authoritative voice, Marchionne warned the staff that they should be “terrorised” by the start of the new season, making it clear that failure will not be accepted.
He reiterated his goals a few months later on the eve of the European season, stating "I expect us to win shortly, starting with Spain.”
During the summer break, Marchionne gave his biggest warning yet: “Anyone who doesn't bring results should leave. That is a rule that applies to everyone – even me."
Marchionne’s comments led to much speculation about the atmosphere in the Ferrari camp, with insiders believing that the employees are now feared to lose their their jobs.
Leading F1 broadcaster Will Buxton suggested that Ferrari is run by the boardroom and that he hasn’t seen the team in such a mess before.
Now, Marchionne, in a way, is right to set high standards for Scuderia. Having won three races in 2015, it was natural for someone to expect that Ferrari can take the challenge to Mercedes this year.
However, the way in which he tried to disseminated his goals was a cause of worry. So is the excessive involvement in the team’s operation, which has a respected person in Maurizio Arrivabene at the helm.
The effects of his attitude were clear when technical director James Allison left mid-season, reportedly due to a disagreement with Marchionne.
Ferrari started the season on a high note, scoring podium in first eight of the nine races. However, as the year wore on, their form form started to dip.
After the summer break, Ferrari could add score only 156 points to its existing tally of 242. Podiums also became hard to come, with Sebastian Vettel only managing two third places finishes in Monza and Abu Dhabi.
It’s not that the car/engine package wasn’t good enough. Surely, Red Bull had the edge by the time the European leg of the season started, but Ferrari still should have fared far better than results show.
Victories in Australia and Canada were thrown away due to strategic errors, while a formation lap-retirement in Bahrain was also a lost opportunity.
The driver line-up
Ferrari’s difficult season certainly seem to have taken a toll on Vettel, as evident by his regular outbursts on team radio. The German was lucky to avoid any punishment for abusing FIA race director Charlie Director.
Vettel’s on-track performance wasn’t spectacular either, although its wasn’t entirely down to German’s level of driving. Three DNF’s and the aforementioned non-start in Abu Dhabi meant that he scored 66 fewer points than last season.
The only positive for Ferrari was perhaps Kimi Raikkonen’s renaissance. The Finn appeared to have turned up a gear, scoring four podiums and regularly beating Vettel in qualifying.
2016 leaves open a big opportunity for Ferrari, if the squad can put everything together. Despite Allison’s exit, it still has a decent technical lineup that can take advantage of the new regulations. However, Marchionne must given enough freedom to the team to let them do their own thing.
by Rachit Thukral