Ferrari is one of the richest and most successful teams in all of F1, so much so that they are almost seen as the epitome of how to run an F1 team. Despite this it is now an entire decade since a drivers' world championship went back to Maranello and only one year less for the constructors' crown. It’s unclear how one of the giants of not just F1 but the automotive world in general have had such a monumental fall from grace. Is it one thing wrong or are many factors to play in why Ferrari is its own worst enemy?
So in part 1 we saw how Ferrari is overhyped, but why is it overhyped? Let’s start financially, it’s fair to say Ferrari receive vast more financial backing than most of the other teams purely for being Ferrari. In fact in 2015 Ferrari pocketed almost a fifth of the total prize money despite only winning three races, Mercedes which took 16 race wins were their closest challengers although given this is prize money that should be the case.
The alarming thing though is Ferrari pocketing an eye-watering $105 million in historical bonuses, which also accounts to over half of its total earnings. Furthermore Mercedes’ competition money was only $97 million, meaning winning the drivers and constructors titles by a dominant margin is less valuable than being Ferrari. Whether you’re against the system or in favour of it, it’s clear to see why fans expect so much of Ferrari given it is the richest team in F1 and is known to throw plenty of money at its race cars.
Now we all know F1 is an expensive game but consider Force India is now the clear fourth fastest team, yet by contrast only received $67 million prize money and no bonuses.
This isn’t a new thing either, Ferrari has taken away most of the cash for a long time now. If we analyse the budgets further Ferrari spend more money per point than any of its near rivals; only McLaren has spent more money per point out of the big teams in the V6 Hybrid era.
So why are all these finances being so blatantly mis-managed? If we look at Ferrari’s last dominant spell we had a lot of consistency in management, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne were all long-standing figures in the Ferrari era of the early 2000s. What’s perhaps more interesting is that the bulk of its successful personnel joined for 1996, meaning they didn’t actually find the top spot until their fifth season. Since the team's last major title fight in 2008, Ferrari’s staffing at the top has been anything but consistent. Knee jerk sackings have not helped the team at all thus far yet we still see a constant turnover of senior players at Ferrari after a mere two or three seasons due to the lack of an elusive title.
The most recent long-serving employee was Stefano Domenicali who was team principal of the Scuderia for six years, taking over for Felipe Massa’s agonisingly close season in 2008 before being dismissed during the horrific 2014 season. Domenicali had a solid history with Ferrari, overseeing a constructors title in ‘08 and two further close fought title battles in 2010 and 2012. The only really poor cars produced in the Domenicali era were 2009, 2013 and 2014. Now the ‘09 And ‘13 cars were both race winners too, so was that really a horrific season? Even by Ferrari standards?
What’s also interesting was the timing of Domenicali’s exit. From the 2009 and 2010 cars it seems to be Ferrari struggle with the first year of a regulation change, in which case his 2015 car could well have been an improvement. Bare in mind also that the Ferrari power unit was a long way behind that of the Mercedes and only ahead of Renault’s alternative (Honda didn’t arrive until 2015). So although the SF14T was a dog of a car, it’s lack of power didn’t help and had it have had a Mercedes power unit it could have won in Hungary.
So what can we learn from this? Stability does pay. Since Domenicali departed the Scuderia, we’ve seen a huge number of personnel changes, so why is this? Is Ferrari too cut throat with its changes or is it simply not hiring the correct people for the job? Many feel the structure of the board is more to blame than these factors. Even in the 1990s Alain Prost was sacked from the team for insulting the car. You wonder whether Ferrari is a team that value its ethos over its success and if so, are periods of immense success and severe disappointment inevitable depending on if the best staff have the Ferrari mentality?
In our third and final part we analyse Ferrari’s Italian links in its staff and whether this passion help sits success or if the requirements merely hinder it.
by Matthew Gannon