Is Ferrari too Italian?

There is a narrative that ranges from subliminal to outright exclamation that states Ferrari are too Italian to win in Formula 1. The idea is, in part, born on the halcyon days of Jean Todt and Ross Brawn turning things around at the Italian team and that the combination of Ferrari’s Italian know-how and rank and file at the factory with some very intelligent Anglo-Saxon racing people is nothing but lethal. It’s been argued that Ferrari lose their way when the Italians run the whole show without this lethal mix.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone alluded to the narrative over at saying:

“All I hope is that Ferrari get their act together and start winning races,” said F1 boss Ecclestone in an interview with the official F1 website.

“When I got Jean Todt to take his position and go to Maranello – which was a bit of a risk for Jean to do – it was an all-Italian team and they were a bit concerned about taking a foreigner.

“But I told them: when you win the championship you sure will find ancestry in Jean’s family that comes from Sicily.

“Now it has gone back to being a very Italian team again. And it is run like an Italian team.

“So I don’t envy Maurizio’s job. I wouldn’t want to do it.”

The reality is, and Mr. E knows this much better than I do, that Ferrari IS Italy and Italy IS Ferrari. They are symbiotic and combined at the granular level. I spent some time at Maranello interviewing Ferrari’s Chief Marketing Officer, head of engine development and the racing management and toured places in the factory that not everyone gets to see. I left Italy with the incredibly obvious notion that Ferrari and Italy are one.

While this continued narrative swirls, I found Mr. E’s second comment more to the point:

“Well, probably what Maurizio desperately needs is a good back-up support like Mercedes have got, for example,” he said.

“If he had the support that Mercedes has, they would win races – for sure. I am also sure that you will see a different Ferrari next year.”

In Luca di Montezemolo, you had the support of Ferrari. In Sergio Marchionne, you have, seemingly, the public admonishment of your performance and the scars of a massive management purge two years ago that is still resonating in the halls of Maranello. Sergio’s public flogging of Ferrari and its management isn’t helping matters and it’s not securing them wins.

To add commentary to Mr. E’s statement, it was Ross Brawn who set the Mercedes machine and structure in motion that has delivered such dominant performances and that’s the guy who did the same thing for Ferrari back in the day. Fact is, I think Ferrari, like any other team, need to find the right people at the management level who can deliver. They need the next Ross Brawn/Jean Todt combination much like Red Bull have found the Christian Horner/Adrian Newey combo and Mercedes now have the Paddy Lowe/Toto Wolff duo.

Will the McLaren duo of Joest Capito/Eric Boullier work? Can Williams make the most of Pat Symonds/Claire Williams (Rob Smedley)? Where is Renault? They’ve been accused of having real struggles at the management level.

Ferrari isn’t too Italian, it’s too slow. It needs proper support from the top, not daily flogging and it needs to find the right combination. Having visited, there is no other place like it on the planet.

It’s combination that Ferrari need to find and if they are Italian, more power to them. If they aren’t, I think Ferrari need to get over the desire to have Italian race management in favor of having victories the Italian people can enjoy.

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