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Domenicali starts new year on the front foot, major change at Ferrari
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Domenicali starts new year on the front foot, major change at Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  04 Jan 2011   |  4:02 pm GMT  |  43 comments

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali has done an interesting interview in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica today in which he puts out some important messages about the year ahead and states his position in terms of his role as team principal. He points out quite clearly that there has been massive change behind the scenes at Maranello and that the new structure and the fruits of that reorganisation will become clear soon.

Domenicali reminds everyone that Ferrari is a “business” and that unlike great soccer managers such as Sir Alex Ferguson, he is in charge of everything, including the money, “So I delegate a lot,” he says. This season ahead will be all about the quality of that delegation.


After the disaster of Abu Dhabi last November, where the team turned a championship winning position into a gift to the Red Bull team and Sebastian Vettel due to a tactical error on the pit wall, there has clearly been a lot of questions asked internally about the team going forward. As the team leader and therefore the man ultimately responsible, Domenicali considered whether it would be correct for him to resign his position.

“After Abu Dhabi I asked myself whether it was right or not that I should stay on. It seemed to be only right and proper to reflect, responsible. I came to the conclusion that it would be a mistake to resign. I know the team and I think I’m the right person to capitalise on all that we have done in recent months. From a methodical point of view, at Maranello we have changes almost everything and I’m sure we’ll see the results of that work soon.”

One of the key areas of change is the role of ex McLaren designer Pat Fry at the team. Fry left Woking last year to take up a role across the factory and the race team, bringing some different working practices to the way the team operates from design to racing. When he was announces last June, it was in the role of assistant technical director to Aldo Costa. Since then it was clarified that he would have an overview role and now Domenicali suggests that he will also come on to the pit wall at Grands Prix to strengthen a tactical team that must have lost a lot of confidence after Abu Dhabi.

“The mistake was of a very great magnitude,” said Domenicali. ” It produced devastating effects. In a normal race it would have been a normal mistake. We need to avoid throwing everything into the sea, even the good things, just because of this mistake. But we will be making changes and we’ll announce them very soon. We will put whoever has to take delicate decisions in a position to have all the tools not to make mistakes again.”

This is a difficult area for Ferrari; remember at the start of 2009 the team made some bad mistakes in terms of tactics and tyre choices and Luca Baldisseri, whom Ross Brawn had groomed as his successor on the pit wall, was moved back to the factory. Now it seems that the man who took over his responsibilities, Chris Dyer, may face a similar fate and La Repubblica speculates that Fry might come forward to play a more prominent role in race tactics. Next week the team is hosting its annual pre season event at Madonna di Campiglio, to which I’ve been invited. It’s likely that the new structure will be revealed there or just before. The launch of the car is set for the final week of January in Maranello.

Certainly the feeling among teams is that race strategy is going to be much more lively this year than last, with the new Pirelli tyres likely to keep everyone on their toes. They will not last like the Bridgestones did and this will mean that there could be several ways of attacking a race. Ferrari have to be seen to get it right. The problem is that this is likely to lead to a conservative approach, trying to avoid mistakes is not the same thing as going out on the attack. Lead driver Fernando Alonso has an attacking instinct and will be calling for the team to be bold, but there will be a nervousness in the management about another howler, particularly in the first half of the season. How Ferrari handles that is going to be one of the most interesting aspects of the first eight or ten races and their rivals will be watching closely.


Domenicali’s other interesting point is that Felipe Massa cannot afford to have another season like 2010, when he was a shadow of the driver he was in 2008. The team has been very patient with him, giving him its support in his rehabilitation from a potentially career ending injury in 2009 and confirming his position with the team. Massa repaid that faith by yielding in the team orders episode in Germany in July. Now it’s all square and he has to hit the ground running from testing onwards. Domenicali says that he is physically intact, the problem is a mental one,

” All drivers, in order to drive, must feel at their strongest. And when they don’t manage it, they have great trouble getting out of their heads the excuses, which all of us create when things are going badly. I think that was the cause of Felipe’s mistake ridden season. But by working on it, he can come out of it. That’s why I’m sure we’ll see a great Massa in 2011. The driver knows that he cannot afford another season like this.”

The problem is that in Alonso, Ferrari has the leader it’s been looking for since Schumacher and neither they nor Massa has worked out where that leaves him. How will he and they measure success this year? He will want to beat Alonso, but is that how Ferrari will win the world title? These are key questions for next week’s session in Madonna di Campiglio.

Domenical photo: Ferrari, Massa photo: Darren Heath

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43 Comments
  1. Galapago555 says:

    A few points:

    - IMO it’s an error to move back Chris Dyer; as we have talked many times before, he made the right decissions in all the races won by the Team – e.g. the moment to pit in Monza. It’s a good idea to bring Pat Fry to the pit wall in order to strenghten the team, but I don’t think that Chris should be moved back to the Factory. We all would think it’s a punishment for the wrong call in Abu Dhabi, and this will destroy Chris’ self-confidence.

    - I would not put my money on Felipe ending this season at the Scuderia. Fernando strongly outperformed him last year and will do it again. I’m not sure Felipe will have the mental strenght to resist the pressure of having Alonso as a team mate, so for me the question is “who’s next?”;

    - James, so you’ve been invited to the Madonna di Campiglio event… once again, I DO ENVY YOU!! ;-) I trust that you will write loads of info about the days you spend there.

    1. Lilla My says:

      Hello Galapago,

      on your first point – agree, but I would have more belief in Chris Dyer’s self confidence ;-)

      on the second one – see one of my comments somewhere below and… I watched the 2008 Brazilian GP lately and I simply can’t believe that this was the same Massa we saw this year. Whatever happened to him, I hope the previous Massa is still hiding somewhere in that tiny body and will come back this year. So I wouldn’t fire him yet ;-). He’s a good choice for Ferrari IMO – a solid driver (if he comes to terms with himself) who can score big points, but who won’t probably challenge their No. 1 driver too much. It would be hard to find another driver like that. So if the new car is good and Massa improves the level of his performance, then this is a good combination for Ferrari to secure both titles. So, despite all the doubts that I have and against all odds, I keep my fingers crossed for Felipe.

      On your third point: I think everybody envies James a bit.
      However, I think it’s a bit cruel from Ferrari to make a Brazilian and a Spaniard ski. I might be wrong, but I somehow don’t think this is their favourite sport (basing on the geographical conditions of their countries – you might know more about it, I assume;-)). But then again, who knows…?

    2. Tim. says:

      “IMO it’s an error to move back Chris Dyer”

      There is way more to this then we know…WAY MORE

    3. Bernd Rosemeyer says:

      I think you are too harsh on Felipe here. He was treated badly by Alonso in the pit entry stunt in China. Then they hammered him in Germany, when he easily could have won the race, exactly one year after his big accident. Imagine what a fairytale story that would have been. However they said later that Austria 2002 was a mistake. I agree. I suppose that in a few years time they will say Germany 2010 was a mistake too. Anyway, back to Massa. If they fire him during the season, who could replace him? The most capable drivers will be under contract elsewhere. If they fire him after the next season: whom will they employ? Nowadays Ferrari is pretty much a one horse stable, just like it was in Mike’s days. Who would like to be in Felipe’s shoes, only to be ordered to move over for the team mate? I can’t see Robby or Sebby doing this. They are building the team around Robby at Lotus Renault, and the same is happening with Sebby at Red Bull. I could see Marky being interested in the Ferrari seat, just in the case that his relatioship with the Red Bull staff deteriorates. However, Mark isn’t one who moves over for a team mate, at least not when we consider his history at his former teams. Perhaps he would swallow that pill, if he were offered a drive for the legendary scarlett team? I don’t know.

      1. CHIUNDA says:

        I think Mark would move over for Alonso – he really adores the spaniard and Flavio manages both of them so Ferrari always have other options for forcing his hand if he was to hesitate – Mark looks likely to take up Massa’s seat at Ferrari: wonder who would take his at Red Bull

      2. Bernd Rosemeyer says:

        If Mark would replace Massa at Ferrari, perhaps Kimi would take his seat at RB? Vettel/Raikkonen would be a strong lineup at Red Bull

  2. jmv says:

    reminding everyone that ferrari is a business sets the tone.

    -ferrari’s aim is to win the WDC and WCC.

    what are it’s assets:
    - great car
    - 2 times WDC driver who was leading the WDC up to the last race in 2010.

    So from a business point of view one would expect ferrari from the outset to have roles for their drivers… one to fight for the WDC from the outset and one to support in that fight and collect as much as possible WCC points….

    More business wise and goal oriented in terms of driver roles, it cannot be defined.. (especially in absence of the team order ban)

    1. jmv says:

      ps. shame for Chris Dyer to be relegated back to the factory in some role… he was after all also part of the team that brought Ferrari back from a bleak outlook on WDC hopes, mid season, to the top of the WDC points standing. So is extremely harsh but probably a political decision to keep morale up in Maranello. That loss of WDC must have been like the deepest mourning possible.

      Maybe Dyer goes to Brawn-Schumacher?

  3. jose arellano says:

    I think they are overreacting a bit.. chris dyer seems a very good engineer, and if this was his call, im pretty sure he will never made the same mistake again…

  4. Andy C says:

    I am dissapointed but far from surprised that it looks like Chris is going to take the hit in this one.

    It seems crazy to me that he looks like being the fall guy. How many races have been won because of his calls. More than races lost by his bad ones.

    Success in sports is about having consistency and good people. But then as a Brit I don’t fully understand the Latin temperament or the pressure their senior guys face I’m Italy.

    Seems like senior people are being seen to do something rather than take no action. When sometimes no action is the right course.

  5. Galapago555 says:

    And here’s the news:

    http://www.ferrari.com/English/Formula1/News/Headlines/Pages/110104_newcomers_and_organisational_changes.aspx

    - Neil Martin joins the team as Head of the new Operationis Research Dept.
    - Pat Fry takes over as Head of race track engineering, instead of Chris Dyer
    - Chris Dyer’s “role within the company will be redefined in the next few days.”

    I feel sad for Chris. Absolutely unfair to him, IMO.

  6. Galapago555 says:

    Please EDIT ["as Head of the new OPERATIONS Research Dept."]

  7. Roger Carballo AKA Architrion says:

    It seems pretty clear what Pat Fry was hired for. I’m not sure that it’s all about Chris Dyer’s error on the final race. There were other blunders…. like qualifying in China, i.e.

    Where will Chris Dyer end, will have to wait and see, but I con’t expect him to be back in the factory. The only one who should have been fired was Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley, and Massa himself, after the Germany issue. They don’t deserve to work for Ferrari nor any other team. They should be out of Formula 1. Period.

    1. Lilla My says:

      You mean Malaysia qualifying, right?

      I would leave Rob Smedley alone. Judging from his comments about Massa and his interviews, I think these two have a strong emotional connection (I remember Smedley almost crying when Massa lost WDC in 2008). I think the main problem with the German radio transmission was that it should have been the team’s boss who gave the order to Massa as it was visibly very difficult for Smedley to pass the message to his driver. The team’s management put Smedley in a very difficult position there and I can’t really blame him for his reaction. Massa though could have acted more professionally – the way I see it is that you either listen to the team order and stay quiet about it at least until your finished driving for the team (more or less Barrichello’s case) or you don’t listen to the order and fight (Webber’s case). Following the order and then showing to the world how badly you’ve been treated is the worst solution IMO. I would still leave Massa – I think he desreves to be given one more year. He says his problems are connected with the tyres – let’s wait and see – if that’s true, he should be much better this year. If that situation repeats again, then he’s in trouble.

      1. Roger Carballo AKA Architrion says:

        True. It was Malaysia, my fault. Agree with Galapago555 and with you about Massa’s childish reactions. He should obey the order or ignore it, but neither let the team down, ooooohhh, look how they treat me.

        He was miles away from Alonso throughout the whole season. I remember Australia, I could not believe that after Alonso’s spin he was back in the rear wheels of Massa before half of the race. For god’s sake, that’s insane. Rest of the year wasn’t much better for Felipe, IMO. And he pretended he was a challenger for the WDC as far as Hockenheim…. The guy was out of his bounds, absolutely.

    2. Galapago555 says:

      “The only one who should have been fired was Massa’s engineer Rob Smedley, and Massa himself, after the Germany issue”

      Totally agree. They acted against their team interests, making it so clear that Felipe was being ordered to yield to Fernando… childish, isn’t it?

      1. Lilla My says:

        I more or less agree about Massa’s behaviour, but I have a slightely different approach to Rob Smedley (see my comment above), but then again I’ve always liked the guy for his radio transmissions and I just don’t want him to leave as I would miss him so much ;).

      2. CHIUNDA says:

        I have no problem with either – its dificult to try to hide your disgust and anger at 200mph in a space of a second or so: few people have that kind of emotional control especially seeing this was the first time Massa and Smedley were coming up against this sort of decision. In any case Massa’s hand was played for him by the Brazilian public when he appeared to be caving in to team pressure – if he elected to do a Barichello, he is going to find it very dificult to maintain his Brazilian fan base. However, it should be an easy choice – GBP5 million on one side versus millions of Brazilians fans on the other. Poor Massa. Because of Ferrari’s culture, pulling a Webber would be suicidal to his paycheck.

  8. Chris H says:

    BBC are currently reporting that Chris Dyer has indeed “lost his job”

    1. Tim. says:

      YEA now there is credibility “the BBC” :)

  9. ChrisS says:

    I do wonder why Ferrari feels the need for one of its drivers to be a “leader”.

    I realise that Schumacher’s personality and determination did the team a lot of good by giving them a sense of focus when he joined in 1996.

    However, a modern F1 team is a workplace and a business, and its leadership is, in Ferrari’s case, di Montezemolo and Domenicali, not Alonso.

    Surely a driver thinking of himself in a leadership role, when in fact he is just another employee, and probably one who is less secure in his job than most, potentially causes a conflict with the actual team management?

    I don’t for a moment doubt what James says, as Ferrari clearly do seem to like to have a driver who can give them some direction, hence the dissatisfaction with Raikkonen. But it seems strange that Ferrari have this mentality, which I don’t see in any other team. Ferrari are hardly known for sentiment so it can’t be that.

    Can anyone shed any light on it?

    1. Rich C says:

      >>just another employee<<

      Its more like hiring a prima ballerina than "just another employee" ! They are 'special.'

    2. Ago says:

      In F1 cars are not equals so drivers don’t have an equal machinery and cannot be compared (only teammates can… sometimes). So the logic behind F1 for a driver is to race for the best team he can. As the supremacy can change from one year to another the real game in F1 (in my eyes…) is to find out what team is going to be the best in the coming years. This to me is the explanation as to why the best drivers must be “split” between the various teams… So the second driver is usually a… second driver. The ideal situation (for me..) is for a team to have a top driver and a second driver either an experienced driver to bring the big points home, or a youngster in “training”. If you consider that usually there are 3 or 4 good teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull, Mercedes currently) but there are not 6 to 8 drivers that are well above the others id does make sense to have them split between the teams. The current top drivers in alphabetical order ? Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel … it will be stupid to have them paired and a unique opportunity for others to win in superior machines without a driver to match.
      this is my opinion, and it is just that… my opinion ;-)
      Happy new year to you all !

    3. Marybeth says:

      ChrisS, I agree. Kimi was use to the leadership of Ron Dennis, & we got to Ferrari, there was no strong leadership.

  10. Lilla My says:

    On Chris Dyer – people’s memory is apparently so short. Everybody remembers that the pit crew made a bad choice in Abu Dhabi, but that was the same crew that won the race in Monza with their perfect pit stop. I believe they drew some conclusions already from the Abu Dhabi race, why not judge their performance based on the good decisions they made? Monza pit stop was brilliant, Abu Dhabi was a tricky one and anybody could have got it wrong.

    On the drivers: I think Alonso will again have the edge over Massa, but I hope that Massa will do better with the Pirelli tyres and push his team mate a bit harder. I, as a fan, won’t buy the same excuse by Massa and won’t believe in struggling with different tyres yet again, two years in a row. So if the tyres were really such a problem for Felipe then I believe, Pirellis will help him to some extent at least. I’ll be very disappointed if he remains on the same level as in 2010. I think he really must raise his game to keep his seat as there are quite a few drivers willing to fill in for him ;-).

    1. Lilla My says:

      And so my comment on Chris Dyer is out of date and as Ferrari is business in first place, I should remember Abu Dhabi and not be sentimental over Monza ;).

      1. Lilla My says:

        Still sorry for Mr. Dyer though.

      2. Roger Carballo AKA Architrion says:

        Monza was the simpler strategic call of the season…. And Malaysia the worst, should I remember you.

      3. Lilla My says:

        Fair point. Ferrari had their share of bad strategic decisions this year. So now we must wait and see if the changes they introduced in that department paid off.

  11. That’s a real shame for Chris Dyer, Ferrari even said that the it would have been a ‘normal’ mistake in a ‘normal’ race… Ferrari didnt loose just solely on that one race, mistakes & problems throughout the season all add up…

    1. Lilla My says:

      That’s what Alonso also said and we all know that they made some good decisions too, but you know how it is – we always remember last things best and it’s always easy to draw conclusions based on the most blatant cases. However, I think there’s much more to this than simply Abu Dhabi and the decision wasn’t probably made basing only on that one mistake. I guess we most probably won’t learn the whole truth about it.

  12. Nick F says:

    Massa needs to be 2 tenths away from Alonso and not 4 tenths. That will be enough to keep his job and do a good job for the team. Obviously from his perspective he will want to beat Alonso. I’m not sure how realistic that is, but if the new tyres suit him and he gets his confidence back, he might do it at some of the races.

    On the team shuffling they are doing. It’s fine to do that, but I worry about a blame culture creeping in. There is so much passion at Ferrari that if something goes wrong there is a big outcry and enquiry. You don’t want the team to be so scared of this outcome if things go wrong that they are too scared to do their jobs well. You don’t want the guy making the strategy calls (…or girl for that matter), to be so scared about losing their job that they sit on the pit wall petrified. That is not a recipe for success.

  13. Adrian Newey Jr says:

    Classic case of baby and bathwater.

  14. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Domenicali escapes LDM’s wrath by dumping on Chris Dyer.

    Domenicali has done little for Ferrari over the last couple of years and is not a patch on Todt.

    If they don’t win next year then the axe should fall on his neck.

    As expected the Italians are finally admitting that they just can’t do it and have had to draft in some anglo-saxon thinking.

    LDM must be thinking “Domenicali knows that he can’t afford another season like that”

    1. Galapago555 says:

      “As expected the Italians are finally admitting that they just can’t do it and have had to draft in some anglo-saxon thinking.”

      Simply ridiculous. Typical xenophobic and racist comment, that only shows a deep lack of culture.

      So the country that invented Maseratti, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ducati, Guzzi,…, that gave a language and a name to almost a continent… and of course, that created the most ever succesful Team in F1 History, “need some anglo-saxon thinking”.

      Laughable, if not so dangerous.

      1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        I am half Colombian and live in Colombia. I have lived in seven countries throughout my life, including Italy.

        I am merely stating a general truth…this is not a slur. Latins are passionate, impulsive and lead from the heart. For this reason they have produced works or art such as the Ferrari F40.

        Anglo-Saxons lead more from the head. Anglo Saxon companies lead the world in areas of mass engineering, logistics, finance and information technology.

        The latins are not in the same league in areas that require complex planning…it is simply a fact.

      2. Galapago555 says:

        Yep, as you say, some Anglo Saxon thinking is needed. That’s the reason they are dismissing Chris Dyer who, btw, is from… Italy? Spain? Colombia? :lol:

  15. Tony G says:

    Great news indeed for non Ferrari fans. Ferrari back to their old ways. Make one blue and you’re gone. Will do wonders for team morale. Chris Dyer worked pretty effectively with Schumacher for about 100 years, didn’t he? And as Chris Crawford said, Ferrari and Alonso made mistakes all year long, Melbourne first corner, Monaco practice, Belgium race, Malaysian qualifying….

  16. Nilesh says:

    Happy new year James! Beautiful analysis. Winter doesn’t seem dull with your regular F1 dose.

    Dyer’s fate will be on Fry’s mind while making any decision. This year Red Bull were quite bold with some strategies – think Hungary with Webber – and that probably gave them an edge at times. Do you think this defensive mindset of Ferrari will cause it to lose ground in the first half of the season?

  17. Mark V. says:

    I’m not sure what to think of Massa’s prospects for returning to form. On the one hand, he was a very fast driver before his accident, and that was a serious injury that would scare even the most hardened of drivers, so as with other top athletes in dangerous sports it is understandable that it would take time to get all of his nerve back.

    But on the other hand, he seems to rely on his team for a lot of coaching and coaxing which indicates he is a bit cautious by nature and lacks confidence. His fears may be too great now for the team’s ability to coax him past them. As we age our bodies naturally catalog our injuries in a database that is key to our survival (children often learn the hard way that “hot” means don’t touch), but this can unconsciously slow racers down.

    As the thinking goes in downhill ski racing, when you’re young and fearless and see someone crash badly you shrug it off by thinking “glad that wasn’t me”, but as you get older and collect more of your own scary crashes and injuries you start to think “that could have been me”.

  18. Mr G says:

    Happy new year everyone.
    I think The demise of Chris Dyer has come after a series of so called mistakes and not just for the last race incident.
    On the other hand Domenicali path is looking like the young Luca di Montezemolo himself.
    He will put together a very skilled and analytical team around himself like LDM did when he was in charge of Ferrari.
    Domenicali is a very different man in real life than he is what he likes to portrait in the paddock.
    He is serious competitive, a real Ferrari fan first and then a Ferrari man, success is always in his mind and most of all has the British coolness to be cold and calculated when it matters.
    You will not see him having rows in the paddock, he is not like that but he is a real monster when it comes to achieving.
    And he is well regarded at Ferrari as well.
    I hope that everyone will give him the credit that he deserve but make no mistakes he will succeed.

  19. Fausto Cunha says:

    “…We will put whoever has to take delicate decisions in a position to have all the tools not to make mistakes again.”

    They´re saying that the person that made the decisions didn´t have all the tools and still they are penalizing him for the error.

    This decisions will always have an instinct factor that sometimes will fail and that´s what happened in Abu Dabhi.

    In 2008 it was the pit-stop light system, than Baldisseri, 2009 car was bad and Kimi paid the price, this year it´s Chris Dyer. Who will be the one next year?

  20. Grabyrdy says:

    “All drivers, in order to drive, must feel at their strongest.”

    And the way to make them feel at their strongest is obviously to tell them that their team-mate is 1-better and 2-more important than they are.

    NOT.

    I still think Ferrari lost the WC largely because Felipe was not up to speed after Hockenheim and so didn’t take enough points off Alonso’s rivals.

    Ferrari has to decide. Either they want equal Number Ones, or they want a One and a Two. In 2010 equal Number Ones brought home the title. So will they change their practices ? It would be a big shock.

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