Four years after Ross Brawn left the team, Ferrari has once again decided to put its faith in an Anglo Saxon technical director.
Ferrari has lacked flair and imagination in its design recently and it is likely that Fry will now look to strengthen the design office.
Costa oversaw the 2007 world championship victory for Kimi Raikkonen, with a car designed by his team, under Brawn’s management and then his team came close in 2008 with Felipe Massa. But the title eluded them and has done so ever since as independent teams Brawn (ironically) and Red Bull stepped up to championship status.
Last year they narrowly missed out on the world title with Fernando Alonso, who led going into the final round and a disappointing start to this season, dogged by aerodynamic correlation problems caused by an upgrading of the wind tunnel from 50% to 60%, has led Ferrari’s management to act.
The car lacks downforce and struggles to generate temperature and grip from harder compound tyres, a long-time Ferrari problem.
Costa said last weekend that Ferrari had a significant upgrade to the car coming for Montreal, but he will not be around to see whether it works. Ferrari should be more competitive in the next three races anyway; Monaco, Montreal and Valencia, as they are tracks which call for soft compound tyres, which suit Ferrari better.
Although team principal Stefano Domenicali came up through the ranks with Costa and served alongside him for many years, the performance in Spain, where Alonso fell backwards and was lapped after a heroic effort in qualifying and the start of the race was clearly the final straw. The Ferrari is off the pace, Red Bull is getting away and a difficult decision needed to be made.
With Williams’ Sam Michael resigning earlier this month, Technical directors are becoming like football managers, who carry the can when the team fails to make the grade.
Under Brawn and ultimately Jean Todt, the technical team was very stable, with Rory Byrne as chief designer. In the four years since they left the technical side has promoted and then dispensed with Luca Baldisserri and Chris Dyer who performed senior operations roles and now with Costa.
With Alonso signed up for five years, Ferrari is clearly hoping that he and Fry can form a new dynasty and restore stability and excellence to the technical side. They worked together well at McLaren in 2007.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said at the launch of the 150 Italia that this year the Scuderia “have to win” but with its lead driver already over 60 points behind Sebastian Vettel, it is going to require a massive turnaround to get Alonso back into the title fight like last year.