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Ferrari embarks on ‘long-term project’ with aim of setting the standard again
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Posted By: James Allen  |  24 Apr 2012   |  12:34 am GMT  |  52 comments

In wake of Ferrari technical director Pat Fry’s recent frank assessment of the urgent need to change the “methodologies” used at the team in order to become successful again, Stefano Domenicali has now confirmed the process of making such deep-seated change is firmly underway – although stressed it would be a long-term project.

Ferrari’s disappointing start to the season, which has happened despite a change in design philosophy for 2012, appears to have crystallised for the Maranello hierarchy the need to overhaul its fundamental approach to designing and developing F1 cars. Speaking on Monday, Domenicali, Ferrari’s team principal, said the plan was to make root and branch changes to the working practices at the team and confirmed that president Luca di Montezemolo was taking a key active role in the process such is its importance to the outfit’s future.

“We are intensifying the process of changing our working procedures in all areas and, at the same time, we are strengthening our efforts in areas where we are weakest, such as aerodynamics,” he said on Monday night. “It’s a long term project and one that President Montezemolo is studying at first hand and it is vital to the future of the Scuderia. Formula 1 has changed so much these past few years and we have not always been up to speed with these changes. In this area too we need to step up a gear.”

Fry had already pinpointed the aerodynamics department as a pivotal area for improvement after being left trailing by Red Bull in particular in recent years and on the eve of the Bahrain GP weekend it was revealed that well-respected former RBR, McLaren and Benetton aerodynamicist Ben Agathangelou was joining the team from Marussia. But although Ferrari is thinking long-term in a bid to return to world championship-winning ways, the team is also working hard to improve its more immediate competitiveness after a difficult start to the season with the F2012.

With teams having another full two weeks of development time ahead of them prior to the start of the European season at Barcelona – including the first in-season test for three years at Mugello next week – Domenicali admits it is a crucial fortnight for Ferrari. However, he suggested that not every update currently planned to feature in Spain might be ready to roll out on the track at next week’s test in Italy.

“The coming days will be very important, during which the primary objective will be to push as hard as possible on the development of the car: next week we have three days of testing at Mugello, but it’s not definite that all the updates planned for Barcelona will be seen then,” the Italian said. “We must try and make the most of every minute available to us to increase the performance of the F2012.”

However, while Ferrari’s employees have returned to Europe knowing they have much work ahead of them, the situation has been put into perspective by the tragic news that reached the team in Bahrain on Sunday that a 32-year-old employee who worked in the gearbox department at Maranello, Matteo Vignali, had died of a heart attack that morning.

Following Sunday’s race Domenicali admitted the team were in a “state of dismay” and tonight Ferrari added: “After such a long time away, it’s good to be home and back with one’s nearest and dearest: it is all the more appreciated at this time of sadness at the death of a colleague and in many cases a friend, Matteo Vignali, who passed away suddenly yesterday morning. There were few dry eyes at the Sakhir track yesterday nor in Maranello today at the factory and many will be in Sestola tomorrow afternoon to say a final farewell to Matteo.”

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52 Comments
  1. wolf says:

    If they want to get back to the top why dont they just do what they did last time and hire Vettel, Horner, Newey and most of the Red Bull support team? Worked with Schumacker, Brawn, Brynn and co.

    1. gonzeche says:

      Because they aleady have Alonso.

    2. Stuart Harrison says:

      They’ve already tried (and failed) to attract Newey and Vettel to Ferrari.

      1. DB4Tim says:

        Long time ago

    3. Tony says:

      They tried to get Newey but he won’t come over as his missus doesn’t want to live in Italy. Apparently she thinks it’s a third world country. Mrs Newey sounds quite classy.

      1. James Allen says:

        He’s divorced..

      2. Tony says:

        Good on him then

    4. Quattro_T says:

      At the times of “Schumacker, Brawn, Brynn and co.”, Ferrari had the possibility of unlimited testing. That I think contributed to the success at least as much, as the people involved.

      Vettel? Nah, not needed. if you have diamond you do not care so much for gold ;)

    5. Bru72 says:

      Lest not forget Napoleon aka Jean Todt was the architect of Ferrari’s success in those glory years.

  2. Darren says:

    Ferrari are done , one lucky win and that will be it for this season. I loved f1 more when Ferrari were crap,

  3. JohnBt says:

    1.5 seconds off pace is a disaster. Hope they will up their game in Spain. A closer fight will even be more exciting.

    2012 cars are really sensitive from track to track. I like that though as you don’t know what to expect.

  4. BavarianMaleWorker says:

    I really do think working procedures are an important key to success in F1. Look back at the Williams and Ferrari teams in the 90′s, and how dominant they became, by changing how they approached the business of racing from a procedural level. This however, sounds like they’re going one step higher and changing how they approach racing from a strategic level. I personally think that team staff are a bit used and abused at the top level, perhaps, Ferrari will think about that as part of their strategy in keeping good people.

  5. Kev says:

    Not wanting to sound pessimistic, but does this mean “People, we can’t do a heck a lot with the F2012 and hence we are focusing on next year’s car”.

    Has it become apparent that the car is fundamentally flawed and has to be washed off?

    So they went all aggressive on F2012 without even knowing what they were doing?

    And for all talks of the Mugello test, now it is coming out that some of the parts will arrive at Spain? And he doesn’t talk of winning but getting podiums? Maybe Ferrari needs people who want nothing but a win.

    Standards have become abysmally low and that shows in all areas.

    Shame on Ferrari and my sympathies to Alonso for wasting his prime years in the incompetent team.

    1. First of all, my condolences to the family of Matteo, this is really sad.

      Kev, You are not pessimistic, this is how the things stand.
      There’s something seriously wrong happening in Maranello, and it won’t be a quick fix – whether that will be methodologies, ways you talk to suppliers, development pace, software, hardware, wind tunnel, personnel or whatever.

      The fact is that the car is far off the pace (although I get lots of hate about that statement) – it is not sensitive to changes, because it’s slow anyway, and I wonder why since they have had more time than other teams to sort that out – development of F150 was abandoned quite early.

      So, I just want to know what’s happening, and is it likely to happen in 2013, not to mention the unknown 2014 turbo field, where Ferrari has no experience.
      The future doesn’t look bright in the eyes of a usual optimist.

      1. Pat M says:

        They do have turbo experience from the 80′s so that isn’t their biggest problem. I wonder if the issue is that in an era when they dominated they could afford to run thousands of kilometers of testing so didn’t spend as much effort developing simulations and fine tuning the wind tunnel – they just had to get close then sort out the details on the track.

    2. Rudy says:

      +1. What they need is a top head change. Domenicalli hasn’t been capable of turning the team into a winning team. It has to come from a recent contracted guy (Fry) to take action. The golden years were with Todt, Brawn and Byrne. None of them Italian, they didn’t got drawn in politics as is usual in Maranello. The result: a dominating era.
      Alonso and the Santander money can go elsewhere as they should have never arrived there. So, this is a well deserved curse for them.

  6. Hendo says:

    Does this mean that they have given up on 2012 and 2013 seasons and are focusing on the car for the all new regulations in 2014? Is that what ‘long-term project’ means?

    1. Nuno says:

      James,

      Actually this was my first thought as well. Is this what we can read between the lines?
      What is your opinion?

      1. James Allen says:

        No, they cannot afford to do that.

        They have the resources to do both anyway

  7. Craig in Manila says:

    According to Wikipedia, since getting into F1 in 1994, Ben Agathangelou has worked for :
    McLaren
    Tyrrell
    Honda
    Benetton
    Jaguar
    Red Bull (until Newey arrived in 07)
    Joined HRT in 2010
    Then went to Marussia
    and now, Ferrari.

    That’s gotta be some kind of record in terms of the number of F1 employers, 9 teams in less than 18 years at an average of less than 2 years per Team !

    I certainly hope that his incredible wealth of experience gives Ferrari what they need (and soon).

    1. Tank says:

      he can talk the talk, can he walk the walk?

    2. Quattro_T says:

      The big number of employers could either be seen as he has “incredible wealth of experience”, or (hopefully wrong) difficulties for him convincing the employers he is worth the money. His recent employers very far from being top teams…In any case I guess time will tell.

      1. Craig @ Manila says:

        Agreed.

  8. andrew says:

    The fact that they admit to needing a total overhaul, well into the season, shows that they were oblivious to their problems. They have been behaving like ostriches with their heads in the sand, blind to the fact that the sport had passed them by. They need to get into the non-refueling era fast and learn how to manage the car’s unladen weight, as well as downforce, as quikly as possible.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I think they were oblivious to the problems. I think Alonso in 2010 covered over what was fundamental problems in the design office.
      I think the problem goes back to Costa and his ascension to the head of Ferrari design after Byrne and Brawn left.
      When they joined Ferrari in 1996, they found a fractured team that had a design office in Guildford run by Barnard, and the factory in Italy. They found design and manufacturing systems which were years out of date and it took them around 4 years before it was state of the art.
      Bear in mind, that Brawn and Byrne lived in Italy whilst they ran the team and had come from the hub of F1, ie the UK.
      As they became more competitive, they had access to 2 windtunnels running 24 hours a day and 2 private test tracks with 4 drivers available all the time.
      The uk teams couldn’t compete with this and invested money in technical simulation tools etc.
      When the testing ban came in, Ferrari were left without their weapons of choice, whereas the British teams still had everything they had built in place, and Ferrari has steadily fallen back.
      Costa, having only worked for Minardi and Ferrari wasn’t keeping pace with off circuit developments and because Ferrari won in 2007 and 2008, no-one saw the warning signs.
      Fry has come in and obviously could see what was needed and no doubt this, in part, made the dismissal of Costa inevitable.

      It won’t be a quick fix, and yet I dispute what you keep repeating andrew, about the unladen weight theory.
      The first year of non-refueling, a strategy error in the last race scuppered Alonso winning the championship, but he won 6 races that year.

      Your argument is almost like the one that sensationalistic journalism made in 1994, where after 2 years of active suspension, traction control and other unnecessary technology was banned, everyone spoke of how dangerous F1 had become.
      This was forgetting that before 1991, F1 had survived 40 odd years of traditional technology that they had returned to.

      My point is that Ferrari have been competing in F1 since 1950, yet the re-fueling era accounts for 14 years of this.
      The problems are more fundamental than this.

      1. Floodo1 says:

        best post in a long time!

    2. John says:

      it is not so much that F1 has moved on without them but that they feel the need to be all Italian.

      In the last few years they have let a lot of non Italians go to other teams. With the likes of Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Jean Todt disappearing the most important lesson ferrari have to learn is that they cannot rely only on Italians.

      I guess that they have now accepted this and that is what Pat Fry has taught them. If they hadn’t learnt this they would have sent Fry packing after his recent comments.

  9. Jules says:

    Forza Ferrari! I hope this will really work out and not merely hot air!

  10. AlexD says:

    A 32-year old dying of a heart attack…very sad time we are leaving. Too young….my age.
    As for the Scuderia…heard it before and really do not care what they say. We shall see on the track.

  11. Wayne says:

    Meh, all the teams are all always planning long-term for the futre all of the time. Ferrari should worry about quietly getting on with it rather than concocting media sound-bites like this.

    God bless, Matteo Vignali, Rest in Peace.

  12. Rob Newman says:

    Red Bull turned around their car in one week (hopefully it stays that way). So for Ferrari too it could be a small problem like blocking a hole somewhere. In race, Ferrari is not that bad. I won’t be surprised if they go on to win the championship end of the year because at the moment there is no single team has a clear advantage. But overall McLaren is the better car probably followed by Lotus.

  13. Atomic says:

    James, do you think the current head aerodynamicist N. Tompazis is going to get the boot from the team?

  14. jay jacob says:

    Come on guys & gals, let’s not be too judgemental of Ferrari; it’s quickly forgotten how close they came to winning 2010 Driver’s championship with Alonso coz of a botched-up strategy…

    As fans, Ferrari’s quick return to form only means more exciting racing.. so let’s all wish ‘em the best of luck !!

    p/s i luv to cheer for underdogs

    1. Bru72 says:

      Well said. Also the 2007 championship, and 2008 constuctors, and WDC for a few seconds.

  15. panagiotis says:

    Damage limitation, done. Faith is in Maranello!

  16. Donald says:

    I’m slightly concerned for Ferrari that it’s again a little sudden. They weren’t miles away in 2010, and in 2011 had some great pace at points. I would have thought that with the banning of the blown diffusers for 2012, they would have benefited significantly if they hadn’t done anything madcap.

    I hope that for all this appears sensible, they aren’t throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    A tremendous shame about Mr. Vignali.

  17. chris green says:

    People have no sense of history. Ferrari have traditionaly been a bit chaotic.
    (I’m trying to be polite.
    2012 could be a lot worse believe me.

  18. Dan says:

    The team management is to blame in my opinion. in 2010 Ferrari were only one bad call away from the title, and last year their car wasn’t a bad one, it just didn’t use the exhaust blowing as well as the others, hence the reason they looked really competitive when it was turned down at Silverstone. Alonso managed 10 podiums which isn’t bad in anyone’s book.

    The situation looked like it needed a cool head to see that was the case and not start from scratch with a worse car. The others such as Lotus, McLaren and Mercedes haven’t caught Red Bull up by starting with a clean sheet of paper.

  19. Sean says:

    THis whole “We’ve taken development in the wrong direction and we are going to be more agressive next season” line from Ferrari is getting a bit tired in my opinion. How in depth this overhaul is remains to be seen. We’ve been promised the world from them before.

  20. tim says:

    Changing philosophies and going radical takes time to reap benefits. They need to keep developing this car and stop panicking. It’s the panic that has made Ferrari a team on the downward trend. Stop reacting and start developing. Look at Mercedes. That car is developed. Give the 2012 Ferrari a chance to be great.

  21. Lee M says:

    Ferrari sound like they are run by civil servants; constant reorganizations and navel gazing won’t get them anywhere!

  22. Gord says:

    It seems to me that F1 nowadays is about having certain parts of the car produce secondary aero effects like Mercedes’ duct and the blown exhausts. I guess Ferrari have to be more creative in that department.

  23. Rafael says:

    Somehow when Domenicalli mentioned that Montezemolo was going to be involved, I got the feeling their future plans will be probably end up being a waste of time.

    1. DB4Tim says:

      Why a waste of time?

  24. Bru72 says:

    Alot of pressure on Ferrari at all times. I mean McLaren haven’t won a constructors title in 10 years! But this is ok, as they are not Ferrari.

  25. Alessandro says:

    They cannot be serious: a long term recovery strategy headed by Domenicali? The same Domenicali who led Ferrari where we are today?
    Have they decided to waste the next three years? Not enough of the sad 2008-2012 experience? Unbeilivable.
    I do not understand.

  26. Paul says:

    @James They mention changing their methodologies of designing and developing cars.

    Do you think they’ve tried to retain the way they were working from Brawn and MSC era and now without those figures they’re floundering?

    1. James Allen says:

      I think it needs updating for today’s needs

  27. Kevin says:

    James, do Ferrari still get money from Phillip Morris?

  28. olivier says:

    hello James,

    here’s an interesting article of Luca di Montezemolo having a two hour meeting with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple. They were discussing management styles …

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/12/04/25/ferrari_chair_learns_management_tips_in_meeting_with_apples_tim_cook.html

  29. Jeremiah says:

    What are these changes in procedures that they keep talking about mean?
    Instead of Beppe preparing coffee, now it will be Fabio. The cook will now be Stefano, and the vegetables for the canteen will be planted in a patch next to Fiorano by Daniele.
    Now is when Lou DM will have Ferrari firing on all cylinders.
    Cheers

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