Marco Mattiacci, the new team principal of Ferrari, has a good idea of the scale of the job he needs to do in order to return Ferrari to winning ways and it isn’t going to happen overnight.
Ferrari will have a major aerodynamic update package on the car for Montreal, as it traditionally does and a significant step on the power unit, which has been a major handicap on the straights this year.
If this doesn’t bring the team a good step closer to Mercedes, then it will inevitably begin to commit more resources to the engine side and to wind tunnel time to 2015, where it can make a difference.
But Mattiacci’s task is long term. Ferrari has lost the winning habit and he needs to recreate the culture that existed there under Jean Todt.
Current Ferrari technical director James Allison (below left) said at the weekend that Ferrari has no shortage of talented people, but the environment needs to be right for them to take risks. He blames a culture of fear of failure and unrealistic deadlines for Ferrari’s failure to innovate in recent years,
“There is a wealth of talent at Ferrari, the experience and quality of the people on the technical side is a match for any team. It is a question of giving them the encouragement to actually go off and do more unusual things and then have the time to look at them and know that if they fail it’s OK because there’s still time to put a back-up plan in place and for that to work,” he said.
“Creativity and originality will only come if you set out to allow the engineers in your organisation the space and the time to do that.
“If you force them to operate with their back against the wall, up against deadlines that are very tight, then there is no time for them to think about how they might approach something differently.”
In Monaco the talk was once again of Ferrari’s all out attempt to hire Adrian Newey away from Red Bull. Again, this is not going to happen overnight.
“I remain committed to Red Bull for the foreseeable future,” Newey said in Monaco.
But the foreseeable future is only the next year or two. Beyond that, anything is possible if the right circumstances are put in place.
Newey has been with Red Bull for seven years and historically that is about the length of time he was with Williams and McLaren before moving on to seek fresh challenges.
Newey is well aware of Ferrari, what it stands for and the prestige of the brand. He owns, drives and races Ferraris. He has no ideological barrier to working for Ferrari in Italy, merely to its reputation for being a turbulent environment.
He has said that previous attempts to hire him – of which there were many – came at the wrong time in his family life.
Now divorced with children who have mostly grown up, 55 year old Newey is at a different moment in his life. He has a new partner, Amanda Smerczak (above). His son is a keen kart racer and Italy is the hotbed of karting.
Anecdotally, one has the impression that Newey is indeed looking around at the moment, considering what to do next and he has bought himself some thinking time with his Monaco statement.
Ferrari is believed to be offering Newey a spectacular package which would give him, in addition to a massive salary comparable with many F1 drivers, the opportunity to be across Le Mans project, maybe even have a hand in designing a road going super car, but above all to make Ferrari the fastest F1 car out there.
All of this will be very tempting but what Newey needs is certainty that he and his department would be protected; from politics, from internal pressures and interference from FIAT and other outside forces and would be allowed to get on with their work.
He would also need a free rein to know that all the resources he needs are at his disposal, no questions asked. Mattiacci has been given a freedom previous Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali never had – to be able to sign things off quickly himself, without needing lengthy approvals. He has things set up more like the Todt regime in that sense. The team management can react more quickly and be more dynamic.
Newey works best in a protected environment and it is the thing he will be most concerned about at Ferrari, given its culture and politics. Todt managed to ring fence the team and was the strong man holding back the inside and outside forces to allow the team and its engineering innovators to thrive.
Mattiacci must reproduce that, and convince Newey very soon that he can do so, or the project will have little chance of succeeding.