Ferrari in a fix as rivals move ahead
Scuderia Ferrari
Ferrari in a fix as rivals move ahead
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Jun 2010   |  7:04 am GMT  |  235 comments

The controversy over the Red Bull collision on Sunday has taken attention away from what was a very painful weekend for Ferrari, as it celebrated its 800th Grand Prix.

Not only has the team fallen further behind Red Bull and McLaren, it has also been passed on pace by Mercedes and Renault. In the last two races, Robert Kubica has qualified ahead of both Ferraris.

Bahrain seems a long time ago (Darren Heath)

Ferrari has played the history card very strongly in the last two seasons; it was one of its main strategies when standing up to Max Mosley, FIA president at the time and refusing to accept his budget cap plan. It positions Ferrari as the spine of the sport.

And with such a long history, there have inevitably been ups and downs along the way. Some sections of the Italian media have called this moment a “crisis”, but there have been worse.

Having said that, Turkey was a worrying development for Ferrari, which set the benchmark during winter testing. Let us not forget that the technical team stopped working on the 2009 car in July last year to focus on the 2010 car.

And yet while McLaren managed to develop its car right up to the end of 2009 and is now proving its technical strength again in 2010, Ferrari seems not to have the ability to match its long standing rival.

It would be wrong to say that it has been in a steady decline ever since Bahrain; Alonso was on the podium in Spain and the Ferrari was considered a contender for the win in Monaco, but for Alonso’s accident in practice.

But Turkey was a genuinely uncompetitive showing. Right from the start of qualifying it was clear that the Ferrari was in trouble on low fuel. Alonso’s Q1 time was 8/10ths slower than Vettel’s benchmark and that pattern stayed consistent through the qualifying session. Alonso missed the cut for Q3, but Massa’s Q3 time was 8/10ths slower than Webber’s pole. So that’s where Ferrari are and it shows the ferocity of the competition at the sharp end this year.

So why is this?

Well for the last few races now team boss Stefano Domenicali has said that the car lacks downforce. But that is just code for ‘it isn’t fast enough’. Last year’s Ferrari was a poor car which lacked downforce, but it still managed to qualify more strongly in Turkey than this year’s model, which won the first race.

Ferrari say that the reason for the poor showing in Istanbul qualifying is simple – the car just didn’t produce the goods when running low fuel and new soft tyres, compared to the opposition. Interestingly a pattern has emerged in the way the top teams approach Friday practice; McLaren and Mercedes tend to run lower fuel, while Ferrari and Red Bull run much heavier loads. For this reason the McLarens are usually on top of the time sheets on a Friday and seem more consistent than Ferrari in qualifying.

In Istanbul the temperatures changed a lot from Friday afternoon (50 deg) to Saturday morning (26 deg) to qualifying in the afternoon (36 deg). As Bridgestone’s Hirohide Hamashima observed after qualifying, “The changing temperatures made finding the best set-up even more difficult for the teams at this venue, where this is already a challenge due to the track surface evolution over the weekend. The difficult to judge grip levels meant that many people found the limit as they danced on the edge of adhesion today.”

F1 is all about trends and managing them. If you are on a negative trend you want to reverse it as soon as possible. If you have a positive trend you work hard to maintain it.

Perhaps the most worrying development which the team hope will not become a trend was Alonso criticising the team after qualifying. He said that the work done on the Ferrari was not sufficient, “In China, Spain, Montecarlo and here we haven’t brought developments, while Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes have moved ahead.”

A lot of Ferrari’s effort has gone into developing its drag reducing rear wing or F duct and it still isn’t right. Red Bull has been adding performance in other areas, while reluctant to run its F Duct until it is sure that the benefits outweigh the losses.

Ferrari has gone ahead with it, clearly believing that it is an essential component of the long term fight with McLaren in particular this year. Very soon Red Bull will be forced to do the same, judging by the threat the McLarens posed to them on Sunday.

McLaren’s strong showing in Turkey indicates that it is on a strong development curve at the moment and it has the luxury of a fully optimised F duct so it can focus on other areas, while Ferrari and Red Bull toil away at the F Duct and get distracted by it.

“It is for sure true that we have invested a lot in the new system with the wing, but it is not enough and it is not perfect yet,” admitted Domenicali. “What should happen in the next month is that in Valencia we should have a big update where there will be a lot of new parts on the car. But it is true from the fact point of view that the bits we tried to put in place were not enough to cope with the pace of the development that the biggest teams have done.”

And that is the trap Ferrari finds itself in. It is also clear that the technical team at Maranello isn’t strong enough, particularly in developing a car, compared to McLaren. There are reinforcements on the way to beef up the department, but Ferrari has to really dig deep now to get back in the game. Alonso knows that better that anyone. McLaren’s ability to develop a car was the reason he went to the team in 2007.

Meanwhile it is to be noted that Mosley rather soured Ferrari’s 800th Grand Prix celebrations by accusing the team of trying to fix an appeal court hearing.

Coming a year after F1 was embroiled in the fixing scandal over the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, this is uncomfortable ground.
“He (Montezemolo) was on the phone every day saying, ‘you have got to sort the Court of Appeal out and make sure we win’,” Mosley, referring to Ferrari’s charismatic president, is quoted by the Daily Mail.

“He didn’t put it as baldly as that but that is what he said. I said, ‘Luca, I’m sorry, but first of all they wouldn’t take any notice and secondly I am not going to do it’,” he added.

A spokesman for the famous Maranello based team responded: “We don’t want to make any comment. It is better to look ahead and not waste time talking about what is – luckily – old and gone.”

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If there is one team that knows how to bounce back its Ferrari, and it remains too early to draw conclusions now. Would not surprise me if they have something up their sleeve.


It was a big dissapointment to learn that Ferrari next update will be at Valencia. Massa and Alonso must be frustrated with the situation. Could it be the economic crisis affecting the Italians? One will never know with such a high profile brand as Ferrari is. But then again are they complacent, I certainly hope not.

James, I know your’re an ardent supporter of Alonso.

I am too, and it feels rather demoralising with his performances this year. Partially his faults and Ferrari too.

The only consolation I get is watching his personal times improve or when he’s closing in during ‘live timing’ but with no refuelling all drivers times improved too. Shucks!

Off the topic, the criticisms shown towards Mark Webber in Turkey’s race I feel Mark should be the 2010 WDC. Just like Jenson who won the WDC late Mark should too. It’s about time the older loyal drivers in F1 earned their respect.


Just to be clear I’m not an “ardent supporter” of Alonso. I like him as a person to deal with and have a lot of respect for his driving.


I imagine that a large part of Ferrari’s current predicament stems from the fact that they lack the strong team leadership that they had in Jean Todt. Being part of a large public company that answers to a board of directors, and ultimately public opinion (read ‘the Tifosi’), they lack someone with the ability to steer them in the right direction and the conviction to see it through. There were plenty calls for Todt’s head prior to their return to form with MS, but ultimately he lead the most successful team in F1 history.

Their current apparent knee-jerk reaction to other team’s ‘gimmicks’ are possibly causing them to ignore development of their own potential in areas where they are strong. While the ‘F-duct’ is undoubtedly a success on the McLaren, trying to retro-fit one to the Ferrari seems to be an enormous waste of resources. I can’t imagine Domenicalli telling Luca that they should rather concentrate on improving their down-force, or FA that he doesn’t need a blown wing if he can improve his mid-corner speed with some subtle suspension tweaks. Luca wants an F-duct, the Tifosi want an F-duct, Alonso wants an F-duct, so we work on an F-duct.

RBR don’t have one, although they are looking at it, and they’re still quicker than McLaren even though they have less top speed (Button was amazed when Webbo confirmed that he was ‘flat’ through Istanbul Park’s Turn 8 on low fuel). Surely concentrating on their current car’s strengths, whatever they may be, would yield more positive results, especially as these may be carried over to their next design (unlike the F-duct). But then you need a team principle with insight and the courage of his convictions to make these decisions, even when they are not as successful as intended.

Having the largest budget, the best driver, extremely competent engineers and the most enviable name in F1 all comes to naught without clear direction.


So Ferrari have enough money to run 3 cars and test all season but can’t design a winning car? Logically therefore they don’t have the engineering talent. I am as ready as anyone to be impressed by the achievements of any team, but Ferrari are so full of their own hype it’s hard not to gloat when they find themselves in midfield and get all puzzled, thinking that their natural place is at the front! I especially object to their tagline that every driver wants to drive for Ferrari. Well how about Rubens Barrichello? He’s already driven for them and say he’s always wanted to drive for Williams. So there!

You know the old saying “Ferrari are owned by Fiat, Fiat by the Italian government, and the Italian government by the Mafia.” Maybe that’s where they get the idea everyone should respect them 🙂 Perhaps they should give up trying to win and just put horses’ heads in the other teams’ motorhomes.


Hey James! Funny that you write this statement

“It is also clear that the technical team at Maranello isn’t strong enough, particularly in developing a car, compared to McLaren”

After all your claims last year, that one Mr.Kimi was not able to motivate and develop the team technically and that Alonso was awesome in doing that?

Why is there no mention in your article about Alonso not being able to develop a car as you thought he would have? Huh?


The talk of Mr Kimi not being emotionally intelligent is either media hype or something which people consider important to motivate heavily paid employees of one of the most high-profile corporate giants of the world.


Well now we will find out won’t we? Ferrari obviously felt the same which is why they hired him


Drivers have never been the problem at Ferrari. It’s the management, starting from Luca, mostly Domenicalli. Nice guys not always get the job done, especially in this cut-throat biz. Until the day we see a major shake-up at the senior management level, Scuderia will not return to its former glory.


Hi James,

I was looking at McLaren’s strong car development last year and this year (relative to the other teams) and it got me thinking…

Are we starting to see McLaren’s prior investment in corelating their simulator and track data REALLY pay dividends now that the resource restriction is starting to kick in??

Does this bode particularly well for McLaren for the next few years when all of the top teams will have to start reducing their spending (and windtunnel usage)signifcantly??


When McLaren introduced their F-duct, they said it took two years to develop and get it working right. They reiterated that when other teams started to show up with their own versions of the wing stall system. Stating they were surprised they had competing systems so quickly.

It’s pretty obvious that this is a simple concept with very complex and finicky details needed to make it work correctly. I think McLaren is quite pleased that the other teams have diverted so much of their development efforts to the system that they have fallen behind in other areas.

AND it will be banned next year! Quite clever those McLaren boffins…


It occurred to me the other day that it would be really funny if it turned out the F duct didn’t do much on the McLaren, either, and the whole thing had been a con to get everyone to waste their resources chasing it 🙂

However, in reality I’m sure the other teams can tell what sort of advantage it’s bringing McLaren, and know it’s worth pursuing.

It would be funny, though!


If Ferrari want to speed up development and spend more of FIAT’s money, why don’t they introduce another team, like RBR have with Torro Rosso?

Jake Pattison

James, any chance the FIA would consider allowing team orders in the future?

The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned, so that we can get away from all this covert stuff. We all know it happens.


The problem James is as you pointed out about a year ago in an article, that Stefano Domenicalli doesn’t have the same sort of temperament that the previous generation of team bosses did, (Ron Dennis, Jean Todt, Flavio Briatore and Ross Brawn). Those guys had ice in their veins and would chop your head off if you didn’t perform. Stephano is too cool, too casual for this environment. Of course, it was Luca Di Montezemolo who hired him. Ferrari should have kept Ross, promoted him to Todt’s old spot and put Stephano under him for a number of years (like Martin Whitmarsh under Ron Dennis). When Ross was ready to call it a day, promote Stephano. But no, Luca wanted Ferrari to be an “Italian team” again. Well, here you go, back to the 80’s and 90’s of underperforming. I agree that technically they’re not strong right now. That’s why they can’t react very quickly.


I really wouldn’t say Alonso was “criticizing” the team publicly. He just said that they didn’t have as many updates as other teams. I don’t see what’s such a big deal about it. If you want, you can read it as “team is lazy” but it’s not that. He was asked a question and he answered in a factual way. What was he expected to say?


You hit the nail on the head. Alonso’s and Domenicalli’s words were coincident stating that they didn’t have as many updates as other teams. Nothing more, nothing less. Significantly, it was Domenically who said Ferrari had to work quick and hard to keep the pace of the other top teams.


Surely with him bringing 6 tenths of a second to the team, Alonso should be much quicker?!

The man is looking even more idiotic after making those comments 3 years ago.

Alberto Dietz

And he looks truly awful, the complete opposite of De Portago (sadly lost back in the fifties) who was wild but not abandoned, a guy with real class and some amazing ancestors over five or six centuries. Five Ferraris in those days and his team mates were Musso, Collins, Castellotti and Fangio.


Any word on why the car has suddenly become uncompetitive? They’ve fallen off the pace ever since the ran their version of F duct. Actually they admitted that it cost them downforce. Are they shooting themselves in the foot trying to dial it in right as oppposed to focusing on the previous strengths of the car? I don’t know if that’s the reason, but I doubt the other teams have made that big of jump over them. The order is still more of less the same beside Ferrari dropping off. I find it hard to believe that Mclaren, Mercedes and Renault have all outdeveloped them.


As I said, getting the wing right is difficult. It can cause problems when the wing is passive in corners, ie no air blowing out of it

stephen stepney

James a wonderful insight in to Ferrari and time will tell,i do believe however it will turn around though unfortunately possibly to late,the F10 was the only car at the start to rattle RB,and had development kept pace it would still be now. FA is known to have excellent feed back and is able to give engineers information on how the car needs to be,pre season testing showed exactly this.

FA made a comment as to why a team would wish to employ “any”driver when asked,his reply was “IF” a driver can bring a few tenths more then any team would be interested” He may have implied he can,but never actually said he could.

He is without doubt a very talented driver whose emotions can sometimes get the better of him,but never rule him out,and with Ferrari only a fool would,it may not be this year yet lessons will be learnt for both team and driver for next year.

Val from Montreal

James, if you cross Alonso in the paddock ,can you please ask him where he left his 6 tenths ?

It seems his reputation of being a)consistent , b)team leader , c)great car develloper are pretty

much all B.S. … What made his reputation were

a)Michelin Tires B)Illegal Mass Dampers C)Renault 05-06 cars D)Ferrari engine blow-up Suzuka 2006 …

I Hope that Mercedes and Schumacher beat Ferrari and Alonso in 2010 constructors and drivers standings … That will shut all of Italy up !@


Ferrari miss testing more than anyone else, aparently. Wanna bet 5 bucks for a in-season testing return in 2011? And add another 5 bucks for it being granted as a measure to help the teams adapt to whatever new tyre manufacturer comes in.


In the meantime, some of Alonso’s most fantastic performances have come when he was hurt and in need. I’ll never count him out for a win.


Hi James,

Just a quick question, who are the reinforcements on teh way at Ferrari’s technical department? Any chance Pat Fry will be joining them?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated.





I think that this is just indicative of how good Ross Brawn is and that with each year after his departure from Ferrari the momentum he built is dissipating. I don’t think that things are going wrong as such they are just lacking nous.

I think that it is also rather telling on how good a team leader Alonso is/isn’t. He did not set the world on fire at Maclaren which at the time was put down to Hamilton’s influence with the team, and he isn’t doing it now. Whilst his race craft is unquestionable his ability to drag the team with him appears lacking.

Thirdly I think it also shows what a strong influence Pat Symonds and Flavio Briatore had on Alonso’s career and they were probably underestimated.


It’ll be a bit of a wake up call if they slip behind one of the new teams who they so publicly berated before the start of the season.

I don’t think the 800th race would have looked so dire for them if their senior management and PR machine dropped the self inflated ego and engaged the sport with humility.

Alberto Dietz

Exactly. An excellent example of humility comes to mind: Felipe, Brasil ’08.

Nicolas Jerome

I wont be surprised if Ferrari stops the development of the F10, in recent years Ferrari has tended to freeze the car development for next years car only to find that they do the same thing over and over again.

In F1 nothing stands still, it has some of the brightest people on earth from various teams, you can have all the money in the world but someone who has better thinking skills and brainstorming ideas can leap frog you. Renault has a small budget but they made right executions which brought then 2 title in a row.

If you blick in F1, people can do many things that can leave you behind, Ferrari were worried about McLaren in the past as their main opponen but now its a different game now with Red Bull and many other teams.

That solid passion that was there in Schumi era is no longer there and the never give up attitide from Ferrari and the fighting spirit is no longer there, most teams copied what Ferrari did, everyone would get worried what Ferrari has up in their sleeve.

I would be surprised if Ferrari gets into the top 3 when the title is decided.

Im really sad about Ferrari


Hi James

Could you tell us where you stand on the often repeated phrase (by the F1 media) that Alonso is the best all round driver in F1.



2 questions;

1. Are rules for next year already out??We heard Mclaren say that the design for next year’s car is already in an advanced stage and Pat Fry’s departure won’t hurt.

2. What about these testing rules?? Do any of the big teams have any testing days at their disposal??I mean “Private Test Days”


Fernando qualifying 12th in Turkey is blamed on the Ferrari. In fact, this was due to yet another mistake by Kimi’s replacement, he lost it on his qualy lap. Felipe managed to drag it into Q3 after all. Crying about the performance of the car simply hides his own mistake.

Alberto Dietz

Reality check:

Luca made some wrong choices, Todt didn’t.

Forza, Felipe and Michael!


Forza Massa

A true Ferrari Pilot.


Isn’t the f-duct banned for next yr? why are they spending soooo much time and money on this technology that they will not be able to use next yr. Shouldn’t they concerntrate on other parts of the F10.

Also, I think Ferrari should start spending most of their practice on perfecting qualifying. It seems that qualifying is more important than race pace this season (as it was the last few and as it was shown in Turkey).

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