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Mercedes designer Aldo Costa on why his old team Ferrari is struggling
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Aldo Costa
Posted By: James Allen  |  06 Aug 2014   |  9:51 am GMT  |  218 comments

Aldo Costa was designer of some of the Ferraris raced by Michael Schumacher, replaced Ross Brawn as Technical Director at Ferrari and held the post until May 2011, when he was sacked. Brawn then hired him for Mercedes and he is the man behind the current design, which is dominating both the drivers and constructors’ championships.

In a blog post, leading Italian F1 journalist Leo Turrini has spoken to Costa and got some interesting revelations from the 53 year old, about Mercedes team orders and on why he thinks Ferrari is now in the doldrums.

Costa is one of twelve Italian engineers working at Mercedes, many of whom he recruited himself. He describes this as, “Professionally a happy time.”

This contrasts with the summer of 2011 when he was let go by Ferrari. On the subject of whose current predicament he says,

“I’m not happy about it. I worked for a company that is a myth. It doesn’t please me to see how it is reduced, in Formula One terms, even though they fired me and in a way that I don’t consider very elegant.

“Let me say that there are a lot of people working in Maranello, for whom I feel affection and it pains me that they are in such a complicated situation. It is not good, I left many friends there, should I be happy to see them in such trouble?”

As for pinpointing the reasons why Ferrari is struggling now, with no wins and just two podiums in the first half of the 2014 season, Costa says,

Luca Montezemolo

“Strategic mistakes were made – I’m talking here about errors of vision – very serious ones. And of course they haven’t always taken the best decisions regarding people.

“I’ll give you an example. In 2008 we in the racing department put in a request to construct a new wind tunnel. We considered it essential to remain competitive. We were told that this was not the case and that there was no need.

“In Ferrari all the decisions, on strategy and people, have always been taken by the president, Montezenolo. To be fair, he took them when Ferrari was winning everything and he also took them when Ferrari stopped winning.”

The tunnel at Maranello was converted from 50% scale to 60% scale, but it suffered from problems with calibration and Ferrari lost a lot of time as a result. They were forced to use Toyota’s tunnel in Cologne while the issues were resolved.

Ferrari is currently constructing a huge new complex in Maranello to house its race team, known as Gestione Sportiva.

Costa says that he doesn’t expect Ferrari to rise up again soon from its difficulties and expects the challenge next season to come from Red Bull, rather than from Maranello.

Fernando Alonso and Aldo Costa

Speaking of Fernando Alonso, with whom he worked at Ferrari in the Spaniard’s first two seasons there, Costa says,

“I consider Fernando a true great when he is in the car, driving. Out of the car, I was never able to understand him; to me he is an indecipherable character, an enigma.

“However he will not be coming to us at Mercedes, I do not see why Hamilton should want to leave a team like ours.”

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

And speaking of Lewis Hamilton, Costa addresses the subject of the controversial team orders in Hungary, whereby Mercedes asked Hamilton to let Rosberg past, as he was on a different strategy at the time. Costa makes it clear that the senior management doesn’t care which of the two drivers wins the world title.

“The radio message, heard from the outside, I admit, it sounded bad,” he said. “But it was logical: Nico soon had to return to the pits to change tyres, he was faster, there was reason to ask Lewis to let him through. But there were no ulterior motives and even malice, trust me.

“I can assure you that Mercedes will not make any preference, between Hamilton and Rosberg. It is not in our interests. In fact, the team has a very strict directive: as the two drivers are extremely competitive and are willing to battle each other at every race, we have an obligation to provide both of the a completely equal car in performance terms.”

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1

James. now there’s Marmorini talking about Ferrari, perhaps with a bit of anger http://blog.quotidiano.net/turrini/2014/08/15/ferrari-tutta-la-verita-di-marmorini/

2

Come back Aldo, Ferrari needs you!

3

On the comments to Alonso / Hamilton in 2007 – I think it is pretty clear McLaren were vying for their protege to win and clearly favoured him on every level, but Alonso could have outdriven that issue, the real problem he faced was that he had spent previous years on Michelin, but that 2007 McLaren was on Bridgestones which Lewis had been driving for a long time in the wings at McLaren. Switching to Bridgestone was a big problem for all drivers if you look at results compared to teammates who didn’t switch. Alonso then went on to outscore Lewis in the second half of the season despite having bust up with McLaren by then.

4

F1 is a mess… rubbish drivers can easily become WDCs, because the cars drive on rails… they don’t need man handling.

In the past a great driver could match a rubbish driver in a superior car… now it is very difficult. The driver aids, also hide the poor driver’s lack of talent.

Drivers should be the center focus of F1… I only tune in for the driver battles – the cars and manufacturers are a far off secondary thought…

Car dominance and anti-racing regulations are a total turn off.

5

Costa sounds like a very clear headed, logical and observant man.

Merc is lucky to have him in their corner.

+1 on his assessment of Alonso

6

In spite of some obvious sour grapes, having been fired by Ferrari, Costa nevertheless refers to Alonso as a ‘true great’ on the track. Obviously then, those who are attempting to place the blame for Ferrari’s performance on Alonso either have more incite into his capability than Costa, or they are showing their irrational bias against him.

In terms of setting up his car for the race, none of his team-mates have been his equal (or their race performance would have been consistently superior). Indeed, his record would suggest that he is not prepared to sacrifice race pace with varying tires/ fuel loads in order to get a car that is superior for one blistering lap on soft tires with low fuel loads. Did Massa occasionally out-qualify Alonso? Yes, but his race pace was rarely as fast.

In the end result, qualifying results are only a very small part of the story. IF both drivers on a team had cars that were exactly equal and were set up precisely the same way, they would mean something – which driver is faster for a single lap on a given day. Of course, even that is often compromised by traffic and varying track conditions.

Surely a far better indicator of the best driver is the one who tends to perform better over the course of a season/seasons in race results. This speaks to ones’ ability at the start in frenetic conditions, one’s self-control and consistency (remaining within the limits of yourself and the car)), the ability to set up a car for maximum race performance, the ability to race in traffic and to adjust to varying track conditions, the ability to adjust to different tracks, etc ,etc. When considering all of those factors, especially in a car that is uncompetitive and difficult to drive, Alonso has few, if any peers.

Brad

7

Why is this report missing the most important comment Costa made?

“Tombazis? Ah, senti, quando mi mandarono via dissero che ero io a tarpare la creatività del progettista greco. Dopo deve aver liberato la sua fantasia, con i risultati che sono sotto gli occhi di tutti, no?…”

‘f1_fan’ already posted the translation

“Tombazis? listen, when they sent me away they said it was me who was stifling the creativity to the Greek designer. since, he’s freed his imagination, the results are there for all to see…”

In 2008 Costa was “promoted” from Head of Design to Technical Director and Tombazis became the responsible for the design of Ferrari cars for the 2009 season onwards, but that was failure of the Ferrari management in understanding that the main responsible for the good design of the 2007 and 2008 cars was Costa not Tombazis, and that designing is what Costa does best not managing engineers. Things got really funny when the Ferrari management accused Costa of stifling Tombazis’ creativity and being responsible for his failure as a designer. Now Costa is having his vengeance at those clowns.

8

I disagree that this was the most important comment

9
Richard cummins

Oh come on face the facts. LH was faster than NR otherwise he he would have finished in front of him?? LH had the race in front of him and Merc made a mistake and read the situation wrong. Simple. That is why Toto is ok with Lewis not going with team orders. If he was not the facts would surface and he would look wrong.(again).

This bloke has some front. He was dismissed by Ferrari and landed on his feet going to Merc. Be gracious.

My concern is the lack of feeling coming from Lowe and the engineering dept regarding the Mercs inability to finish a race. This SHOULD be humiliating and embarrassing but they seem keen to blame others??!! Come on LH do the biz!,

10

Agree that pointing at Alonso is very narrow minded and you must not be watching the racing and/or blind to even look his direction for answers as to why they are under performing. Personally I always wondered why the sacked Costa, considering the years of success he was involved with. Seemed like a dumb move from my couch….:)

11

The amount of post which here Blame Alonso for the failures endured by Ferrari is colossal and hilarious.

All the savants in the paddock and F1 world have documented the problems prevail at Ferrari due to feckless team bosses and Technical crew. Excuses have been thrown at wind tunnel issues for ages by stefano and the team. Yet despite the huge budgets Ferrari are not good enough to rebuild. Ever since 2009 this has become the theme of Ferrari.

Personally i feel very Aggrieved and sorry for Fernando Alonso. Alonso have joined the team at wrong time and his decision making was poor. Had Alonso joined Ferrari back in 2007 instead of Mclaren he could have easily added 2 more WDC to his name. Alonso have all the talents in the world to make even a shoddy wheels work in his favour. what people forget is Ferrari were in the title hunt until the last race back in 2010 and 2012 solely due to Fernando’s exertion and heroics.

12

i don’t think that is Alonso’s fault for poor ferrari, but it is his fault for not overtaking Petrov in 2010 to win his FIRST LEGAL championship without mass dampers.

13

@ Nenad

Tell vettel to win 4 WDC’S again without the EBD and customized engine mapping.

Tell Jenson Button to his WDC legally without double diffuser.

Inform Ferrari to focus on the lead car and pilot on the track, not just mirror the gambit plot based on the car which ran in P6 or P7.

You people can post as much as you like to deride and Decry Alonso’s legacy, yet there can be only one best in the sport and It’s none other than the Wizard Fernando Alonso. Not just the past decade this applies to the entire history in the Formula 1 world.

14

why no credit for decent engine and chasis, not to mention RBR fragility

15

How people would like to thrash Ferrari and glorify Alonso!!!!

Ferrari were in the title race until the last race also due to the compliant number 2 driver and rear gunner like Massa.

Need I remind you abt team orders at German GP 2010, breaking the seal on the gear box on Massa’s car to demote him on the grid etc etc.

Ferrari was basically running both the cars for Alonso. It was the team effort that took the WDC title race till the last race of 2010 & 2012 seasons

16

AND this only what we fans see.. Can you imagine the stuff Alonso gets away with behind closed doors– biggest grub inF1

17

Not to mention luck.. How many times did vettels car break down in 2010 from the lead? and how many time did hamiltons car fail in 2012? Some say he didnt have much luck in 2010 and 2012, nonsens luck was the only reason he was still in it in the end.

18

@ Rohind

“Ferrari was basically running both the cars for Alonso. It was the team effort that took the WDC title race till the last race of 2010 & 2012 seasons” – You are way off the mark and bigoted here.

Ok, so you say Alonso kept the ferrari in the title hunt only due to massa on both instances in 2010 & 2012? If this is your assertion then you are really delusional here

Yes massa, moved over in german 2010 GP, is that the only reason why Fernando fought for the WDC? NO. Fernando was superb through out the season in 2010 and 2012. His consistency and pace allowed him to score vital points / podiums at every race in the season and when half chances came his way he converted those into consummate victories. This enabled Alonso to to keep himself and Ferrari in the title hunt until the last race of the season both in 2010 and 2012.

Ferrari were poor with gambit blot back in 2010. Do i need to explain you about Abu dhabi 2010 and In 2012 Lotus pilots took Alonso out of the race twice. Belgium and japan.

Massa’s incompetence means he was not able to score any points / podiums consistently. He hardly sacrificed one squirk victory and a potential P5 place to Alonso which really matters only little or does not matter at all. Massa was not good enough hence he have to may way for Alonso to go for the fight.

Ferrari did nothing they managed to lose the WDC due to feckless team despite the brilliance of Alonso which gave them to chances to win some silverware. You may not like ALonso as the vast number of fans do here. Yet you cannot deny the fact he is the best and genius.

19

Fair and sensible comments.

20

The only fair thing to do on team orders is pit both drivers at the same time irrelevant of position.

21

Nice article James and really supports everything Ive known about Ferrari since the MS years.

– Ferrari were only great when unlimited budgets, unlimited testing , Jean todt, ROss Brawn, Rory Byrne, were key to the success

-Ldm – failed to keep up with the times with the wind tunnel development and key personnel after Brawn left in 2007. Coincidentally their last victory

– Ferrari then made the most stupid of mistakes ever made by thinking they had another MS in Alonso- who obviously came with a truck load of Santander cash.

They ousted a driver many paddock people knew was the fastest driver of his generation bar none. & always presented professional and quality feedback. Mismanagement,misdirection, lack of technical direction in 2008/9 were blamed on Ferraris last world champion- instead of the management & technical shortfalls

-Alonso for 5 years soon has been given MS status when he lacks the technical and driver feedback to really guide engineers to the right path. Instead he drives a poor car better than everyone masking his and the cars abhorrent deficiencies -this time Ferrari belatedly blame the management and technical people instead of making it a team problem!- because by this stage

They have new facilities they hired good people. But who is guiding these people on the racing side- yep –Fernando Alonso!

– Alison and Raikkonen are now just several months into impacting on the new car design and hopefully they will learn more in the coming 9 races to make 2015 a strong recovery year.

Ferraris single biggest failure in the last 8 years has been its Critical Decision making led by Ldm- as Costa and many informed people have said. Until late 2013 he was still living in the past and Ferrari very erroneously let Alonso guide / drive the team– totally wrong guy for the job! in a totally different era of F1- he should “shut up & drive” which is the best they can hope for for another year or so.

Ive said these things a few times and now we are starting to see some real evidence from people within the sport,Ferrari. I really, really hope Allison makes some real progress with the 2015 car & PU because more than anyone Raikkonen deserves an opportunity to again highlight the knee jerk reactions from people who have already forgotten his extraordinary talents at driving Lotus from the bottom mid field to the lead pack only months ago & thoroughly deserves reward for the ridiculous leadership failures of 2009. More than anything I want to see Ldm retire from Ferrari so that at least a new person can take the reigns. Who knows maybe that man can be Mattiaci in a few years time!

22

I hope Fernando reads this and seriously considers making a move to McLaren!

23

James, off topic, I understand they are bringing the historic F1 cars from 1965 to 1985 for the support races in Singapore. Do you have more info on which are the cars and who will be driving them? I’m hoping at least 24 to 28 cars, that’ll be awesome.

24

Not at this stage, but it is exciting. I’ve been suggesting it to them for a couple of years. Glad they are doing it.

25

And it’ll be really interesting to see the speed differential, how the traction behaves and the sound too.

26

Could it just be Luca de Monty is the major fault virus behind Ferrari. Too much ego and self personification?

I’d love to see Ross Brawn back is Formula One, he will be the best successor to Bernie or other related areas. C’mon Ross we need you, I just hope he gets bored with fishing.

27

Starting to think Alonso will never get that third world title. Maybe he will realise that and quit next year…?

28

@ Aelfwald

Alonso have no need to quit. He is best talent the F1 world have ever seen for me

3X WDC will be a good stat for him, yet even (if he does not get his third title – I hope i am wrong) he is the best

29

@ Dutch Johnny

I have no need to post a WIT here, what i meant is, Alonso is the best talent F1 world have ever seen at least in my opinion.

Different people have various preferances, and most of the people here are too bigoted to accept the reality as it hurts them hard enough so they cite about 2007 still and post some charade examples to demean the legacy of Alonso.

There is no contest here really if we pit Alonso v/s rest of the pilots in the grid, like we have recently witnessed even in the hungarian GP.

30

The best talent the f1 world has ever seen? You got to be joking…

31

even without third title Alonso could make good millions of dollars/euros.

hence he will not quit next year.

32

No. He’s too young. And he’s a committed racer.

33

I think there is clearly a lot of resentment towards Ferrari in those comments and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Alonso comment wasn’t pointing towards Alonso’s seemingly blind faith in Ferrari, basically a shot at Ferrari aimed at upsetting their only one true asset. Any one who thinks Alonso doesn’t improve a car must have short memories!

34

This is not down to one person. Ferrari experienced a fantastic run of being on top, and lets not forget it took them a good 3-4 years to get the right team and approach. They were then behind one driver, one mission, and a number of chiefs who were at the top of their games and bought in for that specific reason. As in business all good things must come to an end, and it did with all of the key players moving on.

However if you look at the run of fortune before that, it was a little haphazard and twenty years without real success. They had been trading off their name rather than results, and unless they take the same dedicated approach as last time, I fear history shows us it won’t come naturally.

35

[However if you look at the run of fortune before that, it was a little haphazard and twenty years without real success. They had been TRADING off their name rather than results]

Exactly and totally agree with you, well branded and marketed so Alonso will not win his third world title in a Ferrari. Advertising is the most powerful media but does not mean the product is full proof.

36

It sounds pretty accurate to me.

I really wonder just how much the failure to upgrade their Wind Tunnel cost them. It should be noted that the time when Costa claimed that the request happened- 2008- was exactly the last time that Ferrari had a championship car (and indeed, the year of their last Constructor’s Championship). Obviously, this isn’t the sole factor in the team not being more competitive the last few years, but it does point to a possible story behind their decline.

During the time of Schumacher, Ferrari really blazed new trails in terms of team performance, organization, and success in F1 behind Todt, Brawn, and Schumi. But by 2005, McLaren and Renault had caught up, and Red Bull brought in Adrian Newey in 2006. It seems to me that the Ferrari management got complacent, which was a bad thing after the trio left. The guys on the ground knew they needed upgrades sensing what was going on with their competition (a lot of whom had hired some of their guys), but the management didn’t want to pay for them.

With that said, I don’t think this is a hole that Ferrari can’t climb out of. When Newey leaves, they’ll have the smartest engineer in the paddock in James Allison. I expect that the impact will really be felt in 2015, when he finally can put his fingerprints on the design of a car. I have ever reason to believe Fernando will be around until at least 2016, as there is nowhere better to go, and there will be plenty of talented drivers coming available when he gets too long in the tooth. Ferrari will dump all the cash that they have to to win again.

37

Interesting comments about Ferrari, and the wind tunnel debacle is a case in point. The problem I think is that the sport has moved on from where Ferrari had an edge, but no more they are well behind both aerodynamically and on the new power unit. I think it is the case that those taking strategic decisions are not qualified to do so anymore in todays F1.

38

Turrini’s post again has something bad mentioned about Alonso – anybody’s surprised? Am I the only one who’s missing in Costa’s statement how good Raikkonen is both inside and outside the car – this should always complete Turrini’s blog posts

39

Poor Ferrari. Montezemolo screws things up at the office and Alonso on the track.

40

Are you saying Montezemolo screws up Alonso on the track, or that Alonso himself screws up on the track?

If the latter then I’d suggest that right now Alonso is the only reason that Ferrari are seeing any results of note at all, but if the former then yeah, I’d go along with that 🙂

41

LOL, very good response.

42

Ps – James any chance of getting some insight ref the Renault engines /PU’s performance especially in the RB…

Several podiums ahead of other Merc teams – 2 wins in a season dominated by a car with a 2 sec advantage requires more than just aero and chassis.

Will Horner acknowledge this and publicly apologise to Renault ref his outburst earlier on this season?

If I was Renault I would demand it.

43

Read the article twice Maybe it’s me but I did’nt get anything from it.

Ferrari, Alonso, Kimi no real insight imo.

Alonso outdrives car….prrrrrft

Maybe the Ferrari is better than Ferrari will admit, maybe the set-up is suited to Alonso. Is the suggestion that the team is totally focused on Alonso or its apart if their agreement, hence the language used.

Kimi the after thought struggling because the enigma dominates development.

Not sure what he’s saying. Fact he is no longer apart of the Ferrari family suggest this is just hot air anyway.

Funny on Sky’s F1 show the other night they had John Watson ‘talking’ Ted Kravitz was trying to draw an opinion out of him ref the team order thing at Merc – it’s been a while since I’ve heard such a meely mouthed response from someone who you would expect to say something interesting having been in that position, hope they don’t invite him back – useless.

Where was I?…..oh yes, ref the team orders, again nothing. but considering he would have nothing whatsoever to do with the call I understand his non answer.

I was always told as a child not to wish my life away bit dang!!

44
Richard cummins

A few chosen words which mean nothing. It was a daft team call made worse by the team trying to justify their actions later on.

I feel that in the absence of Ross these things are inevitable. However I believe that in the long term it has done the ream a favour. Only a fool makes the same mistake twice.

Bring it on Lewis this is now the time to hammer down your speed advantage.

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