Power play: Ferrari F1 engine builder to start work at Mercedes soon
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Feb 2018   |  6:51 am GMT  |  117 comments

Lorenzo Sassi, who was fired by Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne last summer, will start work soon at Mercedes.

He will be following in the footsteps of chassis designer Aldo Costa, who was chucked out of Maranello, but has enjoyed great success since with the three pointed star.

Sassi was held responsible for an engine development that went wrong last year, a mighty push that was intended to put Ferrari at least level with Mercedes for the second part of the season. It didn’t materialise and Ferrari weren’t able to capitalise on a strong start to the season as Mercedes struggled at some venues with the chassis and tyre combination.

They also hit reliability problems at key stages of the season.

After an enforced period of gardening leave, Sassi will join the team under Andy Cowell at Brixworth. As a long time Ferrari man it will add to Mercedes’ understanding of Ferrari’s technical capacities and new culture under Marchionne and technical chief Mattia Binotto.

Ferrari will no doubt build this year on a wonderful chassis, while Mercedes will hope to have made their 2018 car less of a ‘diva’.

Unless one of them has found a ‘silver bullet’ these factors may well prove to cancel each other out.

So it will be very interesting this season to see how the battle between Ferrari and Mercedes shapes up with regards to the engines. Mercedes has dominated for the past four seasons, but the game this year is to make engines last for seven Grands Prix.

This means having peak power for qualifying modes and in short bursts of the Grand Prix, but also having a regime where reliability is protected at all costs with a minimal compromise on performance.

Ferrari raised its game on qualifying modes to score some important pole positions last season, something that had been missing from its game for some time as Mercedes was able to turn up the dial for the final runs in qualifying.

This qualifying boost was encouraging for the competition and it will be the key to Ferrari’s chances in the 2018 season, as little else is changing on chassis regulations, while Pirelli has a similar range of tyres with one step softer for street circuits.

Oil burning, whereby additives that are not allowed in fuel, were introduced to the combustion process via the engine oil, has now been outlawed by the FIA regulations. There will no doubt be new battlegrounds opening up in the search for the incremental gain in competitive edge.

The new cars will start to be rolled out in the next week and then the testing will start and we will begin to get a picture of

Photos: LAT, Piola

What do you think will happen in 2018? Leave your comments below

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Perhaps if Ferrari didn’t keep firing good people just to satisfy their need to have a scapegoat they wouldn’t have to keep fighting to the rules bent in their favour in order to be competitive.


does anyone receive email reminders for responses to their posts?


You can tell it’s half term.


Ferrari have a much healthier attitude to F1 than most. Key people let go who then go to other teams with ideas. Contrast that with Mercedes who just add more of the good people to thier already vast operation starving the other teams of talent.

Makes for a poor show in the long run.


its time the FIA made F1 an open formula with no secrets on the cars. the smaller teams could copy anything they wanted to and the big budget teams would not be so keen to spend millions so others could copy


so long as it is a competition, every team will try to gain an advantage, nor matter what the rules are.


Might as well have go-karts then or watch NASCAR.


Good idea! There definitely needs to be some / many ways for the smaller teams to compete properly!


I haven’t read such a naive comment in a long time.

You spend billions on winning, and you expect a team to help the opposition? Bizzare. PS – Santa doesn’t exist.


Lol… I haven’t read such an honest reply to a naive comment in a long long time.


Interesting perspective. Mercedes also allegedly have “unfairly” long gardening leaves for their staff, to dissuade other teams from hiring them.


how long is a fair gardening leave?


The Mercedes Racing Team has lost people under normal or even shortened leave agreements with other F1 teams.

The difficult people to recruit are the Mercedes engine team members and that is because the engine crews are more a part of the AMG division not the Mercedes F1 Racing Team. In fact the Mercedes HPP system was when Mercedes was supplying engines to McLaren. That also means they may be covered by different a professional set of contracts. In addition AMG can counter other teams offers because AMG money is not dependent on formula one but are part of Daimler/Mercedes car business – AMG gets a significant resources as part of Daimler/Mercedes R&D in addition to revenues from the sales of Mercedes AMG cars. Most people proactively leave their jobs for more money or better opportunities. In many cases AMG has been in a position to match any offer thrown at its key technical members.


Its never a single man show, not even for Newey. Its slightly insulting to the other team members, when people like Elon musk, Steve jobs takes ‘ALL’ of credit for Accomplishments that involve thousands of design decisions, and hundreds of thousands of man hours.



And same goes for drivers of course, they are nothing without 100s+ hard work to get them to the start and finish line – and we have seen some pretty average drivers win WDC because of amazing engineerying.

But still some fans seem to think their fav driver designs their cars as well as driving it…..


some are better at it than others and we watch to identify them.


some drivers are not only better at driving but also better at leading their design and development engineers to design and develope a better product for them to do battle with.

that’s why we watch f1. if that wasn’t the case, no one would watch f1.


By some fans you mean aveli.


True, but, there is in any innovation lead setup a lead figure. Others in the group coalesce around that character who sets the tempo for the others to follow. Its is also true sugesting its only one man can be seen as devaluing the contribution of other. Do we get to hear of the other aero people working with adrian newey, not very often, unless they decide to move on. This fire them attitude that has always been at Ferrari is never helpful, as there is always the fear that if you get it wrong or on the wrong side of the boss you could be for the chop. Mercedes have been the beneficiaries of this silly attitute. You would think they have learned after the aldo costa debacle, but they don’t. That Ferrari for you.


As the saying goes, “you win a race as slowly as you can.” I think this is what Merc have been doing for the last three years.

One has to wonder if Ferrari’s reliability melt down in 2017 was not related to race speed / PU preservation balance and if this pressure didn’t pervade through the team. I seem to remember that Merc had the confidence to largely run their engines in sequence where as Ferrari rotated, which may have been a case of Merc knew their engines would last for 5 races and Ferrari weren’t sure.

Lorenzo Sassi’s presence at Merc may at least add that little bit more information as to where the outside of the envelope is for Ferrari and thus tell Merc how far they can go.

May be a season of two halves again, with late season reliability being the key.


“…hope to have made their car less of a diva.”

Now, for the driver…


@lkfe. Please ..Valtteri may have his ways but definately not a diva.


Ha! i was waiting for it…:)


Bottas certainly has his moments – you never know which version is going to turn up. 🙂


My sense is Mr.Sassi was given a Sergio “promotion” – meaning you go to another arm of the FIAT group or you simply just go. Once you taste F1 your not going back to anything so Mr. Sassi said no and Sergio said good bye.

Merc will pick his brain to see what he really knows and find him a cozy place to exist and contribute.

Ferrari knew his limitations and when your the head of any department you rarely do anything other than manage. Perhaps that’s where Mr. Sassi fell short.

Who knows for sure but one thing is certain, Sergio is very good at playing chess.

What will happen in 2018 ? Ferrari will lead the season.


What if …

Ferrarri found a good sollution in the 3D printed steel alloy cilinder heads … but as we know, the news they were workin on that leaked … so we all know. So what if Sergio sent this guy off to a mission where he works for Merc and tries to stop them from taking that same route for as long as he can convince them it is a crap solution ? How would anyone know what kind of cilinders Ferrarri is using ?

Isn’t F1 dirty like this ? Would be a good con, no ?


well that’s the way you run a serious outfit and it surely does match the grey matter of Sergio but its too much James Bond for some.

I think its too good. Back to the world of Crofty and his grid kids my friend.


Wow. I could not have down played that dismissal any better. Do you suppose Mercedes would have been so quick to employ him because he is a face to know. He will have technical, and especially engine knowledge that may come in handy in the years to come.


Anyone that hired Paddy Lowe and did not fire Lewis Hamilton is not all there so anything is possible with Merc.


Ferrari this month reported 2017 net profit of 537 million euros ($669 million), up from 400 million euros the previous year. Shipments last year rose by 5 percent to 8,398 vehicles, while net revenues increased 10 percent to 3.4 billion euros.

For the same year, Daimler AG’s net profit rose 24 percent to a record 10.9 billion euros ($13.5 billion), helped by strong sales of its Mercedes-Benz SUVs and the new version of its E-Class luxury sedan. Revenue rose 6 percent to 94.7 billion euros

How was Ferrari able to dominate F1 in the 1st half of 2000?

The answer: the three pointed star was not there as a team.


Methusalem. That theory only works if we know that Mercedes spent more than Ferrari last year, but we don’t know that.


These kind of figures to explain Mercedes’ dominance are flawed – if F1 performance was a simple proxy of car manufacturer size then Honda, Toyota and BMW would have crushed Ferrari while they were in F1.


James Allison also came from Ferrari (after fallout/being let go) except for he was a much bigger head. One can find a long list of people moving over between various teams.

Do no see anything wrong with musical chairs and Merc would have done necessary due diligence on their hires.

Ferrari must be confident their talent pool is deep enough.

Frankly—If any one NEEDS engine talent it is HONDA.


You are wrong about James Allison. The reason he left Italy and returned to the UK to work was entirely understandable because it was occasioned by the absolutely tragic sudden death of his wife and the need to spend more time with his children.


Yup, I can just see how the Honda interview went: “we see you have the talent Sassi San, but do you have what’s needed?”

“Eeeer a pair offff….?”

“Yes Sassi San a pair of slit eyes. Where are they Sassi san?”


Hardly a kingpin move for Merc – but none the less a guy worth having around to share any Ferrari PU secrets.

Even though Ferrari lunched a threat to Merc in the end they were not in the hunt – Ferrari were pushing the PU to the point of repeatably breaking to get near Merc – they were on their tippy toes trying to have a swing at Merc.


Yippee I didn’t need to type my name or edress for the first time in years. Thanks team JA.

There’s no way of knowing exactly why this guy was sacked anymore than why James Allison was. Discretion in F1 is equally as important as your technical input.

Let’s not forget, sacked or not, this guy was part of the engine team at Ferrari F1. Oh to be there in the first place please.

Good people treated badly and then turned by the “enemy” are a true asset.

Vengeance is sweet.


That’s assuming he’s good.


Ferrari‘s style putting blame on someoneks head and firing capable people is really detrimental for their own sake. The dominant Mercedes PU is basically work of some of the ex-Ferrari guys. Just imagine where Ferrari might have been if they had been a little accommodating. You win as a team and loose as a team.

I remember and appreciate Toto’s angry replay to Ted after Baku race when he was asked about the headrest incident. He firmly rejected the possibility of blaming the person responsible, which was quite straight forward to find out, and said it’s not Mercedes style of working. Ferrari needs to take a leaf out of their book.

This attitude has already lost them the opportunity to get services of Adrian Newey in the past. They are creating/ have created an environment which makes new great talent to join them difficult and they are always on back foot.


It still impresses me that having spent all that money on engine update, when they didn’t work quite as well as planned Marchionne immediattely had the person most familiar with them fired. I wonder how far that set the rest of the engine department back and how many conversations went “How does X interact with Y?”

“Don’t know, Lorenzo did it,”

“….Che Palle,”

I bet it was a lot.


It also beggars belief that (in JA’s words) they had issues with tyre/chassis combinations in the 2nd half of the season…..

….so they fired the engine guy!

How very Italian…


Linking a rumour/belief to an unrelated event and treating the two as cause and effect.

How very British, one might say…



And getting the wrong end of the stick, but not checking before flapping their gums 🙂

How very Australian…


No Mercedes had tyre and chassis problems. IN second half the season Ferrari had engine related issues.


At least it was refreshing to see James Allen in this article clarifying the matter of last year’s racing: ” Mercedes has dominated for the past four seasons.”
As some posters are still of the opinion that the racing for the championship was close last year.


Cyber, I think saying they “dominated for the past 4 seasons,” is a general comment. It was close, last year, for a long time. It could have gone either way. But, there were things on both sides that swung the balance heavily in Mercedes favour. Spa was a key race.


Cyber. If you had read the whole article you would know that James’ dominant quote related to the engine, not the whole car. You would also have seen quotes like “Ferrari will no doubt build this year on a wonderful chassis, while Mercedes will hope to have made their 2018 car less of a diva” and “Mercedes struggled at some venues with the chassis and tyre combination”. Vettel lead the championship for the first 12 rounds, how does this show Mercedes domination? It’s true that Merc had the better car over the season, but this didn’t become apparent until the end of the year,and it’s also true that Seb dropped a large number of points through driving and psychological errors.


Ferrari will finish on top, Marchionne will se to that a brilliant business mind & administrator they should have wrapt the 2017 both WDC & WCC if it was not for Vettel blunders & quality control of components, failures is the mould to success ,people in the know say Ferrari with the superb chassis & engine equal if not better 2018 is there for them to loose.


by the way, vettel is a superb driver


Plot twist: This is a Ferarri deep-cover sabotage mission.


Exactly!! I knew that Aldo Costa wasn’t to be trusted. Winning championship after championship, all in the name of Italia. Forza!


That exactly what i was thinking


I’d love it if you could get a technical person to explain the architecture of that engine James. The airbox into the tubo looks really different, though maybe that’s just my lack of knowledge.


I don’t know much about Sassi and the depth of his role/contribution. But have followed F1 long enough to know about Costa and what he brought. That firing really bit them, very stupid. This doesn’t appear to be much smarter. We will see.


Aldo was responsible for ferrari’s last championship winning cars. But the Italian way is scapegoating. They’ve been regretting that decision ever since and don’t appear to be learning. Now merc has Mike Elliot who with James Allison build the 2012-2013 lotus – a tire whisperer chassis. I’d be very very worried about what mercedes will produce for 2018.


May the best engineering group win !

Background on the new comment format would be appreciated. The old format wouldn’t accept anything last night ? ? ?

Thank you.


Mercedes is just going from strength to strenght in every department

If that merc has a rake, game over before the season even starts ……


It’s not as simple as you think it is. Mercedes will probably go for higher rake and smaller wheelbase this year. This has its own trade offs.

It will add to cars drag i.e. reduced straight line speed and reduced downforce in high speed corners, both were highlights of their car last year. This new concept is completely different from their low rake concept for last 4 years. They will have less data to work with, design completely new aero and drivers will have to adjust to newer balance of the car. They are giving up their high speed track advantage to be competitive in low and medium speed tracks. It will be a surprise if they managed to hit the ground running in Australia.


Omg, Rake does not equal performance. It’s aero philosophy dependent.


Toto did say after the season ended there’d be looking at a raked W09 for 2018. So assuming they will , they’ll be looking at loosing few centimetres from the long wheel base.

Tornillo Amarillo

2018 is about a reliability game…

Example, Red Bull and McLaren could not compete with Ferrari and Merc in order to keep the engines safe and take advantage of any opportunity if one of the engines of the frontrunner cars fails.



Why would you employ somewhere got the sack for developing a dud engine? Especially when your engine was far superior to the one that he designed?

Only reason i can think of is to stop him going elsewhere, like Renault, Aston, Cosworth etc


ahh! auto correct! should be “Someone who got the sack”


“Sassi was held responsible for an engine development that went wrong last year, a mighty push that was intended to put Ferrari at least level with Mercedes for the second part of the season. It didn’t materialise and Ferrari weren’t able to capitalise on a strong start to the season as Mercedes struggled at some venues with the chassis and tyre combination.” I have said all along that this was the case for Sassi’s getting booted. It was obvious that he over promised and under-delivered. Gook luck with that Mercedes.


Aldo costa might have words for you.


Speaking of oil burning,

how about a 2-cycle engine option for F1?

Need some creative thinking and innovation.


Mercedes will have the best engine and they’ll have a solid engine.

Ferrari have had problems with their quality control on engine production. So they need to have a German mind set to improve mishaps. Toto stated that they haven’t turn the engine on full blast and there is more to come from the engine. Though both teams realise that they have only 3 engines all season. So blasting it on full beans mode maybe problematic. As durability is the key now. Short bursts of power and then engine management will be the state of play this coming season.

All teams will end up with silly penalties as it’s always going to be the case that a forth or even fifth engine is required through a long season of racing.

So Mercedes get another Ferrari man. Though it all equals out. They got Hamilton’s old race engineer Jock Clear.

The main contention is Renault and their ex FIA man. No gardening and straight into a role at Renault. That is a FIA Inside Man in a Race Team. Whats fair about that. Though Red Bull McLaren will probably benefit from his role at Renault.

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