Are Ferrari top brass going into panic mode?

Ferrari team picture in Shanghai

Ferrari team picture in Shanghai

Apr.18 (PVM) Ferrari are arguably the biggest under-achievers of the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship season so far, having only accumulated 50 points in the first three races of the season compared to the 105 by pace setting rivals Red Bull Racing and the team’s top brass could be on the verge of panic mode.

Luca di Montezemolo (ITA) Ferrari President, announces a five year partnership for Santander with the Ferrari team. Formula One World Championship, Rd 13, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, Thursday 10 September 2009.

Luca di Montezemolo feeling the pressure or applying the screws?

Prior to China there was plenty Ferrari chest pounding, war cries to rally the troops and to speed up much needed development, fast. Much was said about the return home – for five days between Malaysia and China – of the squad’s top brass including team principal Stefano Domenicali. Well it achieved little in terms of immediate performance on track for the Italian team.

To Shanghai they brought along some upgrades – including a pretty extensive front wing update but according to Fernando Alonso, who spent most of Friday testing the new bits, they were fruitless, “Our car was the same, aerodynamically and mechanically, as it was in Malaysia.”

Felipe Massa finished sixth and Alonso seventh in Shanghai, despite looking strong early on the pair faded towards the end as their much vaunted race pace deserted them when it mattered.

Fernando Alonso chats with Aldo Costa in Shanghai

Fernando Alonso chats with Aldo Costa in Shanghai

Less than 24 hours after the Chinese race, on Monday at around noon, Luca di Montezemolo issued a warning – perhaps even a threat – when he stated, “This cannot and must not be the team’s level. It’s a very delicate moment. I expect our engineers to act with determination and know-how, unleashing the maximum of their capacity to improve the performance of the car in a short time.”

Patience is apparently running out and there is a school of thought, even within Maranello, that the current team principal Stefano Domenicali is not the man to lead the team, especially in the current state or more aptly: out of this current state.

Domenicali admitted after China, “Fourteen points is definitely not what we wanted to come away with from this Grand Prix: there is no use denying we are disappointed.”

Stefano Domenicali

Stefano Domenicali under pressure

But his tempered reaction was interesting and perhaps points to the crux of the problem he has leading the team with highest profile in sport. He said, “We will have to study carefully the way this race evolved and understand why.”

Adding, “This championship has not started the way we would have wanted or hoped for. Our car definitely needs to improve its performance, especially in qualifying. We must work very hard over the coming weeks, especially on the aerodynamics.”

“We know our problems can’t be solved by waving a magic wand, all in one go, especially as our rivals are not going to sit around twiddling their thumbs: all the same, we need to take a step in the right direction, right from the next race,” concluded Domenicali

What has emerged from all the sound bites made by the team through their hyperactive media department is that no one at Maranello seems to know where the design of their Ferrari 150 Italia has gone wrong, how to attack the flaw and while they “study” the problems the team is lagging behind on track.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 150 Italia on the grid. Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, Sunday 17 April 2011.

Fernando Alonso on the grid before the race in China

Technical boss Aldo Costa when asked how the team will react, in the light of Montezemolo’s recent call for an amazing reaction, said “We are here to do this job and we will try to do it for sure.”

Not quite fighting talk for the man ultimately responsible for penning the team’s 2011 challenger that has been such a huge disappointment.

Shell-shocked? When the going gets tough the tough get submissive? Domenicali and Costa are hardly reacting in a manner synchronised with Montezemolo whose demands appear increasingly tinged with frustration, “It’s a crucial moment. We must react quickly. I want Ferrari to be at the level that both we and our fans demand it should be.”

All good and well but where are the team’s brains trust to not only diagnose the problem but also to perform the operation required for red cars to challenge for podiums, let alone victories? Reminder: there are just 17 days (at time of writing) to Turkey…

Is panic, even desperation creeping into the equation at Maranello? Watch this space as time will tell…

  • Twiinz

    Almost any team other than Ferrari (RBR and Maclaren) would be cool with 50 pts in 3 races. It tells us that they want only to win. Although they are substantially back from the leading RBR, they can come back. Just look at last year. Alonso made up like 45 points in the last 5 races. There are 16 or so left in this year. If Maclaren can turn it around in two weeks, Ferrari can do the same once they get on top of the problem.

  • fawx