Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is keeping a wary eye on Maranello during the off season as he believes Ferrari have the will and capacity to mount a strong challenge in the aftermath of a well below par season for the the Reds.
Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Wolff said, “In 2012 and 2013 we were not sure of the favorites, then with the [turbo hybrid] regulation changes we became successful. It can happen to Ferrari who have the potential and resources to return to the top.”
Ferrari underwent a major change – a de facto coup d’equipe – in 2014 which saw CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles overthrow Luca Montezemolo as president, ending a long era of his leadership and with it change the direction of the Italian team.
On board came Sebastian Vettel and new team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. What followed was a very encouraging 2015 season in which Vettel won three times, but it sent the wrong message to Marchionne – whose experience in heading up a Formula 1 organisation was limited – and expectations for 2016 were unrealistic.
It was a torrid season for the legendary team. They failed to win a grand prix and were plagued by what was described as “an atmosphere of fear” within Maranello.
Design chief James Allison departed and the team was restructured with Mattia Binotto heading up the technical side.
Despite the shortcomings of 2016, Wolff believes that Ferrari is heading in the right direction, “They focused on being an Italian team. For me that is added value, not a restriction. Ferrari does not need mercenaries. I am convinced that the decisions taken by Marchionne and Arrivabene is moving the team in the right decision.”
Wolff knows, as do most of the F1 community, that a strong Ferrari team is important, and perhaps essential, for the sport to thrive.