Red Mist: What happens when they clip the boss?

Tell me something. What happens when a family loses its leader?

Let me tell you. It’s a total casino. The soldiers want to be the bagmen, the goombah eyes the wiseguy; people get pinched, others eat alone, the zips circle and the underbosses and consigliere have their hands full. Every man and his dog is out to make the bones.


To be plain, there’s blood on the street — all hell breaks loose when the person who held it all together, becomes dearly departed.

It’s the same in any family — when a patriarch passes, everything every member holds dear, the pecking order and how it all works, ends up in the air. It all changes forever. In business too — a strong leader suddenly removed from power can very well see the forsaken company shutting down through the ensuing mayhem.

So consider that as I take you back to late last July. You may remember that Ferrari was on a charge — Sebastian Vettel had won his brilliant fourth race of the season at Silverstone and it really and truly seemed that the Scuderia finally had dominant Mercedes-Benz covered. All the work done to turn parent company Fiat, and then Ferrari around, was finally working — the boss’ passionate leadership was paying off.

Then Sergio Marchionne was not well. Next thing he was gone.

My first thought was, ’shit, now what?’ Ferrari found itself rudderless in the torrent and as it happens when a Capo is clipped, your boss or your father dies, all hell broke loose. The timing could not have been worse — I was convinced that Marchionne’s huge loss was about to rock the team he had made his own. Damn, it did so too.

The rot set in on track — Seb went off all on his own at Hockenheim and while he bounced back with a second in Hungary and a win at Spa, it properly fell apart after that. Hamilton out-fumbled him at Monza and except for Kimi’s one-off at Austin, it was all Mercedes.

Back at Maranello, the mattresses were out and it was every soldier for himself — the underbosses had it through the eye and the consiglieri were dodging a one-way ride as chaos ruled the Ferrari Family. Gradually, however, the administration began to rebuild — the Old Cigarette Seller and his lieutenants were snuffed out and the Tall Captain and his gumbahs put in place, while the Casa got new Capi as a fresh Marlboro Man took the previous Don’s Grandson by the hand.

Slowly, slowly, Ferrari started to catch that monkey again, but it was never going to be a quick fix; the chasm left by Marchionne’s passing has proven a tough nut to crack.

Into that untested and shaky environment, the new soldier found a lardy, lazy goombah — Leclerc soon got into Vettel’s head and if that was not bad enough, the Scuderia’s luck could not have been worse. The Canada catastrophe, then Austria and more too as Ferrari appeared to do its utmost to shoot itself in both feet.

Trouble is, it was not doing that, all the team was trying to get right, was find back its feet. That took time. The cracks grew —  Charl got even better of dizzy Seb and a year on from his 2018 fiasco, Vettel suffered another Italian nightmare, while his kid teammate trotted to off his second win on the run at Monza.

Critically, however, Ferrari was winning again and for the past six races, it has yet again proven itself a formidable Formula 1 force. Never mind, the real Sebastian Vettel has stood up since Singapore and he’s been sharp ever since. There’s nothing like a couple of thousand laps in a kart to blow those cobwebs away. Now with that win and a couple of seconds from the past four races, it is he who now has the lad on the back foot.

That’s a good thing — what’s better than two bitter Ferrari teammates fighting it out upfront? Haven’t seen that for a while.

Back to Mexico, perhaps there were issues around Charles’ pitstop, but a bunch of other teams had the same. And Seb drove another solid race, even if Lewis beat him fair and square. Being suckered into believing that Hamilton would stop again and losing track position on another stupid F1 circuit, must be addressed. F1 rules that prevent real racing, rather than promoting it, also needs attention.

Let’s hope that new 2021 F1 rules package changes all that but for now, Ferrari news seems strong again. From what I can see, the mattresses are packed away, the outfit has sorted its issues and the crew has opened those books again. Bring it on — Forza Ferrari!

Glossary of Lingo

  • Administration: top management
  • Bagman: collects/cleans/distributes money.
  • Books Open: possibility of promotion
  • Books Closed: no possibility of promotion
  • Boss; Don: head of the family
  • Button: hit man
  • Capo: crew chief
  • Capo dei Capi: boss of all bosses
  • Casa: house
  • Casino: commotion
  • Clip: murder (also whack/hit/pop/burn/ice/contract out)
  • Consigliere: adviser consulted before making decisions.
  • Crew, Soldier: troops
  • Eat Alone: be greedy.
  • Family: organised clan.
  • Goombah: senior associate
  • Made Man: inducted member of the family.
  • Make Bones: gain credibility by killing someone.
  • Mattresses: going to war
  • Outfit: a clan, or family within the Mafia.
  • Through the eye: the mob is watching you
  • Underboss: second in command
  • Wiseguy: made man
  • Zips: newer immigrant Italian mafiosi.