Inside Line: Enzo would have said Grazie Seb, but Arrivederci!

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This week I read with interest that Mauro Forghieiri believes Enzo Ferrari would have afforded Sebastian Vettel more respect in the final six months of his $40-million contract with the team.

However, with total respect and genuine awe of Mr Forghieri, Mr Ferrari and all the Tifosi, I am going to beg to differ; and suggest that Seb would have received his marching orders long ago from Il Commendatore.

Amid the casino that engulfs Maranello at the moment, a suggestion is that Ferrari send Vettel off on six months gardening leave and end the increasingly toxic marriage sooner rather than later, but at the same time was stunned by the lack of respect Mattia Binotto showed the four-time F1 World Champion.

It was humiliation on a grand scale, hence the argument that those wounds will never be repaired and any further association will only deepen them. But that’s another story…

The crux of this one is that during Mr Ferrari’s lifetime numerous drivers died driving his cars under his watch, including the likes of Alberto Ascari, Eugenio Castellotti, Alfonso de Portago, Luigi Musso, Peter Collins, Wolfgang von Trips and Lorenzo Bandini.

After Ascari’s death, Mr Ferrari was so aggrieved, that he swore to never again get close to a driver as he was with Alberto, only dropping his guard with Clay Reggazoni and Gilles Villeneuve who he treated like a son.

Other than that, il Drake was a master of mind games with drivers, he saw them as pawns to extract the maximum out of his red cars. Former Ferrari driver Tony Brooks described the enormous psychological pressure Enzo would exert on drivers to produce better results and inevitably go beyond reasonable limits.

This ignited a constant competitive atmosphere within a team that at a Grand Prix would typically have four or five drivers available for three or four cars during a season; always one or two guys sitting it out.

Furthermore, Enzo confided in those close to him that the reason for F1 success were his cars and not the driver.

It was a management style that did not resonate with me in the early seventies and the history of the sport unravelled when my passion for the sport bloomed and drivers were everything in my book, the cars incidental.

The tale of two-wheel and four-wheel legend John Surtees, who famously won the 1964 Formula 1 World Championship driving for Ferrari, is another case in point, a feud with team principal Eugenio Dragoni that would blow any modern F1 Netflix saga into the weeds.

In a nutshell when push came to shove – after years of intrigue, alleged espionage and back-stabbing, Enzo had no problem siding with his team boss at the expense of the Englishman, and subsequently released the F1 World Champion two races into the 1966 season.

Ironically, Surtees got his marching orders after he had just won the Belgian Grand Prix for the team, his last for the Reds. A few days later was summoned to Maranello and after meeting Enzo, the Englishman was gone. And what might have been a couple more world titles went begging.

Fast-forward to the Vettel saga unfolding right now.

No doubt, Mr Ferrari would gloat at having Charles Leclerc in the number one car, the kid ticks all his boxes and would get brownie points for seldom blaming the car, while his bravery in the struggle with SF1000 beast would not go unnoticed.

On the other hand, I doubt Vettel would be around any longer had the boss still been at the helm. Mistakes such as the abovementioned brain-fade at Hockenheim would have not gone down well in Enzo-land.

Before that, he could’ve been given the boot after the double-whammy Ferrari DNF crash in Singapore 2017 during the Kimi days, or more recently the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix coming together with Charles, or the self-inflicted error at Silverstone two weeks ago… the list goes on.

But, undoubtedly, the slam dunk is the cloud of suspicion that leaks unashamedly from Seb in these final days, exacerbated by the clear disdain he has for the car and Ferrari pit wall during the heat of the race. A time when pumping adrenalin lays bare and uncensored the no-repair relationship between driver and team.

Through those trademark black glasses, behind his desk at Maranello Mr Ferrari would long ago have summoned the German driver and made the call: “Grazie Seb, but arrivederci!” – or something on the line so of “pack your sh!t and leave.”

Again, with respect to Mr Forghieri who as Mr Ferrari’s inner circle I have no place doubting, but for the sake of opinionated history the question remains: Would Seb still be sitting in a Red car if il Drake was still in charge?

My guess: I think not.