November 24, 2014

Ferrari's epic shakeup: Power Politics or Family Feud?

"It's 30 minutes away, I'll be there in 10". Maurizio Arrivabene. Sutton/via Autosprint

The arrival of the Maurizio Arrivabene to lead the Gestione Sportiva in place of Marco Mattiacci is probably best seen with an eye towards F1 power politics.

When Luca di Montezemolo was "retired "many questioned if Ferrari had lost what was left of its political power within the sport.   Mattiacci was an outsider to the sport and 2014 drove home how the sport had bent too far in the way, if not to accommodate Mercedes, at least to make it so Ferrari and Renault could be in a position where they could expect to be competitive in the short term.    That di Montezemolo allowed Ferrari to be be in that position was seen as his graves fault.

Arrivabene is an insider, a former VP for Global Communications at Phillip Morris, a company on whose board of directors Sergio Marchionne sits.  He was in charge of relations between Marlboro and Ferrari for years.    He is, presumably,  well versed in high stakes negotiations and his appointment could be the signal to Bernie and the boys at FIA that Ferrari is willing to not just change its internal structure radically but its relations with the governing body.    Old tactics from Maranello, yes, but from behind his mild mannered appearance Mr. Marchionne has shown he has little fear and regard for the current status quo.   He fired Di Montezemolo and Alonso in the blink of an eye, there is a definite sense he'll think nothing of going racing somewhere else if that's what it takes.

Mattiacci was dismissed bluntly:
“We would also like to thank Marco Mattiacci for his service to Ferrari in the last 15 years and we wish him well in his future endeavours”
That does not sound like Marco will be heading back to what must have been a very pleasant job as head of Ferrari USA.

One of the final items in the epic Ferrari purge of 2014 is aerodynamicist Nicholas Tombaziz.  Frankly, given the performance of recent Ferraris, he would have been our first choice, more so if he was responsible for the power unit compromise choices which so hobbled the F14T and potentially, future Ferraris to come.   The 2015 car is apparently an even worse disaster than this year's, further proof this move will come too late and  Tifosis have to resign themselves to a transitional year.   Alonso was likely fully aware and this is likely the main reason he asked to go.  At the same time, some very heavy guarantees must have been made to Vettel.

If Ferrari's management shakeup  is backed by commitment to the required investment, it will be good news for the team. Signs look promising.

Andrea Agnelli
In the background there is also the involvement of Andrea Agnelli, the 38 year old son of Umberto Agnelli, Gianni's brother.  
Gianni Agnelli had designated Andrea's older step brother Giovanni as his successor.  Giovanni tragically died of cancer at 33 in the late 90s and the heir designate became Andrea's cousin John Elkann.  
Andrea Agnelli, became president of Juventus, the family owned football club.  Before that he worked some times at  Phillip Morris, brought in by, you guessed it, Maurizio Arrivabene.

Agnelli carries the  family name, he has been in the background to his cousins just as his father had been in the background with Gianni.     Ferrari is now in Marchiones's hands but Marchionne will not be there forever.

Feuds happen in the best of families?

Ferrari Press statement:

Maranello (Italy) 24 November 2014 – Ferrari is pleased to announce the appointment of Maurizio Arrivabene as Managing Director of Gestione Sportiva and as Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, replacing Marco Mattiacci.

Mr Arrivabene comes to Ferrari from Philip Morris, which he joined in 1997 after a 20 years career in marketing and promotions in Italy and abroad. Maurizio Arrivabene has held a variety of posts in Philip Morris, leading up to his appointment in 2007 as Vice President of Marlboro Global Communication & Promotions for Philip Morris International and, in 2011, as Vice President Consumer Channel Strategy and Event Marketing. He has been an independent member of the board of Juventus FC since 2012 also. From 2011 to 2012 he has been a member of the Sport Business Academy (SDA Bocconi School of Management and RCS Sport), in the Advisory Team Program.

Throughout his time with Philip Morris, Maurizio Arrivabene has been closely involved in the partnership with Ferrari both in Maranello and on the world’s racing circuits. He has also represented all Formula One sponsors on the F1 Commission since 2010.
“We decided to appoint Maurizio Arrivabene because, at this historic moment in time for the Scuderia and for Formula 1, we need a person with a thorough understanding not just of Ferrari but also of the governance mechanisms and requirements of the sport,” commented Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne. “Maurizio has a unique wealth of knowledge: he has been extremely close to the Scuderia for years and, as a member of the F1 Commission, is also keenly aware of the challenges we are facing. He has been a constant source of innovative ideas focused on revitalisation of Formula One. His managerial experience on a highly complex and closely regulated market is also of great importance, and will help him manage and motivate the team. I am delighted to have been able to secure his leadership for our racing activities”.
“We would also like to thank Marco Mattiacci for his service to Ferrari in the last 15 years and we wish him well in his future endeavours” concluded Mr Marchionne.

November 23, 2014

Hamilton Doubles in Abu Dhabi


Lewis Hamilton, 2014 World Driving Champion.   It was in the cards ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi and Lewis did not let it slip through his fingers,   a deserved second championship for the British driver.

Many will say, as they did with Vettel and Schumacher before, that it was all car.  Yes, but it's not really Hamilton's fault everyone else was slow.  Nico was not slow and in the end Lewis beat him fair and square.

Given Mercedes' crushing domination it was always going to be between Hamilton and Rosberg for the win.  In fact Rosberg proved to be a more tenacious competition than anyone would have imagined at the  beginning of the season, he came close and surprised everyone by out qualifying Hamilton.

For Lewis, he did not have it all his way, he made a number of mistakes and fell short in qualifying but he always fought back on Sundays.   He had bad luck but also good luck, sometimes in the same race.  Hungary, for example, where an engine fire forced him to start from pit lane and a safety car helped him finish on the podium.   Or Brazil, where he spun off while chasing Rosberg but managed to keep it away from any barriers and with the engine running.

If I had any recriminations, it would be with the way the (mostly) British media followed Hamilton's lead and demonized Rosberg for presumed dirty tricks.   What was ridiculous in Monaco just became lousy after Spa.  Mercedes as a team were wrong to come down hard as they did on Rosberg, even Toto Wolff in hindsight admitted as much to the BBC,  ahead of the last race.   It was a blotch in an otherwise very well managed, complicated season for the Germans.   Was Hamilton wrong in whining about Nico's behavior, using his contract renewal and even his background in the media/psych war?  It's F1, win at all cost, no holds barred, that's the way it is.

So well done Lewis, congratulations and get a nice rest, hopefully next season you will have more than just Nico chasing you.  It will be much more fun for us to watch and for you to race!.


November 22, 2014

Red Bull Busted....but.


Vettel and Ricciardo will have to start from the back after Red Bull had their qualifying results wiped for having a front wing that did not pass the FIA deflection test.

The team issued a statement to the effect that they accept the penalty but wonder why them.
Following the decision of the Stewards regarding the front wings on both our cars (Car 1 and Car 3), we are disappointed that we have been singled out for a front wing deflection test when it is clear that other teams are interpreting the rules in a similar fashion. 
The team accepts the decision of the Stewards and will start the race from the back of the grid
You'll understand where Red Bull is coming from when you see this clip of the Williams front wing from FP2.

Have a look at the double element visible between the bottom plank and the top left higher winglets.  It flexes multiple inches under load.

I am the decider!

Tomorrow's race might just be a boring fizzle:  Rosberg could easily win and Hamilton settle for second and take home the Championship.   Double Yawn.

But funny things happen on the way to a Championship,  Hamilton has already won it, deservedly so, but he's also in the unenviable position to let it slip through his fingers.

Pass the popcorn, maybe Felipe Massa will pass Hamilton for second on the final corner on Sunday.

Our friend Raphael Orlove asked about famous title deciders past so here is a primer courtesy the BBC and the Murray Walker

November 21, 2014

Alonso's silence explained


Where will Alonso go in 2015?

That has been the soap opera for the second half of the season.  People are down on Fernando for keeping mum but there is a very simple explanation:  Lewis Hamilton.

When things were not going his way this past summer, Hamilton started making noises about his contract renewal with Mercedes.  Mercedes, not wanting to lose their marquee driver came down hard on Nico after the Spa contact.   Nico did not recover until the penultimate race of the season in Brazil.  Score one for couch man Hamilton, tactic must have worked.

Now as the season finale looms, Hamilton is still keeping the contract renewal over Mercedes's head. If he wins on Sunday he will renew with the additional leverage of a two time world champion.  Should he lose, he will not stand around the Mercedes garage as Rosberg's sidekick and sign with Mclaren. Pressure's on Mercedes to avoid a DNF,  a DNF in the final race of 2012  marked the end of his Mclaren days.

That will free up a spot for Alonso at Mercedes and, as he himself said many times, it will be obvious why he waited.

November 20, 2014

Bye Fred, Seb in Red

Ferrari officially confirm 2015 driver lineup.

Vettel drove a classic Ferrari at the red Bull Ring this past summer

It's the official start of a new cycle for the Scuderia with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.  That Vettel was a long term, post Alonso target for Ferrari was something that had been whispered for quite some time but nobody thought it would happen in 2015.

There is yet to be an official announcement for Alonso's future.

Maranello, 20 November 2014 – Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has reached an agreement of three years duration with Sebastian Vettel, who will drive for the team as from the 2015 season.

The driver line-up next season will consist of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

“Scuderia Ferrari has decided to put its faith in the youngest multiple champion in the history of Formula 1” – commented Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal, Marco Mattiacci. “In Formula 1 terms, Sebastian Vettel is a unique combination of youthfulness and experience and he brings with him that sense of team spirit which will prove invaluable when, together with Kimi, they tackle the challenges awaiting us, as we aim to be front runners again as soon as possible. With Sebastian, we all share a thirst for victory as well as enthusiasm, a strong work ethic and tenacity; key elements for all the Scuderia members to write a new chapter in the history of Ferrari.”

“The next stage of my Formula 1 career will be spent with Scuderia Ferrari and for me that means the dream of a lifetime has come true,” said Sebastian Vettel. “When I was a kid, Michael Schumacher in the red car was my greatest idol and now it’s an incredible honour to finally get the chance to drive a Ferrari. I already got a small taste of what the Ferrari spirit means, when I took my first win at Monza in 2008, with an engine from the Prancing Horse built in Maranello. The Scuderia has a great tradition in this sport and I am extremely motivated to help the team get back to the top. I will put my heart and soul into making it happen.”

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