January 28, 2015

The Scuderia's FIST

Funny how if happens. Last season, as soon as Ferrari announced the F14T, fans pointed out how that spelled out FIAT, in custom plate grammar anyway.

This year's car will be the S F15T and already it's the Scuderia FIST.

Actually, quite appropriate for the car Maranello hopes will be the basis of its fight back to the top of the sport.   If F14T evoked and performed along the lines of that old "Fix It Again Tony" cliche, the F15T is meant as the basis for Ferrari's revolution,  a revolution which saw an unprecedented turnover of what had always been a fundamentally conservative organization.

If you read here regularly, you are familiar with what happened but it's worth going through the names of those who left, one way but mostly the other, from Maranello:   Alonso, di Montezemolo, Domenicali, Mattiacci, Fry, Tombazis, Marmorini are well known names but at least as many less know engineers have  also left.    In their place Sergio Marchionne promoted mostly from within,  a noble strategy he used successfully at FIAT but not before, as Cesare Mannucci in Autosprint points out, trying hard to hire Adrien Newey from Red Bull and Andy Cowell from Mercedes' engine department.

We'll see how that will turn out: Ferrari made a lot of hires in areas of organization and race simulation, things they have clearly been behind on.

Another noticeable area of change at Ferrari this year will be their social media strategy.  
Up to now Ferrari produced perhaps the most boring, dated, unwatchable videos in all of F1, its tweets and FB accounts were rather boring and unimaginative.   But the pre-launch teaser videos released  ahead of this week official reveal, while not groundbreaking by any means, are a move in the right direction.

The SF15T will be an evolution of last year's car.  The most controversial aspect will be the insistence with the pull rod front suspension much criticized for the past few years.   It gives some aero advantages but is stiffer and more difficult to set up.

Why did Ferrari stick with it?   Most likely because it was not the biggest problem with the 2014 car and they have had four years to develop it.
This year they will count on two drivers with closer driving styles than in the past so perhaps that will help and by most accounts of the '14 car's problems focused on corner exit grip (rear suspension) and lack of power from the MGU-H (turbo) which had been undersized for failed aerodynamic reasons.

2015 will see a revised rear suspension and a much larger turbo along with a conventionally positioned oil tank (last year it was inside the gearbox!)

Part of Ferrari's larger strategy has been to reposition itself more clearly on the side of the fans, calling for more interaction between the series and the public.    You have probably read about team manager's Maurizio Arrivabene, calls for concentrating innovations on aspects of the car average fans can understand and appreciate rather than arcane hyper technical details only engineers can appreciate.  It was all a bit vague as these pronouncements tend to be but the sentiment is admirable.

Certainly, Mr. Arrivabene has been successful in the pre season negotiations over engine modifications.
How manufacturers will use their 32 tokens over the course of the season will be a point of interest in 2015.  Mercedes is apparently ready to come into the season with all its tokens spent,  a confident move but also one a strategic one as it will, in effect, limit Honda's options this year.    Honda will be able to make changes to it's power unit but will have a number of tokens determined by when Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes finish "spending" theirs.   Confused?  hey, it's the FIA.   but it boils down that the faster the other three use their tokens the less options Honda has.

At least F1 came to it's senses and threw the Japanese a bone, immediately alienating one of the world's top manufacturers just entering the series would have been a grave mistake both with Honda and the public.

Stay tuned.

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