No kid says, “I want to be one of the angry and out-of-touch old men in charge, long after my prime and causing damage to my sport, or my team.”
They say, “I want to be a racecar driver.”
Formula One is bringing a bit more drama to all the backstage maneuvers this year — which is at least half the fun of the sport lately. Bogged down by a tome of a rulebook, Bernie Ecclestone’s forced hiatus from running every lockstep in the sport brings with it significant pitfalls for the most legendary team on the grid: Scuderia Ferrari.
But while Mr. Ecclestone faces (multiple, very serious and well-prepared) criminal charges at home this year, the real drama is finally coming from the right place: on the racetrack.
somewhat very jaded opinion, Ferrari has been the most resistant of anyone to rule changes as sweeping as are in the 2014 season.
Why? For all its budget and marketing largesse, Ferrari is not the most innovative or skilled engineering group on the field — by a Texas mile.
So poor are the firm’s aerodynamic analysis abilities that it tried using Toyota’s big motorsports labs in Cologne for at least the 2012 and 2013 season while the mini wind tunnel of Maranello was again up-fit. But did that help? Oh no. Not in the least.
That means it is most likely a case of OE: Operator Error.
Or OI, Operator Ignorance.
or just plain OA.
Surely, the Maranello wind tunnel is state-of-the-art now that it is re-opened? Far from it.
Versus the Bedford-based Red Bull Racing lab or Mercedes-Benz brand-new aeroacoustic chamber in Sindelfingen, Scuderia Ferrari is hanging on by a thread to its competitiveness.
Is Ferrari alone in hopeless wind tunnel insights? Ummm, no.
General Motors appears to lack a full-scale rolling road wind tunnel altogether. Scale models are used, which are a poor way to learn anything about the car’s tires, dynamic grip when cresting hills, or the engines’ heat effects — despite some fancy laser light painting.
As shown below, the main GM Aero Lab has wooden turbines and scale models that are static — bolted to the floor. Not competitive.
This is the equivalent of looking at computer code through a telescope — you will not find much info of value, and therefore not bring much aero value to the racetrack.
Add in engine and software that are both woe-fully poor, and the Pracing Horse may show some worst-ever points results this year — facing down not only arch-rival McLaren but also a newly-strong Mercedes-Benz GP, and the recent hit-maker extraordinaire: RBR.
But it ultimately comes down to lack of investment, lack of engineering brain-power, unwillingness to learn, and total arrogance toward any idea that they, Ferrari, cannot master.
Crimped budgets and mean glances toward Fiat’s empty purse are already appearing — and are likely to go seismic if the Fiat Group keeps milking Ferrari for all its wealth, and handing none back.
If there is one thing that Ferrari is not, it is gracious in defeat. Fingers will be pointed and chests will be jabbed across Italy to account for a lack of results in seven years.
Driver-wise, Kimi Raikonnen is back on the horse this year, with high hopes all around that he will be as focused and laser-like as usual in pursing the championship. But even Kimi, often silent or one-worded with even his best friends, will likely loosen his tongue later in the year regarding the latest Ferrari car — if performance does not improve to at least level with the other heavy hitters.
NOTE of IMPORTANCE: In these 75 official Ferrari practise photos, Kimi does not look at the camera once. Not one time. Shade down on helmet, or back turned. Not a good vote of confidence — or perhaps a Finnish thumbsdown?
From a jaded perspective: it almost seemed like Jean Todt and Max Mosley were Gerry-mandering the rulebook in Ferrari’s favor throughout the early 2000s. There is funny money in the mix, plus cult-like celebrity for what should be behind-the-scenes management. Hogging spotlight like a faded stripper scared of new meat? Too harsh.
But really. Challenging rules, taking public surveys for the first time to try and prove fans agree, and demanding special meetings with Mercedes-Benz GP?
Who thinks Ferrari would be doing anything other than prancing around like a dressage pony — **if** their car had the slightest chance of winning a race, let alone a title?
It comes down to Ferrari encouraging a set of rules that favored, guess who: Ferrari. It still calls itself the only constructor to have what is deemed a special right in the group to profits, but those special rights just expired.
This last opinion? Pretty offensive, so look away now if you are already fuming.
1930-born Ecclestone is far too aged to be in any serious leadership position for any organization. Guiding mentor? Sure. Helpful ambassador? Sure. But 84 years and running the show like his own little chess-match? No.
No responsible company would ever let a single profiteer keep things rolling fat for he and his cronies.
Not one company. But some dictatorships? Oh yes. It is the full realization of “absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”
The Economist calls this older-than-time phenomenon “Rent-Seeking Politicians.” Where influence is bought and sold like a commodities exchange, but much more opaque. Once the next guy comes in, guess who is no longer “on the dole?”
This explains any corrupt politician’s desperate cling to power long, long after his or her morals, ethics and care about the people is thrown by the wayside.
Most companies have deliberate checks to shut down this dirty public-private partnership, far more rapidly and effectively than many democracies, it seems lately.
Are these guys actually bent? No. Not like politicians. But are they as clueless? Oh yes.
Here is key example of the autocrat’s double-talk playbook — just substitute Formula One for its true meaning from Luca: Ferrari.
“We want to increase the value, the passion, the success of
Formula OneFerrari,” the Ferrari president said. “ Formula OneFerrari is our life, so we have to look ahead, sharing with the other teams a good solution.
I don’t want to think of the decline of
Formula OneFerrari, and if we look at it today, we have a race that is no longer Formula OneFerrari [winning].
“We have to give back to
Formula OneFerrari its [winning] characteristics. We cannot have an economy formula.
It has to be extreme, with racing from the first lap to the last.
Formula OneFerrari is also about the engine music – not noise – and we also have to make sure it is not too complicated with regard to the rules.
Once you do that, even the sharpest of tacks out there — and Luca di Montezumolo may be 67, but he is certainly not dull — seems to know what his next steps should be. For the strength of the company, new blood must come.
Who wants to watch some old coots bicker all year at petty jealousies, power-grabs and self-fame-whoring?
Even the kindest hostesses at a Burlesconi-thrown passion party would no doubt be rolling her eyes at these ridiculous public charades. The core of ANY sport is not, and will never be, has-been septagens and octogens.
Is it time for another Palace Revolt like Ferrari had in 1960? Or perhaps just a simple coup. That is the most elegant of “Exit Strategies” — for both the rent-payers and the rent-seekers.
So my dearest power-clingers, here is my final piece of no-doubt unwanted advice.
Take a bow, and exit stage left. Or look forward to being removed.
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.