Fer­rari aim to match Merc by end of 2015

Hav­ing re­placed most se­nior staff, Fer­rari are con­fi­dent they can re­verse their de­cline

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

Fer­rari have un­der­gone a shake-up as the team’s new bosses seek to stop the slump in per­for­mance that con­vinced Fer­nando Alonso he had to leave at the end of 2014.

Fol­low­ing on from their re­place­ment of pres­i­dent Luca Di Mon­teze­molo and two team prin­ci­pals last sea­son, Fer­rari also sacked three se­nior tech­ni­cal fig­ures.

Shortly be­fore Christ­mas, they an­nounced that en­gi­neer­ing di­rec­tor Pat Fry and chief de­signer Niko­las Tom­bazis were leav­ing – and less than 24 hours later came another re­lease an­nounc­ing the de­par­ture of tyre anal­y­sis chief Hiro­hide Ha­mashima.

Tom­bazis’s for­mer num­ber two, Si­mone Resta, has moved into his ex-boss’s role. Fry’s po­si­tion head­ing up track­side en­gi­neer­ing will now be ful­filled by tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor James Al­li­son un­til the ar­rival of Jock Clear, who has been re­cruited from Mercedes, where he was Lewis Hamil­ton’s se­nior per­for­mance en­gi­neer.

Clear re­signed after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but has to work a 12-month no­tice pe­riod, which Fer­rari are hop­ing they will be able to re­duce fol­low­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

For­mer Fer­rari en­gine boss Luca Mar­morini de­parted last sum­mer after it emerged that Fer­rari had built the least com­pet­i­tive of the

three turbo hy­brid en­gines used in 2014. With the ex­cep­tion of Al­li­son, this means that the en­tire top tier of Fer­rari’s de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing team were sacked in 2014.

Fry and Tom­bazis have paid the price for years of sub-stan­dard cars – Tom­bazis headed up de­sign dur­ing the team’s de­cline over re­cent years. Fry, too, was held re­spon­si­ble. Hired from McLaren in 2010, he be­came tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor (chas­sis) after Aldo Costa was sacked in 2011.

But the cars pro­duced un­der his lead­er­ship – in 2012, 2013 and, to a large part, 2014 be­cause new tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor James Al­li­son did not start at Fer­rari un­til Septem­ber 2013 – did not live up to ex­pec­ta­tions.

There was more to Fry’s exit than this alone. Fer­rari felt that he had not in­te­grated into the team ef­fec­tively – fail­ing to learn Ital­ian did him no favours – and did not be­come a good leader of an en­gi­neer­ing team com­pris­ing a mix of many na­tion­al­i­ties. In­sid­ers have spo­ken of per­son­al­ity clashes and un­happy peo­ple within the tech­ni­cal depart­ment as a re­sult of his lead­er­ship style.

Fur­ther hints of the dis­sat­is­fac­tion at the heart of Fer­rari’s man­age­ment came from new pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mar­chionne at the team’s tra­di­tional Christ­mas me­dia lunch. “We started late with the 2015 car, cer­tain choices and strate­gies that were made by oth­ers and that, in ret­ro­spect, I don’t nec­es­sar­ily share,” said Mar­chionne. “So 2015 will be a dif­fi­cult year that will put the team to a real test.”

Fur­ther changes at Fer­rari in­clude the hir­ing of a new test driver roster. For­mer Sauber driver Este­ban Gu­tiér­rez has been taken on as a re­serve driver, thanks in large part to the sub­stan­tial spon­sor­ship he brings from Mex­ico, while Toro Rosso out­cast Jean-Eric Vergne be­comes test driver in the sim­u­la­tor. Vergne re­places for­mer de­vel­op­ment driver Pe­dro de la Rosa. The Spa­niard, who was close to com­pa­triot Fer­nando Alonso, has left Fer­rari al­to­gether.

Fer­rari said in a state­ment that the re­struc­ture was the work of new team prin­ci­pal Mau­r­izio Ar­riv­abene and had re­sulted in “a flat­ter struc­ture and clear as­sign­ment of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties”. Yet the struc­ture looks pretty much iden­ti­cal to what was there be­fore, ex­cept with dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties in almost ev­ery se­nior role.

Mar­chionne was in­sis­tent that Se­bas­tian Vet­tel, the driver Fer­rari signed once Alonso had made clear his de­sire to leave, was on board with the changes. “Vet­tel is not naive; he knows what is hap­pen­ing at Fer­rari,” Mar­chionne said. “He is mak­ing a big gam­ble; we have to move quickly to re­con­struct.”

But Mar­chionne, who is also Fiat chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, in­sisted that by the end of 2015 he and Ar­riv­abene will have turned things around to the ex­tent that Fer­rari could be in a po­si­tion to chal­lenge Mercedes. “I think 2015 is go­ing to be a re­con­sti­tu­tion year,” he said. “It will be Mau­r­izio’s first full year with the team.

“Hope­fully within the next 12 months we will re­move all the bag­gage of un­cer­tainty that is go­ing to plague at least the ini­tial phase of 2015.

“Not to un­der­es­ti­mate the sig­nif­i­cance or the mag­ni­tude of the task, I think Fer­rari can prob­a­bly get to the same place [as Mercedes] by the end of 2015. Some work has al­ready started. We need to be able to em­u­late their suc­cess.”

After Alonso and Räikkö­nen were un­able to pull the team any higher than fourth in the stand­ings in 2014, Fer­rari made dras­tic staff changes

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