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14 Years A Shadow?



Scuderia Ferrari S.p.A. A name that once struck fear into the hearts of even the toughest competitors. A team which saw a period of unprecedented dominance, and yet holds the record for the most championships won by a team ever. A team that in recent years, has become no more than a relative laughing stock, for its repeated mis-steps and misfortunes, with year after year only leading towards a longer and longer title-drought for “Squadra Rossa”. What went wrong at the most historic F1 team in recent years? Does it still possess any semblance of hope in achieving a title at last? Or have the years of loss, finally taken its toll on the team, as well as its famed fanbase, the ‘Tifosi’?


 

The Last Ferrari Title

The last time Ferrari stood on the top of any of the F1 championships was in 2008, where Ferrari won the constructors championship against McLaren, and almost won the drivers championship with Felipe Massa, if not for the now infamous Glock incident, which saw to-be 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton gain the one extra position he so desperately needed to win the title. Even with the loss in the drivers title, there was no denying that Ferrari were still a team worthy to fight and even win at every race.


This would all change post 2009.


The new set of regulations planned for the 2009 season would see Ferrari finish a dismal 4th in the championship, somehow salvaging a single win for the team at Belgium, at the hands of Kimi Raikkonen, after denying Giancarlo Fisichella’s Force India a pole-to-win conversion. This was the Scuderia’s lowest finish since 2005, where a steam-rolling 2004 season was followed once again by a season of unprecedented defeat, salvaging a P3 in the constructors, and once again a single win, albeit an even more controversial one (see 2005 United States Grand Prix). This was also their first P4 finish, since 1993.


Since then, the Scuderia have come close to winning the title on multiple occasions. 2010 and 2012 saw Fernando Alonso put up a valiant fight, but was ultimately denied the title four years in a row by Sebastian Vettel and the dominant Red Bull from 2010-13. This was followed by the Mercedes dominance era, which kicked in immediately with the new V6 Turbo Hybrid regulations. Ferrari once again put up some what of a challenge to the Silver Arrows in 2017 and 2018, but they proved no match, both technically and administratively to the dominant Mercedes team. They once again would show signs of putting up a title fight in 2022, but repeated technical, managerial, administrative, and strategical errors, would see all their efforts be wiped out clean, with a dominant season for Milton-Keynes.


Of course, one needn’t forget the utter disaster of a season that was 2020, which saw Ferrari finishing P6, their worst performance in 40 years, where they finished a miserable 10th in the 1980 Season. Ferrari, since 2008, went winless in 2014, 2016, 2020, and 2021. These are the kinds of statistics the Scuderia would like to forget, but try as they might, things like this do not get erased from memory that easily.


What Went Wrong?

Ferrari since 2008 has experienced what none of the other top teams in F1 as of now have experienced — a game of team principal musical-chairs. From 2008 to 2023, the Scuderia have seen the leadership of not one, not two but 5 team principals, each ending in dismay, and the latest one only now taking the reins of a blundering team.


Stefano Domenicali

To Stefano’s credit, the last championship was won under his name. However, all things considered, he did inherit an already championship-winning team, from the leadership of the legendary, Jean Todt. His efforts would be judged on the basis of the team’s performance in the forthcoming seasons, with the new regulations set to come into place. Once they did however, Ferrari would struggle massively, clearly showcasing the absence of the same winning mentality that the team possessed under Jean. While the 2010 season was understandably not necessarily the fault of Stefano himself, and more so the circumstances of the final race itself, the seasons following that were filled by performances of a team which had seemingly forgotten how to fight for a title at all. His leadership would continue into the 2014 season, before resigning in April of the same year, only to be picked up by Audi in the October. Stefano would go on to become the CEO of Automobili Lamborghini, a position he would occupy till 2020, where he was announced as the new CEO of F1, replacing Chase Carey from the 2021 Season onwards.


Marco Mattiaci

Post the resignation of Stefano Domenicali from his post as Team Principal, the reins were handed over to Marco Mattiaci, who had been the CEO of Ferrari North America since 2010. His tenure as Team Principal was short-lived, lasting only a single, winless season, which saw not only his, but star-driver Fernando Alonso from the team. The team achieved a mere 2 podiums — a third place in China, and a second place in Hungary — in a car notoriously difficult to control, the F14-T.


Maurizio Arrivabenne

Arrivabenne’s arrival at the team coincided with the arrival of Red Bull’s star driver, Sebastian Vettel to replace the McLaren-bound Fernando Alonso. The very first year of their collaboration yielded 3 wins, which was a spectacular result considering the absolute dominance of the championship-winning Mercedes cars. 2016 would be a quiet, winless year, which would be followed by two years of championship charges with competitive machinery. However, the efforts of the Scuderia would once again fall in vain, this time against the Silver Arrows, led by Lewis Hamilton, with the Scuderia collecting only 5 wins with the SF-70H in 2017, and 6 wins with the SF-71H in 2018, not nearly enough to maintain a title bid. Even with a more than competitive car on multiple occasions, often even better than the Mercedes W08 and W09, repeated strategic miscalculations, missteps, and even driver errors from Sebastian Vettel, and Kimi Raikkonen, saw the team once again groping in the dark in terms of maintaining a challenge. At the end of 2018, Maurizio saw his way out of the team, and would go on to head the Juventus football team.


Mattia Binotto

2019 saw the arrival of the Scuderia’s next star driver, Charles LeClerc, and new team principal Mattia Binotto, who was part of the Scuderia’s engine department, even during the Schumacher years. 2019 was a year filled with hype surrounding the new talent in LeClerc, and a rumoured improved SF-90. However, the car performed worse than the previous years due to the difference in driving style for the two, with LeClerc preferring a stronger front-end, and Vettel preferring a stronger rear-end. This caused understeer issues for LeClerc, and constant spins for Vettel. Ferrari ended up winning just 3 races, but what made it worse is that these were not without controversy. The infamous “rocket-ship” engine of the SF-90, which many rival teams suspected to have been in violation of the regulations, by circumventing the manner in which the FIA monitors fuel flow into the engine. This was followed by arguably the worst year Ferrari had experienced in nearly 30 years. The 2020 season challenger, the SF-1000, which was to celebrate their 1000th Grand Prix in Formula One, was painfully slow, draggy, and the teams strategic shambles on nearly every single grand prix, saw them finish P6 in the standings, behind Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Racing Point, and Renault, salvaging just 3 podium finishes. Sebastian Vettel left the team in 2020, and was replaced by McLaren’s Carlos Sainz from 2021 onwards. A much better year overall, but still nowhere the titanic title fight between Lewis Hamilton, and Max Verstappen. 2022 was hyped to be title-winning year, bolstered by the extremely strong launch spec car of the F1-75. Once again however, the Scuderia displayed its utter incompetence, for lack of a better term. By refusing to develop the car further for the season, and completely resting on the laurels of the launch spec, while Red Bull not only caught up, but completely steam-rolled the competition, going on to dominantly win both championships. Nearly every year of Binotto’s leadership saw great levels of criticism of his way of managing the team, especially the tumultuous 2020 year for the pathetic performance, and the 2022 season, for wasting a brilliant opportunity to maximise on the opportunity for bringing the fight to Red Bull. 2022 saw Binotto not only resigning as Team Principal, but also leaving the team altogether, being sent on gardening leave (barring him from joining another team) for a year. 4 years. 4 opportunities. All wasted.


The Story Now…

Ferrari once again saw a change of leadership, this time to the, then Alfa Romeo Team Principal, Frederic Vasseur — the first non-Italian to head the Scuderia since Jean Todt. There has been some hype regarding his hiring, especially since he has finally decided to stand up against the pathetic management methods of the higher ups at Ferrari S.p.A., namely Fiat Chairman, John Elkann, and CEO, Benedetto Vigna. Jean Todt’s era of Ferrari dominance saw the F1 be protected to a great extent against the turmoil back in Maranello. Upper management decisions were blocked and the team, combined with the right hirings, both in terms of technical staff, and effective management, was able to unleash its full potential on the F1 grid. Whether Vasseur’s efforts will bear fruit, or be in vain once again, remains to be seen.

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