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Ferrari Gets the Jitters

Once again, Ferrari has affirmed that Michael Schumacher will be closely involved with the team, even when he is not present at the race. This time, it’s their technical director, Mario Almondo, making the announcement.

Tri

The Triumvirate, Brawn, Todt and Schumacher

It all sounds wonderful, with Michael supplied with a remote connection to the team for instant communication, a big office at HQ for the man and even a role for him as talent scout at karting events. Well, okay, the karting is new but haven’t we heard all the rest before? Isn’t it a case of “methinks the lady (in red) doth protest too much”?

What this constant repetition and confirmation of Michael’s position within the team does tell us is that Ferrari too is a bit nervous about the coming season. For years they have relied on “the dream team” to deliver the results and suddenly it is broken and scattered. Who can blame them for wondering whether success has departed with the mighty three, Schumacher, Todt and Brawn?

So they cover their fears with frequent declarations that nothing has changed, Michael and Todt are still on board, even though in different roles, and the red machine will roll smoothly on into the future. It’s themselves they’re trying to convince, not us.

It is apparent too that Ferrari has begun to have doubts about Kimi’s suitability for the team. Last week he was promised a talking-to about his offtrack behaviour, this week we are given the promise that he will smile a lot more. Now there’s one that might not be so easy to deliver, and I’m not even sure I want to see what the frozen-faced Finn’s smile looks like. We are so used to the flat delivery of the men from the land of lakes and forests, after all.

My theory is that it’s not so much that the Finns have absorbed the icy nature of their homeland but rather that their language produces the deadpan, passionless sound that we hear when they speak English. We call them the icemen but in reality they are as passionate as anyone else – it just doesn’t come across that way when they speak a tongue foreign to them. Remember Mika Hakkinen’s despair and tears when he threw away an Italian Grand Prix through a silly mistake?

And now Ferrari wants Kimi to smile. Pardon me for saying so, but there is implied criticism of their new employee in that idea. And that is hardly the way to welcome your new hope for the future.

All signs of nervousness in the Ferrari camp. If I were to wish them well (and I don’t – you know I’m backing Button for 2007), I’d tell them that we already know that Michael will continue in an advisory role and just to get on with it. But as for Kimi, my advice would be to leave the poor guy alone; give him the car and he’ll produce the goods – who cares about his public persona if he’s the fastest man on the track?

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2 Responses to “Ferrari Gets the Jitters”

  1. Ferrari’s potential problems may run even deeper than just the loss of their more visible Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher.

    Accomplished, longtime designer Rory Byrne’s final phase-out cannot be ignored. The successful 2004 was his last true design, the failed 2005 his first hand-over chassis, the initially underperforming 2006 (rescued by R.B.?) his second shared effort, with the yet unknown 2007 quantity being his final communal involvement.

    The additional departure of longtime engine guru Paolo Martinelli who successfully orchestrated their transition from V-12 to V-10 to V-8’s with superior power in way of reliable, efficient and drivable engines will undoubtedly also be playing on their minds.

    Only Jean Todt has accepted what may be a genuine new Company position. Michael Schumacher being retained as an “advisor” suggests a threat elimination, posed by an exceptional talent with at least two seasons left to perform. Of the remaining three, none are exactly tired old men content to just sit in the sun and watch the grass grow.

  2. Interesting stuff, David. We hear so little of Rory these days that it is easy to forget him and, as you say, Martinelli was another important part of the jigssaw that has been moved to FIAT. It looks very much like an old-style Ferrari palace revolution and suddenly we are reminded of the apparent snubbing of Montezemolo at Michael’s announcement of his retirement at Monza. If anyone was in a position to break up the team, it was Montezemolo.

    I just don’t get his motive for doing so. FIAT have been buying back the Ferrari shares they sold a while back so it’s clear they want more involvement; maybe this has something to do with it. It’s possible they have seen the trend for manufacturers to own the racing team outright and want to be in a similar position.

    If so, it seems madness to me, especially as they had to break up a winning team to do it. But who knows the deep and wondrous thoughts of the high and mighty?

    As for the “tired old men”, I agree totally and will not be at all surprised to see Ross Brawn working for McLaren in a year or so.

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