Bob McMurray: Scuderia Italia pins hopes on Binotto
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If ever there was a Formula 1 equivalent to an English Premier League football team, surely it must be the Scuderia Italia, the Ferrari Formula 1 team.
A national institution in which the heart of the Italian psyche beats, it displays all the fervour and nationalism, all the Latin passion and all the Italian flair for speed and flamboyance when it comes to fast cars and great design.
But, like any EPL team, Ferrari depends on results.
And if those results are not forthcoming then, once again like an EPL team, the manager’s head is on the chopping block.
Since the team’s latest great days — with Michael Schumacher driving, Jean Todt directing, Ross Brawn managing and Rory Byrne designing — the results the team and its adoring Tifos crave have not been there.
Interestingly, among all these names there is not one single Italian national.
A German, a Frenchman, an Englishman and a South African, alongside other non-Italian nationals ran the team and achieved success in that long period of five years with Schumacher as the main driver, beginning in 2000.
The previous Ferrari world driver’s champion was Jody Scheckter in 1979.
One brief flash of success for Kimi Raikkonen as world champion in 2007, still with J Todt leading the team, and the Constructors championship in 2008 is all the team has to show in terms of championships in the last decade.
Still a decent achievement, but not of the Ferrari standard.
So many times the Scuderia has looked to have all the ingredients for success, only to fall into an apparently chaotic organisational mire of indecision and “Italian-ness”.
So, once again like an EPL team, the answer is to sack the “manager”, the team principal, because it must be his fault.
Since 1989 Scuderia Ferrari has had five team principals.
Over 30 years all have been Italian with the exception of Todt, whose reign lasted for 14 of those years.
Since he departed, the position has been a poisoned chalice, with only the likeable Stefano Domenicali having any real sort of motor racing background, and there is rumour that he may return to Ferrari at some point.
The last team principal to be disabused of the position was Maurizio Arrivabene, who had been in the marketing industry with Philip Morris (Marlboro), hardly a good training ground for the rigours of being a Formula 1 boss.
Before his arrival there was Marco Mattiacci, the CEO of Ferrari North America, another good training ground for what has been called “The Piranha Club” of Formula 1 principals.
Now, however, it seems that, after the sudden and sad demise of Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne, there is a new attitude and approach to the team.
Newly appointed Mattia Binotto is a racing man, an engineer and has been chief technical officer for the team for the past couple of years.
He is also Swiss-Italian and perhaps that may make a difference.
He will need a lot of engineering nous, huge management skills, an approach that is not traditionally “Italian” and a thick skin to ward off the constant pressure from those devoted and highly critical fans and the even more critical Italian press.
Enzo Ferrari refrained from having any Italian drivers for much of the team’s history, as many Italians who did drive for the team managed to be killed while doing so.
He did not want to kill any more, so turned to foreign drivers.
Perhaps the team needs a foreign element within in order to return to it’s own “glory days”.