Massa (most likely) staying, but who should be out at Ferrari?


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Many people, myself included, have been extremely vocal about Felipe Massa’s 2012 performance (or lack thereof) and how it may be time for the Scuderia to move him aside and make room for another driver. However, progress has been made with his recent race results and he appears to have a safe seat with Ferrari for 2013. But there is another person at Ferrari that should be on the hot seat if a championship for Fernando Alonso does not happen – team boss Stefano Domenicali.

Domenicali was appointed as Team Principal in 2008 and since that time, can only add one constructor’s title (2008) to his resume. Since then, the team has had mediocre results. 2009 was a complete mess where a Ferrari driver took the top step of the podium only once. 2010 Domenicali brought in Fernando Alonso, who lost the Driver’s Championship in the 19th and final round of the season and 2011 was a throw away season as no team could match the performance of the Red Bull. Enter 2012 and the F2012 starts the season about as bad as a Ferrari could start. During December testing it appeared quickly the car was not good and the team would not compete for either title from the get go and the struggles continued into the season where the car was 1.5 seconds off the pace. Well, with some great drives by Alonso, successful developments on the car and a little luck from their rivals, Alonso and Ferrari found themselves with three victories and a 40 point championship going into the summer break. Since that holiday, however, the lead is down to 4 points and Ferrari again finds themselves lacking performance compared to both the Red Bull and McLaren for the final five races of the season. Is another championship lead going to be thrown away in the final races of the season?

Since Domenicali has taken over the Team Principal role in 2008, two common themes keep popping up for the Red team – overall lack of car development/design and very questionable race strategy. Mentioned earlier, the team only won one race in 2009 and could not compete with the Red Bull and Brawn teams, extremely unacceptable for the mighty Prancing Horse. 2010 also saw a lack of pure speed, but thanks to the mechanical woes from Red Bull, saw Alonso leading the championship into the final round of the season. 2011 was completely dominated by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull who ran with the now outlawed blown exhaust system and could not be touched. The team has consistently put the best drivers in their cars, but the team has not given those drivers the proper car to truly contend for the title. Just watch the car on Saturday qualifying and you can see the development is lacking in Marenello. You may be thinking, “But in 2009 Brawn was running the double diffuser and 2011 had the blown exhaust, nobody could match those cars.” But why wasn’t it Ferrari coming up with those ideas? The team with the biggest budget, the best tradition, best drivers and great engineers can no longer compete? Under Domenicali’s watch, the team has become too conservative and complacent with the car, not an atmosphere that will give the Tifosi a winning streak they were accustomed to in 2000-2004.

One positive is, for the most part, the race pace of the Ferrari has been there. Race strategy on the other hand, has been disappointing at best. The 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is one of the best examples. Alonso enters the race first in the championship and is set up to take the crown fairly easily. He started the race in 3rd, finishing 7th in a train of cars behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault, losing the championship by 4 points. Ferrari’s strategy for that day? Mirror Mark Webber. Who in their right minds lets another team set their race strategy? How would anyone expect that to work out? Domenicali said he thought about leaving after that call, Italian politicians even called out the team for the horrendous strategy. More recent races, see Canada 2012, have also left many scratching their heads with the calls coming from the pit lane.

Ferrari has been in a lull since 2008 and stretches like that come from the top down. No matter what top driver Ferrari has put in their car, encouragement and optimism for a championship are hard to find. Major changes are needed in Italy and the fingers should all be pointing at Domenicali. Slow starts in competiveness, lack of successful developments and questionable race strategy are basics in today’s Formula 1 that even the middle teams seem to have figured out and after nearly 5 seasons, Ferrari is clearly not being led by the right man. If this championship again escapes Alonso, only one person is the blame and will need to be shown the door out of Marenello and right now the only person making Ferrari and Domenicali look somewhat competitive is Alonso. So next time you, or someone you hear is talking about Massa needing to be fired, tell them he’s the wrong person…
I don't have much inside knowledge of Ferrari, but there is always more than one reason for any kind of phenomenon. Massa had the same car than Alonso for the past two and a half seasons and was beaten decisevely. So he has to share some blame for the state of the team.
They also lost key personnel in Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt, who were all crucial parts of the 2000-2008 team, which was always (except 2005) in the fight for the championship.
Obviously, one could say, that as a team, as financially strong as Ferrari, they should cope with those losses better. But money isn't always everything. Think about Toyota, BMW or Honda. They all spent ridicolous amounts of money and never performed at the level Ferrari is performing now.
So why do you think it's all about Domenicali? Why not pointing the finger at Luca di Montezemolo? He is Domenicali's boss and has to be responsible as well, doesn't he?

Success always comes in circles. No team has been successful all the time. Ferrari were poor in the early 90s (1991-1996), then they started to be more competetive from 97 on and completely obliterated their opponents from 2000-2004. They were still very strong from 2006-2008 onwards.
Now they have faced some difficult years (2009-2012), but it needs to be said, that they still won 10 races in that time, which (probably, as I didn't check it) makes them 3rd best team in that period behind Red Bull and McLaren.
One should not compare their current performance to the 2000-2004 seasons, because times and circumstances were very different back then.
And don't forget Alonso still leads the championship.

In the end, from 1997 on they only had three seasons, in which they didn't fight for the championship (2005, 2009, 2011). A pretty impressive record if you ask me.
The recent difficult years have all come under Domenicali's watch. Before he took over, the team was great, now struggle to remain great. A step back in performance was expected after Brawn, Byrne, Todt all left, but the rebound should not be taking this long. Should Montezemolo have some blame? Sure, some. But at the same time, who would McLaren fans be blaming more for their mechanical troubles this season? Martin Whitmarsh or Ron Dennis?
Ferrari has a long history of extended periods of poor performance and of domination... so does McLaren, Williams, Lotus.
That is F1 and soon enough Red Bull will take a dive.
When that happens someone else will take over for a while but who it will be... your guess is as good as mine.
Money doesn't win championships or guarantee development... that is down to luck and brains through the whole team.
Neither Domenicalli nor Monty design cars. Of course responsability falls on the guy at the top to appoint anyone in the first place but Nichola Tombazis has been in charge of chief design since 2006. The 2007 and 2008 cars would still have essentially evolutions of earlier concepts from Byrne.

In any case as far as the present situation is concern the main responsiability of a car not delivering from the word go has to fall at the guy in charge of designing it in the first place. So I think the question has to be: Has Tombazis delivered since he was promoted as chief designer?
Pat Fry has been added, and Also Costa has been removed, and this car was already designed at the time of the changes, so action has been taken, it remains to be seen how good they are next year.
In F1 and any team endeavor continuity is the most important factor. With continuity comes harmony and trust. The last thing any team needs is everyone looking over their shoulder wondering who's in for the axe if results don't come soon enough. Montezemolo has complete trust in Domenicalli so I wouldn't expect any change. Any team principle's job is to delegate to those chosen to do their designated task and maintain harmony within the team. The fact that Ferrari have improved their car beyond measure indicates he's doing a very good job, as is every member of the team.
We hear the same criticism of Martin Whitmarsh which in itself is damning criticism of Ron Dennis who after all groomed Martin Whitmarsh to take over as team principle and who continues in his job with Ron Dennis's support.
Both teams are still the most successful in the sport so I don't think either one is doing much wrong.
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