Ferrari, You Are Ruining My Summer
OK, maybe that is little harsh, my summer is going just fine. I live in sunny Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry. I am currently on vacation from the three TV shows I work on. It is perfect weather; there are plenty of backyard parties and catching up with friends, life is great quite frankly. Despite all that, I am in a slight panic from what I have seen in the last two races. My guess is if you are a fan of Ferrari or Fernando Alonso you are as well.
Ferrari, where has is it all gone wrong? At which point did you zig when you should have zagged? What happened to all the promise in the beginning of the year when Alonso first drove the F138 chassis and said that he felt he was starting the year with a car that could genuinely challenge for not only race wins but for the championship as well?
It was only five races ago at the Spanish Grand Prix that the F138 in Alonso’s hands won the race and finished thirty-eight seconds in front of the Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull. What happen to that Ferrari? It was only three races ago at the Canadian Grand Prix that Alonso hunted down Mark Webber and then Lewis Hamilton for second and would have had a shot at Vettel for the win had he qualified better. Where did that race pace go?
We are one race shy of the halfway point of this 2013 season and Sebastian Vettel is currently on four wins with a 36-point lead over Alonso. Time is definitely running out.
Although Alonso made the podium at the British GP, and narrowly missed out on another in Germany, his car is no longer fast enough to truly challenge the leaders so there is nothing to cheer about. Everyone from Alonso, to Pat Fry to team principal Stefano Domenicali to the legion of Ferrari and Alonso fans has been scratching their heads. Here’s a sampling of what they’ve had to say regarding this drop-off in performance.
Fernando Alonso: “To recover you need to win two or three races and at the moment it seems we are not able to do so.” He also admitted that Ferrari needs to “improve our situation” at the next race in Hungary on 28 July. And: “We’ve got three weeks until Hungary. They [the team] have got to do something, they’ve got to do it immediately.” Translation: We are too slow.
Stefano Domenicali after the British GP: “We saw this weekend that the pace is not good enough.” How about this one: “Fernando’s analysis is one that I share,” Domenicali, told the Italian newspaper La Stampa, referring to the above quotes. And lastly the really alarming one: “We have made the car worse. Now we need to analyze all the data to find the reasons for this step backwards, and [find] a solution. The drivers are in a difficult position psychologically, so it’s important to reassure them,” he added. Translation: The car we give Fernando on race weekends is too slow.
Ferrari technical director Pat Fry: “Today’s temperatures and track conditions, different to those we saw over the past days, had a strong influence on the performance of the various teams. In our case, I don’t think the final result would have been different if we had opted for the opposite strategy, because, starting from fifth or sixth on the Softs, our position in the end would have been the same.” Mr. Fry uses a vernacular that is a combination of tech jargon and an assessment of the variables that affect the car’s performance. I’ll translate for you: Our car is too slow right now.
As for the fans, I’ll speak for them and no translation required: The car is too slow! Make it faster!
I am trying hard not to throw Ferrari under the bus here. I know they want it more than me if that’s possible, and that everyone is working flat out to a means that will change the situation. But as I have watched them squander their early season tire wear advantage with bad mistakes and now this performance drop-off, I have to admit at times I’m not having the most pleasant of conversations with my television. Ha ha.
I am starting to wonder about the job at hand and how for the last three years and what looks to be a fourth (unless this trend can be reversed) the folks over at Maranello can’t quite put it all together. What is the missing ingredient?
In 2010 Ferrari and Alonso came very close to winning the Driver’s championship with a car that was far from a real challenger. During this campaign both driver and team made some mistakes. Fine, I can live with that, call it first year jitters; no real need to go into detail.
In 2011 Red Bull perfects the blown diffuser and diffuses any and all meaningful challenges from everyone, it’s a cakewalk for them and they claim both championships. Fine again, but it must be noted that Ferrari don’t make any real gain in their car’s performance for a second year.
In 2012, guess what? The car, if we take the times from the beginning of the season, has actually become slower. Truly unbelievable, and yet due to Alonso’s incredible skill and a lot of luck, somehow he and Ferrari take hold of the Driver’s championship and keep it for most of the year only to lose out again to Red Bull and Vettel by a mere three points at the end of the Brazilian GP.
It is now the fourth year Alonso has been at Ferrari and what looked like a dream start to the season is all but a distant memory. Don’t get me wrong, I am not giving up hope, and I am quite sure Ferrari and Alonso are not giving up hope either. But now we are far enough into the season to see the shape of things. It is quite obvious to everyone that as of this past weekend not only does Red Bull still have the fastest car on the grid (albeit maybe not on Saturdays) but also any problems they were suffering with tire durability have all but vanished. Meaning, as it stands right now you would have to be a fool to bet against them at any race.
Sebastian Vettel – Brilliantly fast, very good under pressure, knows how to win, has been doing a lot of it lately, it does not seem like it will be ending anytime soon.
Christian Horner + Team – A well oiled machine, very consistent, strategy and execution probably the overall best in the pit lane.
Adrian Newey + Design Team – In this era of aero-driven cars Newey is at the top, no question. Everyone else is playing catch-up. Result: three constructor championships, three driver titles. End of story.
So here is my open letter to Stefano Domenicali. I would be very surprised if Fernando didn’t have a conversation similar to this in Domenicali office this past Monday.
To: Mr. Domenicali, Team Principal, Scuderia Ferrari
From: Fernando Alonso’s Biggest Fan
Re: Please Do Something, Time Is Running Out
I am asking, begging if I am to be honest, something must be done to address the lack of race pace, immediately. While you’re at it, figure out Saturdays as well. I am not asking for a string of poles, but drifting backwards on the grid as the season goes on is just not going to cut it.
I have waited long enough; all of your fans have waited long enough. You have waited long enough for the championship trophy for one of your drivers in a red car. You can erase this gap to Red Bull, I know it. You can find the performance, it is there, it just needs to be unlocked, and plenty of teams have done it in the past. Red Bull did it last year after the summer break, so did McLaren, by the way, they ended last year with the fastest car at Brazil. A front row lockout with Jenson Button winning, remember? It is your turn now.
I read the interview with you by Andrew Benson on BBC’s F1 website. You said, “We need to improve but stay calm.” You gave a well-considered self-examination of the team’s year so far. You made some blunt statements about the earlier decisions during the race in Malaysia and Bahrain, and took responsibility for both. You talked about the areas in which Ferrari is lacking direction, mainly the exhaust department. You admitted that Ferrari in all areas needs to improve.
It is a good article and provides some insight into the team and your leadership up to this point. I agree with just about everything you said, except on one point. The time to be calm is over. You have been trying calm for three years. Calm got you a mediocre car and runner-up positions. As of the writing of this letter you have 19 days, 6 hours and 35 minutes to affect a change, so I say it is the time to get fired up, get mad, rally the troops. You are the greatest racing marquee in Formula One, hell, you are Formula One. And it is time to remind everyone why.
-jp- (I wonder what Stefano Domenicali email address is?)