Formula 1

Ferrari must not forget its principals as Sergio Marchionne takes charge

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A new chapter in the storied history of Ferrari began this week as Sergio Marchionne officially replaced Luca di Montezemolo as chairman.

The move comes as the iconic Italian brand's parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles went public on the New York Stock Exchange from Monday.

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End of an era

Marchionne's arrival ended Di Montezemolo's reign of over 20 years as the head of Ferrari, a time that has seen positive growth in the car company but mixed results on the race track.

Thanks to the arrival of Michael Schumacher in 1996 backed by Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, Di Montezemolo assembled a team that dragged a misfiring midfield team to become the most dominant in recent history winning five straight drivers' titles from 2000-2004.

Following Todt and Schumacher's departure in 2006 the team remained a threat but was far from the force it was scoring only one drivers title, thanks to Kimi Raikkonen and two constructors' crowns in 2007 and 2008.

Since then, however, Brawn took over in 2009 followed by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull from 2010-2013 and now Mercedes have taken over as the team to beat in F1.

In the wilderness

Throughout that time Ferrari remained there or thereabouts without ever meeting the high expectations expected by the team, of course they maybe should have won the drivers' title through Fernando Alonso in 2010 and pushed Vettel to a decider in Brazil in 2012 but Ferrari have always been playing catch up.

The main reason for this has been a lack of creativity and pushing the boundaries of what was aerodynamically possible. With a design genius like Adrian Newey, Red Bull were always a step or two ahead while the dependency on aerodynamics never really suited Ferrari's philosophy.

Time for change

For 2014 it was believed a new engine formula and a less of a reliance on aerodynamics would see Ferrari at least become more competitive, but again a lack of risk in their design hurt them and they find themselves likely finishing fourth in the Constructors' championship.

This disappointment sparked change as Stefano Domenicali was replaced, several key engineers replaced and ultimately the of Di Montezemolo.

The team will lose its spearhead in recent years as Fernando Alonso is almost destined to join McLaren but they have at least found a more than suitable replacement in four-time champion Sebastian Vettel (albeit not confirmed).

Man on a mission

There is no doubt Marchionne is bringing fresh vigour and impetus to the Ferrari F1 team, he is a man on a mission and believes the Scuderia needs to do whatever it takes to do so.

“We’ve got to kick some ass and we’ve got to do it quickly,” he said in an interview with motoring publication AutoCar. “It takes what it takes. We might screw up, but we’ve got nothing to lose, right? Let’s risk something.”

“A non-winning Ferrari on the Formula 1 track is not Ferrari,” - Sergio Marchionne.

With Ferrari's road car business in good health, the Italian claims getting the Prancing Horse back on the top step of the podium in his main priority.

“That continues to be my main objective in terms of Ferrari going forward. I can live with periods of bad luck, but it cannot become a structural element of the brand.

“A non-winning Ferrari on the Formula 1 track is not Ferrari.”

Good times ahead?

Certainly Marchionne's enthusiasm comes at a time when it looks as if Ferrari are beginning to turn something of a corner.

Marco Mattiacci is starting to implement changes he seems necessary after taking over as team boss from Stefano Domenicali in April, James Allison will be in the midst of designing his first Ferrari from scratch for 2015 and his knowledge of how to make a car suit Kimi Raikkonen will give the Finn something to be hopeful about after a poor first year back at Maranello.

But that's not to say there remains huge obstacles to overcome. The gap to Mercedes is one that will not be overcome overnight, with efforts to open up engine development being blocked by the currently dominant Silver Arrows making the improvements under the current restrictions will be tough.

Then there is long-term, Vettel provides a good option for the next five years but who steps in once Raikkonen hangs up his helmet again has now become blurred.

Jules Bianchi was always seemingly destined to come through the academy and reach the top but with his career potentially over following the events of Suzuka another good young driver will be needed should Bianchi not make a recovery.

Pitfalls

Also, while altering from the conservative to a more risky approach may sound positive for Ferrari, as Marchionne himself admitted, there is the chance things will get worse before they get better.

Remember when McLaren went radical with the MP4-28? Well they too are still recovering from that decision backfiring and Williams too can testify how a team can go from world champions, to near backmarkers.

While I'm not saying that kind of demise could occur at Ferrari, the fact they remain a regular top 10 team means its not whole scale change that is needed but refinement and modernisation where necessary.

After all Ferrari isn't the brand or the enigma it is today by constantly changing its approach, its about gathering the best resources they can and producing the best car to send out on to the racetrack.

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