Alternative analysis: Why Ferrari will start winning soon

© Ubaid Parkar, 27 April 2012
© AP Images

"Porsche, after Ferrari, is the best car," admits the Italian marque’s president Luca di Montezemolo but the Bologna-born lawyer took it all back and a little bit more when he pointed out that the German auto manufacturer is “like a freezer. Cold. I prefer the red technology; the hot technology."

Unlike Ferrari, Porsche is not in Formula 1 and has had only a brief stint in the sport. Brief enough to be forgotten.

Ferrari in contrast has been in F1 long enough to be credited with the lavish coffers of the Concorde Agreement, a confidential arrangement between F1 management, teams and other stakeholders that outlines the commercial terms for participation.

But if it needs to thaw the icicles that Porsche could surround it in the race to sell road cars, it simply has to win in Formula 1: its biggest advertising banner that reaches an audience of half a billion through television alone.

But it’s not winning – not on its own accord at the moment at least – and it really doesn’t need to take the top step of the podium right now. And that’s where it is presently at.

Modern Formula 1 is an aerodynamic billboard on wheels, running around at 300kph flashing brands and products convincing you sitting in front of the TV screens to buy, buy, buy!

So when Ferrari announced that it accrued €2.25 billion in revenues in 2011 – a rise of just above 17 percent from 2010 – suddenly its solitary win throughout the F1 season doesn’t really seem to matter too much.

Ferrari’s income from sales of its exotic and much desired road cars passed the €2 billion mark for the first time in its lavish history.

So unquestionably the prime focus is somewhere else. And perhaps that's why an uncompetitive F1 car from 2011 rolled into 2012, but this time only uglier.

This isn’t new. The Italian manufacturer was performing so poorly in 1973 that it decided to pull out mid-season after what was described as a humiliating British Grand Prix, to go back to the drawing board.

That was the first race di Montezemolo attended, who had joined the team that year as sporting director, observing that he had “arrived in the middle of a farce”.

Ferrari came back with a ‘new’ car after missing the Dutch and the German Grands Prix, lost its star driver Jacky Ickx to McLaren and its pride somewhere else after it failed to score any points for the rest of the season despite restructuring its technical staff at Maranello.

And to highlight its divided focus: after winning the 1961 Formula 1 championship, it was nowhere the following year although its sportscar programme maintained the company’s reputation by winning the Sebring 12 Hours, the Targa Florio, the Nurburgring 1000 km and its fourth successive Le Mans 24 Hours; all that in 1962.

So at least, one of its priorities - with its road cars - is sorted, right? Will it ever win again if it’s selling its dreamy machines like hotcakes when its F1 team is the centre of a roast?

It has to. And soon!

Ferrari has been driving around the importance of the American market to sell its scarlet wares particularly when it registered record sales in the country last year, up by eight percent over 2010.

And Ferrari has also been trying to put the brakes on the punitive 1.6 litre V6s scheduled for the 2014 F1 season and beyond, that will replace the current 2.4 litre V8s.

Add the two and what it means is F1 will run its last season on V8s and will feature not one but two Grands Prix in the United States of America in 2013, including one at New Jersey, which borders the capitalist's capital on the world - New York!

So not only does it need to scream to the world through the V8’s exhausts that bigger engines are better but it also needs to address to the American market what it has to offer.

“We are intensifying the process of changing our working procedures in all areas and, at the same time, we are strengthening our efforts in areas where we are weakest, such as aerodynamics,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali referring to the recent shuffles in its F1 technical team.

“It’s a long term project and one that president Montezemolo is studying at first hand and it is vital to the future of the Scuderia,” he continued. “Formula 1 has changed so much these past few years and we have not always been up to speed with these changes. In this area too we need to step up a gear."

Eight percent growth in the US again? Try going up a bit higher… a little more than that! And for that Ferrari needs to win, more than anyone else.




 

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