News and views on motorsports

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Max: The Ferrari Mouthpiece

This is probably old news to you but I just had to comment on it. Max Mosley in these headlines here, here and here, have told rival teams to "up their game" and stop whinging on Ferrari's successes.

I doubt if anyone really begrudges Ferrari's victories in recent years. I may not like them much but I believe all credit to them for building such fantastic racing cars like last year's F2004 and their 2002 challenger, F2002. These are incredible feats of engineering produced by an excellent collection of engineers superbly led by the burly Ross Brawn. When Ferrari won their first driver's title in 20 years in 2000, McLaren and Mercedes I remember even toasted their victory. Nobody can take their achievements away from them.

What the teams begrudge is the blatant biasness of the FIA and the FOM towards Ferrari. Its not the car nor its performance they lament. Its the FIAs attitude of listening to Ferrari's every whim and fancy. Witness every technical protest in recent years brought on by Ferrari. It is always, without exception, upheld. Some technical components like McLaren's rear brake steer were designed with the FIAs input at every stage of the design process. It was by all accounts legal. And yet when Ferrari holds a protest, the FIA promptly made the device illegal.

Some have said that Ferrari protested the use of berrylium in Mercedes engines. They cite "environment and safety" reasons. Of course the FIA upheld that protest. Mercedes engines have never been the same since, always suffering from a lack of ultimate horsepower that only now it seems have been clawed back. As Frank Williams once said, and I paraphrase, does Ferrari think that their own engines are green and environment friendly? Its ludicrous. Refuelling is more of a fire hazard than berrylium in the engine. And guess who originally wanted a reintroduction of refuelling? Ferrari of course.

BAR recently had their innovative new gearbox approved by the FIA as being legal. I read that news with amusement. Its only legal until Ferrari decide to protest. Then we'll see how legal it is.

Technical rules aside, it is also the blatant biasness of the FOM under Bernie that infuriates teams. The secretive Concorde agreement doesn't give much to the teams in terms of revenue sharing. Alright, I accept that Bernie has offered a revised revenue share of 50% and in truth that sounds reasonably to me. However, the majority of that 50% goes to Ferrari, on grounds too flaky to believe. It is for Ferrari's "historical contribution to the sport." Luca di Motezemolo loves to advertise the fact that Ferrari have contested the championship unbroken since 1950. Put two and two together, Bernie and Ferrari really believe that because of that, they deserve a lion's share of the spoils.

And yet, teams like McLaren and Williams are not exactly newcomers. Williams, the younger of the two have been involved in the sport for 30 years. Come 2008, McLaren's involvement would have been 40 years. Mercedes themselves have been a proud competitor in Formula One, beating all comers, including Ferrari, quite regularly since the 50s. Their involvement with Grand Prix racing predates World War 2. The legend of the Silver Arrows was established during the Hitlerian era. BMW, though without such long histories in the sport, nevertheless 22 years ago won the driver's title with Nelson Piquet. Renault, too, were competing in the late seventies, in the eighties and nineties. They have a long, proud, and Ferrari arse kicking history. So does Honda. Ferrari cannot claim that they alone make the sport. The others have contributed in a major way to making the championship. So why should they deserve less?

So really, under the current overall scheme of things, the other teams, the gorup of nine, have a lot of whinge about. I said it once before, when the other teams raise their concerns, the FIA, the press and Bernie calls it whingeing. But when Ferrari makes the concerns, it is treated as "serious."

More infuriating to me is Max's stunning comment and I quote : "You go to BMW and the facilities are just awesome - Ferrari is like a cottage industry." Furthermore, Max says: "I am sure the total budget, certainly of McLaren and Williams and I suspect BAR and Renault, is greater than Ferrari's to get two cars on the grid."

That is completely, utter rubbish. To suggest this is ludicrous. Ferrari have, in addition to the hallowed Fiorano, also own the Mugello circuit in Italy. They have not one but two wind tunnels. At one point it was three before being decommissioned. Mike Gascoyne of Toyota was recently quoted as saying that at Toyota he has the resources to do what he could never have done at Renault. Does Renault the sound like a team with a Ferrari beating budget? The only other team to have two wind tunnels is Williams. But they haven't got their twin test tracks. Neither has McLaren or anyone else you'd care to name.

In addition to having Fiorano and Mugello, Ferrari also cart their stuff to Valencia and Barcelona for tyre testing. Does that really sound like a cottage industry to you? If it does, you are wearing scarlet tinted sunglasses with prancing horse watermarks, sir.

Frank Williams made a comment once that at Williams, fuel pumps are serviced and reused in the following race. Ferrari throw all their fuel pumps away after the race and use new ones for the following race. The blokes at Ferrari have virtually unlimited budgets. Or used to. All the fiscal spending at Ferrari are beginning to tell. FIAT are now so broke, they can't afford to throw money at Ferrari. Hence, Jean Todt really needed to negotiate for dosh from Bernie. I concede that what he says is true. Had that negotiation failed, Ferrari could no longer afford to compete in Formula 1. But really, that is Ferrari's problem. Why should they get the lions share of the spoils, just to maintain their current levels of spending. They have absolutely no right to demand such things. The other teams are quite naturally aggrieved by all this.

But not our Max though. To him, Ferrari are these tiny little people in cottages out in the village competing against behemoths. His sentiments echo that of Jean Todt, who claim that "we are a small team" fighting against the giants. How can anyone not see the unity between them?

Max is right about one thing though. The other teams have done a lousy job and have been perenially underachieving over the last few years. Fans like me are becoming quite fed up by it. So those fast testing times at Barcelona and Valencia by McLaren and Renault had better translate to race victories.

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