Days after Adrian Newey confirmed he will not be joining Ferrari in the "foreseeable future," the Italian squad's current technical director, James Allison, took a public swipe at the way the team has been run in recent years.
Ferrari have been in the doldrums since 2009. Not once since then have they built a car truly capable of challenging for the championship on raw pace, and only the brilliance of Fernando Alonso has seen them come close.
Now Allison, who joined from Lotus last year, believes he has identified the main problem—too much pressure and too many targets are stifling the creativity of the team's employees. Per BBC Sport, he said:
There is a wealth of talent at Ferrari, the experience and quality of the people on the technical side is a match for any team. It is a question of giving them the encouragement to actually go off and do more unusual things and then have the time to look at them and know that if they fail it's OK because there's still time to put a back-up plan in place and for that to work.
Creativity and originality will only come if you set out to allow the engineers in your organisation the space and the time to do that.
If you force them to operate with their back against the wall, up against deadlines that are very tight, then there is no time for them to think about how they might approach something differently.
His comments show a dissatisfaction with the way the team is currently run, and they are all the more interesting because he put them out into the public domain.
And he's right—Ferrari need to change.
The traditional Formula One management structure has been around for decades, and sees a single team principal in overall charge. Sauber, Red Bull, Marussia and Lotus are among the teams set up this way. At Williams, founder Sir Frank Williams shares the duty with his daughter, Claire.
But some teams have eschewed this model. McLaren sacked team principal Martin Whitmarsh in January 2014, and appear to have removed the position as well. Whitmarsh's replacement, Eric Boullier, has the job title Racing Director, which has different responsibilities.
And Mercedes have gone one step further.
They have separate leaders for the two major "halves" of the team. Paddy Lowe is Executive Director (Technical) and Toto Wolff is Executive Director (Business).
Some crossover between the two roles exists, but by and large each man deals with his own side—the side with which he is most familiar. Instead of a jack of all trades, Mercedes have two masters of one.
This approach helps the commercial side because a dedicated, experienced business mind can be installed to deal with things like sponsorship, contracts, pay and inter-team relations.
But the creative and engineering side is also helped. Lowe understands how his staff think and work, so can set targets and create working conditions that play to their strengths.
He is also dedicated to that area. Sponsorship, corporate guests and employee contracts are someone else's problem. While Wolff does the business and presents a public face, Lowe and his team can get on with doing what they do best—making the W05 quick.
The setup at Ferrari is currently the traditional model. Team Principal Marco Mattiacci is at the top, and below him are Technical Director Allison and Engineering Director Pat Fry.
But it's not quite that simple. Hovering above the entire F1 operation is Luca di Montezemolo. Under pressure from his own bosses at Fiat (who own Ferrari), the Ferrari chairman is becoming increasingly involved in the running of the team.
Following the appointment of Mattiacci (who had no prior experience working in F1) in April, Montezemolo told Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t gpupdate.com for the translation from Italian):
I will assist him. I am going to do what I use to and will stay closer to F1. I will spend more time on it. I am not happy at the moment. I am putting myself on the line, but Mattiacci—our number one in the USA, is the right choice. I chose him in full agreement with [Fiat CEO] Sergio Marchionne. He will do a good job. I'm confident. We will win very soon.
Montezemolo is a very powerful and influential figure at Ferrari, and he has genuine passion and love for the team. If anyone is capable of putting pressure on staff in an attempt to get results, it's him.
But isn't excessive management involvement and pressure from above—at least, according to Allison—what got Ferrari into this situation to begin with?
Perhaps Ferrari could do a little bit of restructuring, and solve a number of problems in one fell swoop.
Marco Mattiacci is something of a golden boy among the higher management at Fiat. He joined the company in 1999 and enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks on the road car side. Before taking over the F1 team, he was CEO of Ferrari North America.
He has a proven track record of business success, but extremely limited knowledge of the way an F1 team, and especially the technical side, is run.
James Allison is widely considered to be one of the top technical men in F1 today. He started his F1 career in 1991 and has held senior positions at Benetton, Renault, Lotus and now Ferrari.
His proven track record is in car design and the technical side of things, but he has never been deeply involved in the business side.
Individually, Mattiacci and Allison lack the necessary skills and expertise to be stand-alone leaders of the team. But together, they would make a formidable management team for Ferrari.
Mattiacci would not need a crash course in everything to perform a role similar to that of Toto Wolff at Mercedes. Business skills are transferable, and dealing with clients and suppliers in a somewhat treacherous atmosphere is something he has been doing for years.
On the other side, Allison has more than enough experience—and it seems from his comments, desire—to be the ultimate head of the technical side of the team, like Paddy Lowe at Mercedes.
If his assessment of where Ferrari have gone wrong is true (and it probably is), he is the ideal man to make the necessary changes to the working conditions.
And Montezemolo? Maybe he is too powerful, too political and too much a god-like figure for a more modern, progressive Ferrari.
Allison could provide whatever guidance Mattiacci may need.
Which leads us, in a roundabout sort of way, to Adrian Newey.
The Red Bull Chief Technical Officer is not a political animal. He works best when left to his own devices, without constant observation, interference and micromanagement from superiors.
He gets none of this at Red Bull, which is why he is still there. They bend over backwards to ensure he is happy and has a working environment which encourages him to do his best work. The current Ferrari setup looks totally wrong for him.
But what about a Ferrari team with less in the way of politics, fewer managers peering over his shoulder and a boss—Allison—who subscribes to the view that creative staff should be left to their own devices?
There's the matter of whether he and Allison could work together in the same team, but that's a bridge which can only be crossed once it's reached.
The Scuderia can offer Newey whatever financial deal they want, but he is already paid extremely well at Red Bull and has enough money to last several lifetimes. Conditions and challenge are the most important factors.
If Ferrari can change, maybe he'll join.
If they can't, there's more chance of him going to Marussia.
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