Is Driving for Ferrari the Dream of Every F1 Racer?

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Is Driving for Ferrari the Dream of Every F1 Racer?
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Time for a quick word association game: What pops into your head when you think of Ferrari?

Do you picture the tifosi, with their red caps and flags, standing proudly on the spectator banking of the world's Formula One circuits? Do you imagine the podium at Monza, gleaming in the September sunshine, surrounded by thousands of track invaders?

Perhaps the very mention of Ferrari takes you back to an afternoon spent marvelling at the team making a mockery of their opposition.

Or do you just see two red cars blending into the crowd of the starting grid? Two red cars representing just another team. Just another team.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

However you respond to the thought of the F-word arguably reveals more about you than the team; it separates the sporting romanticists from the pragmatists. 

And Daniel Ricciardo, it seems, is a member of the latter group.

The Red Bull driver, who conquered Ferrari by passing Fernando Alonso with just three laps remaining to win last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix, has ridiculed the notion that appearing for the Prancing Horse is a primary goal of any Formula One driver's career.

The 25-year-old was quoted by The F1 Times as telling Italian publication Gazzeta dello Sport

To be honest I think this is just a cliche.

For sure some drivers have this dream, but I think it's related to the fact that their parents loved Ferrari for its great history and cultural heritage.

Ricciardo's opinion on the Ferrari fascination is more noteworthy than any other current driver; the Australian, due to his background [his father was born in Sicily], is the closest to an Italian representative on the grid since the Pescara-born Jarno Trulli departed Caterham at the beginning of the 2012 season. 

Drew Gibson/Getty Images

That a driver with Italian roots has admitted to having little emotional affiliation with the Prancing Horse, effectively the Italian national team in F1, suggests the apparent love for Ferrari among the sport's supporters is not necessarily shared among the drivers themselves.

Drivers, after all, are the ones who have to make cold, unemotional and unsentimental decisions in order to further their careers and fulfil their personal ambitions, with the pleasure of doing so with their favoured team, more often than not, an added bonus.

It is, however, undeniable that Ferrari, and all they represent, carry a certain mystique unmatched by any other institution in the history of Formula One.

Mark Thompson/Getty Images

The team's enduring success has, of course, played an instrumental role in creating that image.

Ferrari, the only outfit to have competed in every single season, are by a distance the most triumphant team to have ever graced F1, with 16 constructors' world championships and 15 drivers' titles to their name.

The Prancing Horse, according to the official Formula One website, has recorded 221 race victories, 207 pole positions and 230 fastest laps.

Tony Duffy/Getty Images

The appeal of the team to drivers, with those statistics in mind, is clear: Ferrari, for much of their time in Formula One, have been synonymous with victory.

Yet, the appeal of Ferrari stretches far beyond an outstanding on-track success rate.

The organisation, founded by Enzo Ferrari, was built upon the old-fashioned—and in the modern era, increasingly fanciful—principle that no individual or driver is bigger than the team.

That platitude is echoed across a range of institutions across almost every team sport, but none has implemented it so robustly and relentlessly as the Prancing Horse.

It has, of course, dropped the team into the boiling waters of controversy on numerous occasions, with the saga of team orders at the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix and 2010 German Grand Prix prime examples.

Yet, the fact that the Italian team weathered the storm, emerging unscathed and even with enhanced credibility in some quarters, is testament to the strength of the Ferrari brand.

Which other team, after all, would possess the bravery to dump Alain Prost, a three-time world champion at the time, in the midst of a season for criticising the car in 1991? Which other team would pay a world champion not to drive their car, as Ferrari did with Kimi Raikkonen at the end of 2009?

Although Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari's chairman, was widely accused of stupidity after publicly rebuking Alonso, the team's star driver, 12 months ago, it was a timely, admirable rejection of the sporting poison that has come to be known as "player power."

And with such an unconventional, blunt and sometimes brutal atmosphere existing within the team, it is understandable that driving for Ferrari is the dream of some and the worst nightmare of others.

Despite Ferrari operating so differently than their rivals, there is one thing that links every Formula One team: the need to win.

The Prancing Horse, despite its golden past, is currently without a race victory in 25 races and has failed to win a world championship of any kind since 2008, with the charm of Ferrari suffering as a result. 

The Ferrari team whom the grid's current drivers grew up watching being taken to victory by Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt and Ross Brawn is not the same Ferrari team they now race against and could have the chance to join in the coming years.

ANTONIO CALANNI/Associated Press

Ferrari are a less formidable force in the modern era. They are growing ever more bland, becoming just another team.

That failure to capture the imagination on track makes those glorious, scarlet-red cars little more than fashion accessories, reminders of the past, rather than representations of an all-conquering establishment.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Any references to the spirit of Ferrari and pledges of loyalty to the Prancing Horse—such as Raikkonen's admission to Pete Gill of Sky Sports that Ferrari will have the honour of being his last team—are, despite best intentions, hollow and insincere. 

Ferrari remain comfortably the most iconic, coveted and divine team in Formula One—but their history, heritage and ideals will only remain relevant and appealing, to both fans and drivers, as long as they succeed on the track.

If not, the Prancing Horse could eventually find itself arching its neck to look high up at a certain three-pointed star.

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