BBC BLOGS - Andrew Benson
« Previous | Main | Next »

Ferrari struggling to make an impact

Post categories:

Andrew Benson | 12:28 UK time, Saturday, 25 April 2009

Niki Lauda has always had a way with withering put-downs, and this week he turned his attention to Ferrari, the team he won two world titles for in the 1970s.

The Austrian legend said the team's disastrous start to the 2009 Formula 1 season was a return to their "spaghetti culture".

Lauda could not have found a more insulting turn of phrase had he worked at it for a month.

And team principal Stefano Domenicali's response here at Bahrain this weekend left no doubt that Lauda's words had hit Ferrari where it hurts.

"I take it very personally," Domenicali said, "when people suggest that because we're Italian we can't make anything work properly."

What was so stinging about Lauda's remark was that it tapped so sharply into the traditional image of pre-Schumacher Ferrari.

In Michael Schumacher's days, the team - marshalled by their ruthless French sporting director Jean Todt and their brilliant British technical director Ross Brawn -evolved into the most efficient winning machine in F1 history.

But before that, Ferrari's image was of a team led more by its heart than its head, of an outfit that ran as if they were waving their arms around a lot and shouting - which sometimes they were.

When Schumacher retired, and Todt and Brawn left the team, people in F1 wondered whether Ferrari would revert to their old ways.

Many have looked at Ferrari's disastrous start to the season - and some of the things that happened in 2008 - and concluded that that is indeed what has happened.

There were the pit-stop mistakes made in the title climax last year - most strikingly when Felipe Massa was released from his first stop in Singapore with the fuel hose still attached to his car.

And then there was the decision to fit extreme wet tyres to Kimi Raikkonen's car when the track was still bone dry in Malaysia this season - a decision that was rumoured to have been Schumacher's.

The Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in action in Bahrain

On top of that, Ferrari have struggled with a car that is up to scratch in neither performance nor reliability, and the end result is no points and last place in the constructors' championship.

It is Ferrari's worst start to a season since 1981 - when they were emerging from one of their "spaghetti" periods - and the impression is very much of a team in crisis.

Domenicali is very much aware of that and his public utterances make great play of the need to stay calm and work through Ferrari's problems in a logical manner.

"It is very important to control the emotion of the people," he said, "because the pressure is very high and we have to make sure the people are working well but in a rational way and I have to keep the pressure on my shoulder."

That pressure will be higher than ever here in Bahrain, as Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is flying in for the race on Sunday.

If they can iron out the mistakes, there is no obvious reason why Ferrari cannot at least get some points on the board at Sakhir.

But a win still looks some way away.

Reliability has been slipping for a while, but until this year the team never wanted for performance, even when things were going wrong.

But this year Ferrari have designed their first 'dog' since 1996 - Schumacher's first year with the team, and before the Brawn regime took hold.

The problems seem to stem partly from their decision to commit heavily to the Kers power-boost and energy recovery system.

This gives the teams using it a boost of 80bhp for up to 6.7 seconds a lap - which, according to Ferrari, adds up to a performance increase of up to 0.4secs.

But for all the teams that are using the system, packaging it has been difficult, and suggestions are emerging that fitting it into the car makes it fundamentally slower than one designed without the inherent handicaps of Kers.

The system, which recovers energy during braking in a battery and re-applies it during acceleration, is heavy and it restricts the engineers' ability to tune the car's handling by moving ballast around.

Ferrari - who, with McLaren, Renault and BMW, are one of four teams to have the option of using the system - have positioned their Kers under their fuel tank - and that means the weight of the fuel is higher in the car than would be ideal.

Renault's is in the same position, but if they take it out - as they did in China - they can lower the fuel in the car.

But the Ferrari is built in such a way that even if they remove the Kers, the fuel stays in the same place. So that removes one way they could potentially chase performance.

The other obvious one is to exploit the controversial 'double-decker' diffuser which was declared legal before the Chinese Grand Prix, and which has been used to such great effect by pace-setters Brawn.

Domenicali says Ferrari will have their first version of the diffuser at the next race in Spain.

It is unlikely to mean an overnight jump to the front of the grid, but it should at least be the start of Ferrari's recovery.

There has been talk of Ferrari giving up on 2009 if there is not a marked improvement when the revised car appears in Barcelona.

Domenicali has told BBC Sport here that there was "no way" Ferrari could consider such an approach.

But whether they want to or not might become immaterial. If things do not improve soon, they may have no choice.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have to agree with you, Andrew. Ferrari are looking - frankly - a little bit of a mess at the moment. The issues with the car, in my opinion, are compounded by the lack of drive shown by the drivers. Massa seems to do his best to push on regardless, but Kimi, by all appearances, does nothing at all to help the team develop his drive. On top of that, Domenicali seems more interested in dealing with the media than in focusing on the car.

    Without someone like Ross Brawn, who can plan strategy, and without Jean Todt who, while not my personal favourite, was certainly ruthless, Ferrari are hamstringed (hamstrung?). The other teams have better designs, better strategists and drivers who are at least as skilled and perhaps more dedicated. If Alonso is seriously going to make the jump to Ferrari next season, they are going to need a far more efficient set-up than this.

  • Comment number 2.

    Seems to sum up Ferrari pretty well at the moment. A lack of effective leadership coupled with a further lack of innovation in their designs is holding them back right now. Ferrari's lack of reliability is also a good point, I really can't believe it is the same team that designed the bullet proof Schumacher cars. I feel the drivers aren't at fault as they can only do the best with they've got which isn't alot right now and they have both proven that given the car they can compete for titles. It will be interesting to see if the management shake up they've put in place begins to put them on the right path.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is as good a time as any for Ferrari to get rid of Raikkonen. Let's face it, the man is paid a fortune and does not give much in return. His overall performance last year was well below par but was still somewhat camouflaged by the superior car he drove. Ferrari now needs a driver who is willing to work hard and improve the car. Not just a guy who can, on occassion, drive a fast car very fast. His team mate Massa also does not fit the bill as he is just not good enough. Clearly the task at hand calls for Fernando Alonso, or perhaps young Vettel. The safe choice would be Alonso as he has proved how to carry a team in the past.

  • Comment number 4.

    I disagree with some of what you have written, I'm not really sure a car that handles well can be described as a dog, I'll grant you that the reliability and aerodynamic performance needs sorting out, but really can the 5th fastest team on the grid have a dog of a car?

    If Kimi had not crashed out of Melbourne and Felipe not dropped out of China then the team would have a similar points tally to McLaren and there would be no speculation as written above, reliability is their main concern.

    We shall see what Barcelona brings, I would speculate they will move up to be one of the top three fastest, but that will be through aerodynamic upgrades, they will be for nought if the reliability doesn't improve too.
    One things "for sure" when they have the car the drivers will show their worth.

    I personally think a more pressing case for comment is BMW, they gave up on a potential championship last season to pour all their significant resources into creating a car that perhaps you may like to call a dog, as the drivers seem to be very vocally proclaiming...

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think this article is overly dramatic - in 2005, if you ignore the three-team US Grand Prix, Ferrari would have finished 4th in the Constructors Championship, despite Schumacher's presence. In fact, the Ferrari was probably further off the pace of the leaders then than it is this year, but now the teams are much closer.

  • Comment number 7.

    This is a general comment about F1 fans and media perceptions at the moment and is in no way aimed at writers of the previous posts whom have very valid opinions...!

    I can't get over how quickly people jump to conclusions over driver responsibility when a car is not that great. Those people who think Raikkonen should go should just analyse fuel-corrected lap-times this season to see that Kimi is about 2.5 tenths a lap faster than Massa. Last season was a one off. Moreover, the idea that he can't develop a car. Firstly, Coulthard said that because he was soundly outpaced by Kimi, and secondly - just because someone isn't particularly loquatious with the British media and people in F1 whom he doesn't particularly like, it doesn't mean that he's not good a) with a car, and b) with engineers. Everyone who's ever worked on a car with Raikkonen says he's great (cf. Martin Whitmarsh, Ron Dennis, Chris Dyer, Ferrari mechanics etc.)

    The Ferrari's not rapid but it'll get better. Expect Raikkonen to outpace Massa too. I wish people would stop buying into the media-generated witch-hunt.

  • Comment number 8.

    This is a very poor article - little about F1 and much about a bigoted comment. I am sure others could do the same to us too - lying and cheating by the Brits for example! All teams have their ups and downs and Ferrari have won more than most so let's not put it down to race please.

    Quite frankly I expect better than this from a BBC blog.

  • Comment number 9.

    Re: NickMitch,

    They're reporting a comment made by a legendary figure in F1, who is voicing his opinion on a subject already in the public domain. Why shouldn't the BBC report it? Ferrari have had poor results this season and this article discusses that, what's the problem?

  • Comment number 10.

    Ok Scottish Gun, let's discuss the lying and cheating and the fact that Maclaren have had many poor seasons because they are English and it is all due to 'English'culture that has caused that to happen and when they have won it was due to german engineering!! Now let's add all the anti English comments by the Scottish sportsmen etc etc. Get the point? keep racism out of blogs and let's not give them more credence than they deserve otherwise it will be downhill for us all. Everyone can be bigoted and insulting if they want to be about everyone else - to the English,the Italians or even the Scots - 'after all they always crack under pressure' (just making a point - I actually love Scotland) ..... let's keep it out of blogs please - thank you.

  • Comment number 11.

    I have to say this is the worst article I've ever read on the beeb. There's wearing rose tinted spectalces and there's being completely blind and unfortunately this falls into the latter and is so bad i think you should take it down.

    Ferrari so bad.

    Well yes I think it makes some nice publicity to write about the prancing horse no longer prancing but there doing no worse than any other of the big teams - they've pulled a few more clangers than they should and reliability isn't that great but on the opposite side of the spectrum they could be McLaren, which personally are in a much worse position with Liegate from Aussie GP.

    Kimi not looking great although he seemed to do well in q2 particularly today and you'd hope he's heavily fuelled if your a Ferrari fan. Massa looks pretty good considering the car. In fact he was looking good in the wet, which I've never had the chance to say until the car failed.

    The dog of the car - well I seem to remember clearly (can't remember the year) when Alonso won the title for the 1st time - in which Ferrari never won a race escept for that dodgy us grand prix.

    A year which was overseen with Shumacher in the car and Todt and Brawn masterminding some awful decisions outside - I don't think we in for that bad a repeat so I don't know what all the fuss was about. More importantly from this article you'd presume that Todt and Brawn were untouchable!

    Come Spain we'll see what kind of improvement we are in for. I don't think Ferrari will win the title this year but you never know - Brawn, Red Bull and Toyota may just take too many points of eachother but if Ferrari don't one of those teams will.

    A disasterous season well yes but so are the other big teams - not surprising given the double diffuser ruling and the rule changes.

    My point is why you can't focus on the impressive teams such as Brawn and Red Bull.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fair enough NickMitch, I didn't interpret any kind of racist slant on his comments, so maybe that shouldn't be there without some kind of mention of it. However, it seems to me that the BBC have assumed that as Lauda worked for Ferrari for three years and won two championships with them that he'd have no bias against his former employers.

    The point I was trying to argue was that the sport, and the issues directly relating to the racing and teams - not the nationalities of these teams or drivers - is what should be discussed. It'd be nice just to have a discussion about how Ferrari are doing and how they'll improve (which I expect them to do throughout the season)

  • Comment number 13.

    Looks like we agree ScottishGun - the point I am making is that Andrew Benson knows full well that the current Ferrari team (italians with other nationalities in fact - like all teams) have won 3 out of the last 4 championships and produced great cars. His article lacks balance and makes no attempt at all to address a clearly bigoted comment but chose instead to reinforce an insulting comment through omission of facts and selective reinforcement of a generally bigoted view - the lowest form of journalism. A considered analysis of what is really happening at Ferrari would have been most welcome.

    From my point of view, I am glad that Ferrari are not so strong this year - too boring if one team is at the top all the time and healthy for them too I would think!

  • Comment number 14.

    Alonso is a good driver but he showed at McLaren that he won't drive in a '2-car team'. Ferrari for the last few seasons have had 2-car teams and so have collected a lot of constructor's points. So that even when they've missed out on the Driver's race they're still winning something.

    Should they get Alonso, that would change. All their eggs would really be in one basket.

  • Comment number 15.

    NickMitch, I too am glad that Ferrari are not (yet) dominant this year as it has made for some extremely dull races in the past. And that is why it is perhaps easy to over-dramatise the situation regarding Ferrari. For so long they have shown dominance in the sport that it is extremely surprising to see such a poor start from them. They often start slow (last year was similar) but this is more than starting slow - there appear to be some fundamental issues within the team, which even the team boss has admitted to. Who is driving their development? Who is responsible for race strategy? What are the drivers doing to help speed things along? They may be able to pull something out of the bag - in fact, with the resources they have at their disposal, I am sure they will (certainly the new diffuser in Spain ought to help). But the fundamental team issues won't disappear - they have been getting steadily more and more problematic since Schumacher retired and Brawn left. Ferrari needs to change something.

    As for the "spaghetti" mention in the article (i.e. anti-Italian), I believe that was intended to be reported speech of Lauda rather than the opinion of the blogger. We all know Lauda's not one to kerb his opinions for the sake of political correctness, so let's not blame the Beeb for reporting his comments (in fact, reading above, the Beeb points out exactly how insulting such a comment is).

    Incidentally, I also agree with the poster above who pointed out the concerns over BMW, who supposedly gave up on last year to focus on this year, only to have produced an apparently lacking car which does nothing to support the talent of Robert Kubica.

  • Comment number 16.

    As the years go by I really don't listen to Niki Lauda, his predictions are most often way off the mark and his comments are never constructive but usually very arrogant and venomous.

    But what I do find unusual about Lauda is his 2 almost 3 driver's championships (remember he lost the third when "he" withdrew from the Japanese GP) were with Ferrari at a time when Ferrari was much more Italian than it is at present.

  • Comment number 17.

    I love the fact that Ferrari no longer have a No1 and No2 driver & both have the same chance of winning.
    The team were slated so badly for using teams orders during that period,
    i would hate to see them revert back to those tactics again.
    IMO i think it is embarassing for a team to tell one driver to move over for another and then have to defend themselves in the post race press conference for such actions.
    I can understand it if one driver has no mathematical chance of the WDC but midway through the season is a joke.
    I think Massa is great for Ferrari,kimi doesnt seem to bothered but lets not forget he is 2007 world champion.
    Lets hope they can turn things around and get some points this weekend.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sadly like much of what Andrew Benson writes this article is tainted with the usual anti-Ferrari bias.

    Sure they are having a poor start to the season, but it is not as simple as the team reverting to their Italian ways (whatever that might mean) or the car being a dog.

    There are many factors that have so far meant Ferrari have collected no points, but the car is about middle of the grid in terms of pace right now and will improve. The days of total Ferrari domincation may be over, but to write them off completely in such an ill thought out and flippant manner just makes you look rather silly Mr. Benson.

    Try watching F1 with the blinkers off, you might actually enjoy it.

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't even think the FIA can 'help' Ferrari remedy their current problems with an underperforming car. The cars will improve, but so will all the other cars on the grid - there's a lot of catching up to do.

    The body language of the drivers smacks of defeatism too. Kimi looks disinterested and Massa still doesn't seem to have got over last year yet. Then again the whole team seems to be in a huge sulk after losing the 'Diffusergate' appeal.

    The only consolation for Ferrari is Maclaren's appearance before the WMSC next week, which will at least distract some attention away from Ferrari. It may even cheer them up a little depending on the severity of the punishment to be handed out.

    I'm enjoying this season already, especially the new order we seem to have at the moment. If only the Premier League could mirror F1 with some new teams at the top instead of the usual suspects.

  • Comment number 20.

    I don't know why people have to resort to the melodramatic hissy fits of "worst article ever!!!" just because someone is putting forward an opinion that they don't necessarily agree with.

    I don't think anybody is doubting that Ferrari still have it in them to design and build competitive cars. I'm of the opinion that they very much had the fastest package in 2008, but through some calamitous errors they somehow conspired to deny Massa the title.

    The team clearly isn't as effective an operation as it once was and I feel that some people here are attacking the writer because they are in denial of that.

  • Comment number 21.

    ah, the long-term dominant team. Man Utd, Real Madrid, Dallas Cowboys etc etc. The point is that they will always divide opinion. Those that don't support will enjoy their brief periods of decline, those that support will get deeply offended at the "insults". If you paint yourselves as the permanent number one, expect the flak when it goes wrong (it's called hubris). Every football fan that supports a club outside the 'big four' knows what I'm talking about

  • Comment number 22.

    look at it this way the reason formula 1 got boring was because of ferrari. every time they won you look back and try to think of memorable moments from the race but more often than not it was just a boring waste of everyones time.i know that some people won't agree but look at when ferrari were really dominant and how many people were switching off. i am a huge formula 1 fan and yes i think hamilton is an amazing driver (not a popular thing to say considering i am english and we love to put our sportsmen down in this country) but at the moment i am in formula 1 heaven. poor ferrari equals excellent racing. lets hope they stay where they belong.

  • Comment number 23.

    rubbish article - the usual anti Italian garbage

  • Comment number 24.

    i dont understand kimi sometimes, he is a world champion which means he is a good driver, but when he doesnt have a good car or when its not going well for him, he just gives up which could make him lose his drive in a potentially great team.

  • Comment number 25.

    Poor big Poppa - has absolutely no idea what sport represents. It is excellence in the field. Ferrari represent excellence in motor sports - above all other names. If you don't like it - big deal. It is because you don't understand. If you want excitment, go to the cinema.
    Who is the greatest sportsman or woman around today? Is it becaues they excite? No it's because they astound. You don't astound by winning a 9 month championship in the last 30 seconds, a la Lewis Hamilton. Excellent driver? No where near it. He scraped a championship in a car which was probably ripped off from the Ferrari details they had stolen.
    You astound by demonstrating sporting excellence consistently (a la Schumacher) - as in Federer, Nadal, Rossi, Phelps, Woods etc.
    Ferrari are performing poorly so far this month. So, what's the problem? Do you expect them to have won every race since 1950? They are having a blip as every top sportsman, women or team has always done. They'll be back and will dominate again.
    The article is typical tabloid excess. A sad reflection of the downward spiral of the once great BBC. But hey, even the BBC might bounce back

  • Comment number 26.

    should you not be picking up the fact that lauda's comment is a simple racist attack Andrew?
    blaming ferrari's lack of performance as 'because they are italians' is meaningless and careless

  • Comment number 27.

    After reading the comments for this blog, I feel the article was a fairly valid one despite those criticising it. All Andrew has done is speculate on the possible problems relating to Ferrari's performance at the beginning of the 2009 season and why they have not scored any points. Management issues or reliability are the 2 front runners and both are mentioned, though admittedly not extensively covered but it's only a blog not a report. All that is done in this article is contrast the problems Ferrari had during the drought before Schumacher arrived with Todt and Brawn and now. I'll say now that I'm only 20 and I don't have an extensive knowledge of F1 that people older than me who have followed it for a long time do but I know that Ferrari were left in the wilderness after Jody Scheckter won the title and during this time they were like a ship with no rudder. Even the appointment of Alain Prost couldn't help. McLaren were put back on track by Hakkinen and Ferrari by Schumacher. This will contrast what I said earlier about drivers leading the team but what I am trying to say is that a leader is needed at Ferrari. Maybe Schumacher was appointed to try and continue this is speculation, but look at McLaren, they were all at sea last year, till someone took control. This might have been Hamilton or Dennis but someone took the reins and they won the title. The Brawn, Toyota and Red Bull teams have clear philosophies and direction and are at the front of the grid. The management shift at Ferrari could help but until someone becomes the definitive leader then they will remain where they are.

  • Comment number 28.

    People like Andrew Benson does nothing at all for sport as his article gave no analysis at all other than simply reinforcing a cheap racists comment. If our journalists do this on behalf of the BBC others will just respond in kind - note the awful reaction from Spain after the tabloids incited people against Alonso - mainly unfairly as we have now learned. You generally reap what you sow and thinly veiled incitement to racism in Benson's article (using one bigoted comment on which to base an unbalanced article)will only bring a reaction from bigots who will respond in kind - this is not sporting journalism it is just plain bigotry channeled through sport on behalf of the BBC - absolutely appaling.
    Andrew Benson thinks he's been clever by disguising his article on the back of Lauda's comment but the lack of any other analysis or balance exposes his article for what it is.

  • Comment number 29.

    vettel 09 champ ...
    Just a point - Ferrari won the title last year with the current management team team NOT Mclaren. The year before Ferrari won both titles with the same team. The old team with Brawn and co failed to win 2 years in a row (Alonso and renault won both championships). It was the new team that started winning again. Hamilton won the driver's F1 championship in 2008 only - so that makes it 3 out of 4 for Ferrari under Domenicali. No British team has won a F1 title for over 10 years now even though most teams, the F1 rights owner and the head of the FIA are all British - these are the facts.
    I rest my case wrt to the above article!!

  • Comment number 30.

    Tabloid journalism for a nation of tabloid readers.

  • Comment number 31.

    What a disgraceful column, and equally disgraceful remarks from a driver that made his name with the Ferrari team. Niki Lauda won the 2 of his 3 titles with Ferrari and now he has the audacity to say these things? He nothing but a deadbeat hanging around the paddock trying to feel important.

    Anybody who says Ferrari are nothing without the 'Dream Team' (Ross, Michael, Todt, Rory) simply does not have a clue about racing, F1, Ferrari, and I can categorically state they have no say in society as their opionion no longer counts. How do you explain Drivers title 07, Constructors title 07, constructors title 08 and missed the drivers title in 08 by a single wasn't magic. It was hard work by the team.

  • Comment number 32.

    I agree with everything Nick9s wrote. Spot on mate.

  • Comment number 33.

    Andrew you seem to be writing off Ferrari for not only this season, but for the next few years aswell. They have been competitive in the championship for a very many years. Runners up last year, champions in 07. They are not a team that will just collapse overnight. Besides, look at the top 3 constructors form last year - Ferrari are actually the fastest of them (bar the excellent performances by Hamilton). It shows how much the grid has been shaken up. Next year I would expect to see them the fastest, perhaps even by the end of this season.

  • Comment number 34.

    There's an even bigger insult to Ferrari - Ross Brawn. The guy wanted the top team principal job and he was done out of it in true Italian, political fashion by two guys who probably aren't up to it, one of them being Domenicali. I'm sure Ross will be milking it in the background.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    This article is a load of rubbish, standard reactionary comments from the media as ever. ITV perhaps I'd expect this level of writing from but not the BBC! In today's qualifiers the Ferrari's both finished in the top ten (unlike the McLarens who only got Lewis through- 2 places behind Massa I might add).

    Every team has ups and downs, McLaren are also thinking of scrapping their plans for 2009 if there's little improvement at Barcelona, but do you mention that? No, this article is narrow minded pap.

    It's no secret that the Montagues and Capulets of F1; McLaren and Ferrari are using cars that are way behind with technology! Massa can't drive at his best in the current car he's in because it just blows a gasket and stops, as we've already seen plenty of times in 2009 alone! Both McLaren and Ferrari are going to come back after Bahrain with much greater cars than before, it's been nice to see all the rest of the teams take centre stage for a while but I can't see it lasting long after Barcelona when we should see a return of the McLaren/Ferrari warring that drove last year's WDC Championship to its climax (not that I'm dismissing Brawn GP, Red Bull and Toyota as they've been coming on strong).

    Please BBC, less of this, more genuine reporting. It's blantantly obvious that Ferrari are performing poorly coming into 2009 but this is just amateurish statistics peddling and there's enough misinformation floating around as it is in F1! I'll write articles for free as long as it means I don't have to read this waste of bytes!

    Yours Truly, Joey Lemons

  • Comment number 37.

    Several of these comments state there is no analysis and this is racist. Calm Down.
    He has merely reported the comment, and did clearly state that this was offensive. In no way did he condone Lauda. In any case it was just as a way of introducing what has been a popular story in F1 this season due to a poor start by Ferrari. This is a common journalistic trick. They are called Headlines.
    As for the lack of any analysis, I don't know what article you read. Scroll up and you will see that he analyses changes in the structure and personnel, and the comical problems with the pits and strategy. There is also a fair bit about problems with Kers and the knock-on effects and a look to changes coming to the car.
    All these complaints are really just Red Car fans chucking the toys out of the pram because someone dares to say Ferrari are not the best. People are entitled to their opinion, and what is more, this guy is paid to give his. You are on here crying about these things all the time. It is called paranoia.

    Here's a tip: Don't read this blog!

  • Comment number 38.

    I have been consistently surprised that whenever the Schumacher 'dream team' is referred to in relation to Ferrari's diminishing performance, there is always one glaring omission in my opinion; that of Nigel Stepney.

    Here is a quote from Autosport on July 2007;

    "...From 1988 to 1992 he was at Benetton as chief mechanic. He earned a reputation as a good organiser who paid attention to detail and kept the troops in line. That was just what Ferrari needed when he was head-hunted by former Benetton colleague John Barnard in 1993, shortly before Jean Todt joined the Italian team.

    He knew Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne in his time at Benetton, so when they came to Maranello in 1996 and 1997, it was a reuniting of the old gang."

    It is interesting to remember that when the 'dream team' was being taken apart, Stepney was ready and personally hoped and expected to step up a level with an expectation that he would become part of the central management team. I also remember that after he had been sacked prior to the spygate saga (having allegedly spiked the fuel tanks at Monaco) he claimed he had been set-up. Eventually, the book he promised to publish telling his side was not released and the case against him was eventually dropped (correct me if I am wrong here please).

    Well, can anyone else see a pattern here in that the Italian contingent could be well have been carrying out a 'night of the long knives' in order to wrest control of the team back from the foreigners to control by home brewed team members?

    I see a trend here and I am certain that Stepney added a solid backbone to processes and discipline, especially within the day-to-day functionality of the race team providing valuable consistency in preparation and reliability.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist at all but it has irked me that Stepney seems to have been written from the history books where the teams’ long-term successes were concerned. I would also like to add that in no way do I or ever have I supported Stepney in his actions after he was ousted.

    Does anybody else have similar feelings with regard to this?

  • Comment number 39.

    In support of Glenn6899 & Redgringo. It looks to me as if there are alot of oversensitive Ferrari fans out there. What Andrew was stating was fact, Ferrari are well off the pace at the moment. And as for calling Niki Lauda a "deadbeat" ballytifosi I think your probably on your own there!

    Ferrari have been through worse times than this and come out the other side with the Champagne firmly in hand and I have no doubt they will do it again, in fact its to their credit that they have the passion to keep going through thick and thin when other teams would just pack up and leave. They clearly love the sport and it wouldn't be the same without them.

    On a lighter note, I'm still waiting for the great return of Williams to the podium, still think they should have done a deal with Honda/Renault or am I being a bit sentimental? :)

  • Comment number 40.


    Firstly about Ferrari and then about Kimi.
    Ferrari were not as much dominant apart for 2 seasons. Also Ferrari clearly used team orders during Schumi times which enabled them to focus only one one driver. No other team did this from the beginning of a season until Lewis Hamilton came in for McLaren (all British team). He was able to match Alonso purely because of the bias of the team towards him.
    No wonder Alonso was sent out in 2008 and Koval., is another dummy driver in McLaren to help out Lewis.

    About Kimi, he out performed all his team mates in McLaren and also he was able to challenge both Schumi and Alonso with a below performing McLaren for two years. He finished second in both the seasons. Remember the overtaking on Fishicalla in last lap of Suzuka?

    Currently Ferrari are struggling because of new rule changes and they are caught between the KERS and the diffuser design.

    One off season is not a crisis and all depends on how well they bounce back next year.
    Remember Schumi came back to finish behind Alonso in his final year.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi all,

    Thanks for your interest in my article - you can be sure anything about Ferrari will provoke strong emotions. I thought I'd better address some of your comments.

    My use of the word 'dog' - this was meant to be a light-hearted way of referring to what is clearly, at the moment, not a very good car - hence the quote marks around it. It's a word that is commonly used within F1 to describe such a thing. It's not trying to say the car is hopeless. In absolute terms, clearly it's not. But in the context of what Ferrari are used to, and the way in which people in F1 use the word, I don't think it's unfair. Wouldn't the world be boring if people were 100% serious 100% of the time?

    Allegations that Ferrari will not recover - I never say that. I just point out that they are struggling, and report what is being talked about in F1. I also make it clear that they have developments for the next race.

    The insulting nature of the "spaghetti" quote - of course it's insulting. Lauda knows that. Ferrari know that. I know that. I make that clear. And Domenicali's response makes it clear why. I'm not condoning. I'm reporting. It's relevant because of what it says about perceptions of Ferrari, and those are merely reactions to how things are going for them at the moment. In the past, that's the way they were perceived. They would admit that. They then turned themselves into a ruthless winning machine. But now they've slipped from that and some of their errors have been in the manner of a team that is not well organised (ie, like Ferrari were before) and not a team that is (ie, like they were under Brawn). The question is - what's the future?

    Which leads me on to another point - yes, I'm aware that most of the team are the same as they were when Schumacher/Brawn/Todt were there. The point is that they are not performing in the same way. And people are asking why.

    There's no analysis - this is simply not true. I try to address a) the pressure the team are under and how they are trying to respond; and b) why the car is off the pace.

    2005 - the over-riding reason Ferrari were uncompetitive then was tyres - Bridgestone simply could not build as competitive a tyre under the rules that year as Michelin.

  • Comment number 43.

    Andrew - at last you respond. A bit of backtracking I see - it's the way you distort the article and your use a racist comment is in question here. Had you written your article in the tone of the one apove than no problem .... keep bigotry out of sport please.

  • Comment number 44.

    I largely agree with Nick9S - this has been a very poor blog that has had little to do with Ferrari or the current F1 debate. Most of the discussion has been about racist and bigoted comments - intentionally inspired, if somewhat misguided by your article Andrew. Your considered response above is much better and I hope you have learned something from this. In future, I hope that the BBC check such articles in a bit more detail to ensure a higher quality and better informed debate and, above all, keep the promotion of racism out of sport.

    As to Ferrari struggling, of course it's good for F1 - they tend to be the team everyone always talks about, winning or losing.

  • Comment number 45.


    I regularly read your prose and it seems to be there is often an underlying subtext that is less than complimentary to Ferrari and Micahael Schumnacher as it happens.

    As such your article held no surprises for me.

    Oh an by the way I am not a crazed obsessed member of the Tifosi, just a long time F1 fan who wishes you could be a little more neutral in your writing.

  • Comment number 46.

    I have to admit I'm struggling to see why so many of you think this piece is anti-Ferrari. At no point do I express an opinion either for or against the team. And in this - as in any other subject - I do not have any favouritism one way or the other. You might not like some of the observations I am making, but I'm not sure how you can dispute the basic reality of what I have written.

  • Comment number 47.

    I have been a Williams F1 team follower since the Senna days, then Damon Hill etc. It is, arguably, the most English team in F1. Unfortunately they have achieved little for many years now and I have not seen any articles analyzing their lack of success. Ferrari have had 3 or 4 bad races and Andrew Benson issues a blog that is clearly intended to offend and even more disturbing uses the BBC site to further his bigoted views claiming that he reporting someone else’s comments – the lowest form of reporting. He even claims that Ferrari would admit to a ‘spaghetti’ culture (whatever that means – maybe trouncing English teams for over a decade) – of course they wouldn’t they are by far the most successful and popular team in the world – with Williams, probably the only ones with a real team. The problem is that people like Andrew Benson can’t see their own bigotry because it’s often driven by bitterness of some kind. It is not representative of the British view – Italian managers and foreign players have transformed our football – so if that is spaghetti , paella or haggis culture then it can only mean that they are successful and some people find that hard to swallow ... and Ferrari most of all of course – an absolute fact not an opinion. So to all Italians, please be flattered that so much energy and talk is about your team. I only wish more was said about Williams – good or bad.

  • Comment number 48.

    It is absolutely rediculous to suggest that Ferrari are not performing in the same way as they did under brawn, becuase in the 2 full season after his departure, Ferrari won the constructors crown twice, Drivers title once and missed out on retaining it by one point.

    Also just as rediculous is suggesting that Ferrari are trying to get the English out of the team. What a load of pants. Nothing means more to them than winning. I would hardly say Nigel Stepney was a key instrument that created the Ferrari glory years. It can be said his own patriotism got the better of him when Lewis Hamilton came along and subsequently stole Ferrari data and passed it to Mclaren. He probably thought he'd get an MBE for it!

    Ask yourself, Mclaren last won titles in 1999. They failed to finish nearly every race in 2004, and never won a single race in 2006. The Ferrari documents go missing in 2007 and low and behold, Mclaren are fighting for the championship. Now the rules and design have changed, they're struggling again. A bit of a coincidence.

    Ferrari were not going to continue to employ Nigel Stepney after such gross misconduct, and i'd say that went for any team. He's still not employed so wants to raise money by writing a book.

    I stand by my earlier comment that Niki Lauda is a deadbeat that hangs around the paddock trying to feel important. I used to have respect for him but since he shows no respect for his former team or the sport, il continue as i am.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just seen your item no. 46 Andrew and now I know you are lying. How can any follower of F1 not have a favourite team or driver or a view - that is perfectly fine of couse. So your either not an F1 fan at all or you are lying in order to try and defend your very poor blog.

    I support Williams not Ferrari and never have. It's great when Ferrari get beaten - a bit like Man United for non MU fans. If you would really like to discuss your article and understand some of the views that have been expressed, I would be more than happy to go though it with you 0- bigotry can be very blind at times!!

    I shall be writing to the BBC pinting ourt a few things in more detail and my contact details will be included. I shall be more than happy to assist in any way I can.

    One thing in your favour - at least you are engaging on the blog .... so thank you for that.

  • Comment number 50.

    I don't quite see what we are getting excited about here. Ferrari are a high-profile team and have been, by their own standards, poor this year. A three-time champion and former Ferrari driver commented on this in a blunt way, and this blog reported that comment and speculated further on possible reasons for the poor performance. Where's the racism there?

  • Comment number 51.

    Re: NickMitch

    Why is it neccessary for someone to have a favourite team to be a fan of F1? It's just a car company. Why would you need to support a car company to enjoy seeing cars racing? Do you also have a favourite tyre manufacturer?

  • Comment number 52.

    Nazdakka, Andrew's selective association and embracement of the bigoted comments is the issue. Lauda may have made his comment, as he has done about English cheating too, on the spur of the moment. What we have here is full embracement and usage of the bigoted comments - no balance, no analysis and all after a few races. Tell me, did you find comments about Hamilton in the Spanish forums or comments about Alonso in the English forums acceptable? Journalists who represent the BBC have a higher responsibility and it is the way he used bigoted remarks and the wa they associate themselves to those comments that is in question here. A lot of people outside these shores (and some within)are talking about English lying and cheating - do you really think that is a reflection of the English 'Chavvy' culture as some say?
    Remember, what goes round comes around - disrespect others and they will disrespect you. Try to be a little more sporting and a little less bigoted and we would have less of this farce on the BBC blogs.

  • Comment number 53.

    Manchester is a city but Manchester United is a team and they use various makes of football boots. and no, people don't support Adidas for obvious reasons. Renault is a car manufacturer but thesre is Renault F1 -a team. Brawn GP - a team, Scuderia Ferrari etc etc. They really are teams and fans of F1 don't just watch cars going round in circles not for 16 years anyway!!!!

  • Comment number 54.

    Enough about racism, bigotry, subtexts etc. Back to the actual topic in question... People may think Ferrari avoided their worst ever start to the season with Raikkonen's points today but I've been looking at the history books. By my reckoning 2009 IS Ferrari's worst ever start to the season (over the first 4 races of the year):

    1992- Best results 3rd and 4th (4th in Constructors' standings)
    1981- 5th and 7th plus 1 fastest lap (8th in CC)
    1980- 5th and 16th (10th in CC)
    1993- 6th and 8th (9th in CC)
    *2009- 6th and 9th (9th in CC)

    So, depends how you measure it but I think this is their worst. I'm not saying the F60 is their slowest car, or that they won't recover (I think they will) but surely stats count for something and whatever happens later IT HAS been a terrible start to the year...

  • Comment number 55.

    Oh so good and oh so factually bad.

    Changing to full wets on a bone dry track? gimme a break EVERY other car on the track was going inters and then it reached full wets about 3 or 4 laps after Kimi, it was a bad call but was maybe two laps of being a serious race maker! Now the bad call was the ballsing up of Massa's qualifying only doing one run then not getting through!

  • Comment number 56.

    Panis 96 - thank you for the statistics - a rather pointless exercise for those obsessed with whatever Ferrari do. I am told that their employees drank the fewest cups of coffee for the first 4 races of this season:

    1973 - 1560 cups
    1982 - 1755 cups
    1999 - 1652 cups
    2009 - 1479 cups

    I believe Lewis Hamilton drank one of the cups (team orders) and now an FIA investigation is underway. A 2 race ban is likely.

  • Comment number 57.

    Yep - just read another of Benson's articles on DiMontezemolo's interview. Same old thinly veiled anti italian anti Ferrari bigotry from this guy. Only mentions non Italians in Ferrari's successes and blames them for failing to win in the first 4 races. Andrew, can you write about anything else or do you specialise in negative and bigoted reporting? No wonder sport is full of racism!!

  • Comment number 58.

    Ferrari have had a terrible start to this season no doubt and they will be the first to admit this. Their fans know this aswell and we are not saying that we've had a brilliant start either. So where's the problem in Ferrari not doing so well? Let them get on with it instead of gettin down their throats 24/7. Media always looking for statistics! They showed today that things are on the up. The thing about the english influence in the team is pure stupidity as we've seen what they have achieved in the last 2 seasons, and now should be put to rest. Niki Lauda should just continue to run his airline if he still has it, or get a job in Asda, not give his pointless critisisms around the paddock. Benson should take this as an indication that things need to be improved. Same goes for all at BBC, its not improved much since the ITV days. Good Luck Ferrrai you'l be back up their soon, good luck to the other teams as well, and good luck Formula 1.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    Di Montezemolo is not good for Formula 1. Now that Ferrarri are not winning he is throwing his toys out of the pram and blaming the new F1 rules for their troubles. Frankly this season has been the most thrilling to watch as a viewer and I hope they keep these changes. Like it or not it has levelled the playing field and shown that in previous years Ferrarri only won because they could throw extortionate amounts of money at R&D compared to other teams.

    Di Montezemolo should shut his mouth and Ferrarri take responsibility for their lack of pace and reliability

  • Comment number 61.

    Darkvalley proves my point entirely - his rant is based on your article Andrew and it is you who incites this by the style of your article - and you know it!! I saw the interview with DiM. and your interpretation was extreme and designed to cause a negative reaction.
    Bigotry breeds bigotry and people like you are indirectly responsible for the abuse that Lewis has suffered. You thought your attacks on Alonso while he was at Maclaren were 'clever' but they just caused a like for like reaction from people (mainly from Spain) who were insensed at the bigoted comments against Alonso.
    In this sport we could well be called thieves, liars and cheats in return and, unfortunately, this would be based on fact rather than fiction - unlike any other team in F1 we have been convicted of all 3 even though the sport is run by Brits!!!
    Keeping racism and bigotry out of sport is a broader and much more subtle responsibility especially from opinion makers like you.

    It's a real pity that a number of people get sucked in by bigoted driven articles. Sport should promote understanding, apprecaition of other peoples and healthy support for one's own team and driver in the case of F1. Just immagine what Benson would have written if Ferrari had a double decker defuser based on the margins of the rules and against the unwritten gentleman's agreement with respect to the floor layout?

    Isn't it just better that Ferrari are not winning? So why not just enjoy it rather than being so obsessive about Ferrari all the time? From what I can see, Ferrari are already the 5th fastest team on the grid - Brawn, Toyota, Red Bull, Maclaren, Ferrari .... and they have made no upgrades so far!! So let's enjoy it while we can as I have a feeling it may be short lived and we may have to eat some humble pie - right Andrew!

  • Comment number 62.

    Dear Andrew:

    This is such an unfortunate piece. I’m a young sports journalist in my country and I used to turn to your blog not only for inside-the-paddock information, but also for which I considered very good journalism. I have to say I’m sadly disappointed now.

    Shockingly, you give grounds for a totally bigot, unsubstantiated argument (that of Luda’s), talking about how great Ferrari was under the “brilliant” British Brawn and the ruthless French Todt. Certainly, you don’t outright say “these stupid Italians don’t know how to run the damned outfit,” but you don’t need to either.

    I’m not a tifoso, nor am I Italian (I’m a journalist, and as such, as unbiased as one can be); but you talk about Lauda’s comment tapping so “sharply” into “the traditional image of pre-Schumacher Ferrari.” Are you serious? Are you suggesting that the “traditional image” of what you call “pre-Schumacher Ferrari” was a lousy one? Do you know Ferrari won 12 world titles before Schumacher even drove one of their single-seaters? And that it is the oldest F1 team around, with the records of drivers’s and constructor’s championships? What do you mean “the traditional image of pre-Schumacher Ferrari?”

    Be that as it may, I don’t think that’s your real problem here. What’s really beyond me is that even after your readers pointed out the racism behind your piece - letting you know how offended they are by your poor judgement and worst journalism - instead of acknowledging it and issuing a due apology, you respond with astonishing arrogance and showing even more bigotry.

    Someone said previously (in one of the comments) that bigotry can be very blind at times. I totally agree with that. The most common response in these cases is, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone.” It doesn’t matter whether you did or not; you offended some because you’re bigot and don’t see it. So issue an apology, and just hope they’ll understand.

    And that’s the least one can expect from a journalist writing under a BBC outfit.


  • Comment number 63.

    Brian Roberts.....SPOT ON. I couldn't have put the better myself. "pre schumacher Ferrari - hahahahaha what a joke.

  • Comment number 64.

    Dear Andrew:

    This is such an unfortunate piece. I’m a young sports journalist in my country and I used to turn to your blog not only for inside-the-paddock information, but also for which I considered very good journalism. I have to say I’m sadly disappointed now.

    Shockingly, you give grounds for a totally bigot, unsubstantiated argument (that of Luda’s), talking about how great Ferrari was under the “brilliant” British Brawn and the ruthless French Todt. Certainly, you don’t outright say “these stupid Italians don’t know how to run the damned outfit,” but you don’t need to either.

    I’m not a tifoso, nor am I Italian (I’m a journalist, and as such, as unbiased as one can be); but you talk about Lauda’s comment tapping so “sharply” into “the traditional image of pre-Schumacher Ferrari.” Are you serious? Are you suggesting that the “traditional image” of what you call “pre-Schumacher Ferrari” was a lousy one? Do you know Ferrari won 12 world titles before Schumacher even drove one of their single-seaters? And that it is the oldest F1 team around, with the records of drivers’ and constructors’ championships? What do you mean “the traditional image of pre-Schumacher Ferrari?”

    Be that as it may, I don’t think that’s your real problem here. What’s really beyond me is that even after your readers pointed out the racism behind your piece - letting you know how offended they are by your poor judgement and worst journalism - instead of acknowledging it and issuing a due apology, you respond with astonishing arrogance and showing even more bigotry.

    Someone said previously (in one of the comments) that bigotry can be very blind at times. I totally agree with that. The most common response in these cases is, “I didn’t mean to offend anyone.” It doesn’t matter whether you did or not; you offended some because you’re bigot and don’t see it. So issue an apology, and just hope they’ll understand.

    And that’s the least one can expect from a journalist writing under a BBC outfit.


  • Comment number 65.

    Wow there's some seriously touchy fans around !
    I agree Niki Lauda spouts out far too many stupid and negative comments.

    That said, before all this talk started I was thinking along very similar lines myself. Ferrari have lost too many key people and I don't personally believe Dominicalli is up to the job, there's definitely signs of them slipping back into the 'dark days'.

    I'd like to see Kimi get another championship, but I don't recon it's going to happen, I am fully expecting Ferrari to continue to struggle unless they change their current approach (along with some of their management)

    Andrew - I wouldn't get too worried, if you write an article pointing out facts that any team are struggling there'll always be some over excitable fans ready to jump down your throat regardless ;-)

  • Comment number 66.

    I'm a life long Ferrari fan and I don't find this blog a problem at all. It's pathetic for people like NickMitch and Nick9s to attack it based on the grounds on racism.

    So what if Niki Lauda says there is a 'spaghetti culture' at Ferrari, and Andrew Benson reports on it? Nicks, I think that you should retake a look at what else was said. Andrew also presented the other side of the argument from Stefano Domenicali.

    Get off your high horse and stop calling people racist when they are not. It's a disgrace.

    You're the kind of people that give Britain a bad name. Or is that being me being a bigot and racist?

  • Comment number 67.

    Cditch, I am not a Ferrari fan but proud to be British. The racist and bigoted comments have been well covered on the blog so no point repeating them. I am sorry you have been offended but at least you can see how upsetting it is to be labelled in a derogatory manner .. and just for being English - that was the whole point!! You should, however, spare a thought for Lewis Hamilton who has endured more bigotry than most people - why do you think that is? Was it because people just picked on him or was it because Alonso was so viciously attacked in many bigoted articles and forums in this country? That is really the point that is being made here and I think quite a few people saw through the article and spotted the consistent 'racially' based 'undertones' to this and other articles written by Andrew Benson - it is a form of degenerative racism if you like that inspires others to a particular racially based view - I don't think there is much doubt about that if you read his articles carefully.

    I think enough said now as all points have now been well made by all concerned and we have all been offended and hurt in one form or another but as long as we can reflect on it and build a slightly better understanding then that would be a positive outcome - maybe we can all agree on that.

  • Comment number 68.

    I think some people have too much time on their hands.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think it's crazy to blame Andrew Benson for doing his job! As a journalist his first priority is to report the news and the second part of his job is to act as Devil's advocate to encourage an online debate, which should be happening now.

    I was a fan of Michael Schumacher before he joined Ferrari but I also considered myself a tifosi so I was delighted when both forces combined. The Schumacher era was something very special that can never be repeated as the rules have changed. Besides his talent it was the sheer work rate of the team that elevated them to where they were. Before Ross Brawn the engine and chassis/aerodynamic departments were at war with each other and Scuderia Ferrari was a culture of blame with nobody willing to accept responsibility. Eddie Irvine used to complain that Ross tested car parts beyond reason to ensure reliability, now those days are gone.

    Don't forget there was a testing ban since Australia. In the 'old days' Ferrari would have had a test team out at their circuit and others. With Michael, Irvine/Barichello and test drivers Badoer and Burti how many Grand Prix distances would they have traveled to ensure reliability? Ferrari have lost that and Ross Brawn's culture of reliability first. I'm sad that Ferrari are on the back foot but it solves nothing to berate the article of a journalist does it?

  • Comment number 70.

    Just want to say that Brian Roberts (post 64) summarises the issues perfectly - please reflect on that. I don't htink there was a problem with anything else.


  • Comment number 71.

    Ferrari will be back they are the best and most important team in f1. Who want's to see brawn at the front. Button is not a great driver he is only winninig because of ross brawn.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.