• Thu
  • Oct 2, 2014
  • Updated: 10:27pm

Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 September, 2007, 12:00am

It seems at the moment the whole media circus that follows Formula One has its sights trained solely on the McLaren team. Given the events of the past few months it's not without good reason. But there is another team who are having what could kindly be called an intriguing year, and they are Ferrari.


The one-two finish last time out for the Prancing Horse seemed to hardly be noticed by photographers keener to get a picture of Lewis Hamilton's flailing tyre. Yet it proves that despite a disruptive year where they have trailed McLaren, you can't write off Ferrari. The stark fact is that the Italian team haven't had a world championship to cheer since 2004. The changes to personnel at the end of last season haven't helped much, and it's a tribute to the strength in depth that Ferrari are still within touching distance of McLaren.


Of course, the most high-profile change was the retirement of Michael Schumacher. Losing a man that has transformed Ferrari and won so many championships for them would always be a big deal. It's changed the nature of the team a great deal too. No longer the dominant number one driver with a subservient guy in the other car. Now there are two drivers who are just a point apart in the driver's standings. Whether this is the most comfortable way for Ferrari to operate seems open to question, but Jean Todt stated recently that there would be no favouritism.


Kimi Raikkonen is so far removed from Schumacher in terms of character that many questioned how he'd fit in. Whereas Schumacher would spend hours around the paddock and often take data home for a spot of night-time reading, Kimi is more likely to step out of the car and into some socialising. That's fine as long as he's fast, but in the long term you have to question whether it will galvanise the team in the way his German predecessor did.


You sense that Felipe Massa still can't believe that he's at Ferrari post-Schumacher, winning races and with an outside shout at the world championship. He's watched his former teammate at close quarters and obviously learnt. Judging from the pictures after the Turkish Grand Prix, he's got the team, and most importantly his pit crew on board. He is adept at making the most of situations.


Schumacher is still seen around the Ferrari pit wall on race weekends, still employed by Ferrari, although his exact role seems nebulous. As former driver Martin Brundle points out, as soon as you are out of the car, the pace of development means your input becomes less and less relevant - even from a seven-time champion.


Of course, it's not really the drivers who have caused the most upheaval at Ferrari, it's the change in management that has really been felt. Technical director Ross Brawn is on a year-long sabbatical. Team boss Jean Todt has been promoted to oversee the whole of the Ferrari Company. He is seen on the pit wall still, but his input surely is watered down now he has other commitments.


Like Schumacher, Todt lived for the Ferrari team. Along with Brawn, the trio were Ferrari. The changes have helped new talent come up, but it has undoubtedly led to tensions at Maranello. When the management was reshuffled for the new season, Nigel Stepney was sidelined.


It was the seed that has led to the now infamous allegations of sabotage and spying, all of which he denies. Whatever the rights and wrongs of those particular situations, it is not the most conducive atmosphere in which to try and operate a top-notch F1 outfit.


For a while you wondered if Ferrari would slide back to the doldrums they occupied a little over a decade ago. There were some reliability problems, questions about Kimi's temperament, and of course the small matter of trailing McLaren. But you get the sense they are a team coming good, coming to terms with their new set-up and new realities.


It's still far from certain that Brawn will be back next year, but perhaps that won't be such a bad thing. Perhaps it's time to say thanks and move on, time to continue with a brave new world at Ferrari.


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