MARCHIONNE: WE ARE INTERVENING – TIME TO CRACK THE WHIP…

Sergio Marchionne finally broke his two week silence after his Ferrari team ‘shot themselves in the foot’ at the Malaysian Grand Prix, a fortnight after the start line shunt in Singapore eliminated both red cars.

The debacle at Marina Bay Circuit is well documented, as is the qualifying no show by Sebastian Vettel thanks to a turbo issue and a day later Kimi Raikkonen being pushed off second place on the grid with a technical issue – the Finn did not even start the race.

Nevertheless Vettel achieved some damage control, with a storming drive from last on the grid to fourth place, but the gap in the drivers’ world title race – to leader Lewis Hamilton –  increased to a daunting 34 points with five rounds remaining in the championship.

Marchionne summed up his sentiments after the race on Sunday, “It is safe to say that the two Ferraris could have beaten everyone today, this is an undisputed fact. And that this could have also happened in Singapore is another undisputed fact.”

“Having these problems in the race breaks you. One thing is having an engine let go on the test bench at home… Having a car in second position and then not seeing it on the grid makes you want to pull your hair out.”

“That we had problems with the engines has to do with two things: we have a very young team and the quality of the components is not up to the level needed for a racing car. We are intervening.”

“It’s almost good fortune that nothing has happened until now. We are now focusing on the whole chain and we will be making organisational changes to impose different standards,” added Marchionne.

Meanwhile Motorsport Total are reporting that Maurizio Arrivabene’s days as team chief are numbered, as Marchionne’s patience is running thin amid a slew of errors that have compromised the Italian team which started the season in fine form but their challenge has withered since the summer break.

It is not the first time that reports of Arrivabene’s demise have emerged. Last year there was a flurry of speculation that he would be dismissed as the team endured a problem packed season.

But the ‘Marlboro Man’ turned things around at Maranello during the off-season and his team were leading the championship until the summer break. But the last four races are proving to be their undoing, exacerbated by the fact that they have arguably the fastest car on the grid at this stage of the season.

Only time will tell if Arrivabene will be out the Ferrari door any time soon. What is certain is that Marchionne is not impressed and his fragile patience is being seriously tested…

MyTake

Well you knew there were going to be some rather interesting Monday morning headlines after the weekend that Ferrari had and the news cycle did not disappoint. It looks like Maurizio Arrivabene’s job is in jeopardy (again) although I am not too sure that is completely true. Do we really know what goes on behind closed doors in Maranello???

Yes, it is true that Sergio Marchionne has no problem providing the sword to anyone, even the legendary Luca di Montezemolo, to fall on, but I don’t think that is the case here. I do believe the Ferrari’s number one (and I am not talking about the wunderkid) is taking what he feels are the appropriate steps to ensure this championship will continue to the final race. And I for one think this is a good thing, despite his delivery.

I think it is exactly what Ferrari needs when they mis-manage their weekend so comprehensively. A swift kick in the arse. When I think back to all the times that I heard Stefano Domenicali say, “This is no time to panic – lets all be calm”, it gets my blood boiling.

Remember Alonso vs. Vettel in 2010 and 2012? Clearly two of the best drivers in the game. Vettel driving a Red Bull produced by Adrian Newey, the master of the black art of air flow and all its permutations, and Alonso in an underperforming Ferrari but still keeping it in the fight until the last races of the year. It was close, so close, and maybe a little hustle from Ferrari could have given Alonso the advantage he needed. I always thought that Domenicali and company were too calm by far in those years.

I’m just a fan/blogger on the other side of the world but it’s clear to me that Ferrari never really had that sense of urgency in those Alonso years that it takes to compete in the pinnacle of motorsport in the modern era. This clearly was also the reason Marchionne stepped in and engineered a complete overhaul of F1’s most celebrated team.

Say what you will about Sergio Marchionne, yes, he is a hothead (in his own way), yes, he added undue pressure to the team (probably still does), yes, he spoke too soon last year about a championship, and yes, some of his decisions can be looked upon as rash. But the one thing he has in spades is that sense of urgency. Is it any coincidence that immediately after he fired di Montezemolo and presumably conveyed his displeasure to the team as a whole, the whole team improved considerably?

Winning takes focus and sometimes that focus comes via a wake-up call. Singapore = wake-up call. Malaysia = wake up call. Five races to go. Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are still in the game, but not if the team loses focus and luckily for Ferrari, Mercedes had an off day, but don’t count on them to have another one.

I think Kimi Raikkonen caused the first turn retirements in Singapore, but I also think Vettel was not thinking big picture, especially in the rain. Malaysia was a different story. Vettel is in no way culpable for what happened on Saturday and he drove brilliantly on Sunday. But based on his on-board camera feed, what the hell was he thinking coming from behind on the cool-down lap? Vettel has to have known there is every possibility that Lance Stroll could not see him – focus, Sebastian, focus.

To use his own words, “Seriously,” (and I have watched the footage now twenty or so times) why on earth did Vettel not move to the right??? Apparently there will be no need to change a gearbox, therefore no grid penalty in Japan but I would be a bit wary about that component and is this really what you need at this critical state of the championship?

Focus, Sense of Urgency, Zero Mistakes – that is what wins championships. Red Bull and Merc have that wrapped up (eight consecutive titles and six consecutive titles between them). Right now Ferrari – not so much.

Next up Suzuka, Vettel loves this track as does Ham, both chassis should go well. Let’s see who brings their A-game, driver and team alike…

-jp-

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