Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2020

Ferrari had ‘structural weaknesses’ in its F1 cars for a decade, says chairman

2020 F1 season

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Ferrari chairman John Elkann says the competitiveness of the team’s Formula 1 cars has been undermined for a decade by fundamental weaknesses which it is now trying to address.

Following Ferrari’s poor start to the 2020 season Elkann gave his full backing to team principal Mattia Binotto to lead the team on a “long path” of rebuilding to become competitive again.

Ferrari’s sporting division is “undoubtedly going through a difficult period that starts from afar”, Elkann told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We have not won a manufacturers’ world championship since 2008 and one drivers’ since 2007. There have been Red Bull’s winning cycles for aerodynamic capacity and Mercedes for their great ability in hybrid engine technologies.”

Ferrari has made a poor start to its 2020 campaign, which Elkann blamed on “machine setting errors” – a reference to the correlation problems the team discovered when it began testing its SF1000.

“We have had a series of structural weaknesses that have existed for some time in the aerodynamics and dynamics of the vehicle. We have also lost in engine power.

“The reality is that our car is not competitive. You saw it on the track and you will see it again. Today we are laying the foundations for being competitive and returning to winning when the rules change in 2022. I am convinced of it.”

Elkann insisted he has “total trust” in Binotto to turn the team around. “Mattia Binotto, who has taken the helm of the Scuderia for a year, has all the skills and characteristics to start a new winning cycle.

“He was in Ferrari with [Jean] Todt and Schumi [Michael Schumacher], he knows how to win, and from next year he will work with two young and ambitious drivers.”

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The team announced a long-term deal with Charles Leclerc in December, then chose to replace his team mate Sebastian Vettel with Carlos Sainz Jnr for 2021. Elkann said this decision was made after the team realised the extent of the changes it needs to make over the coming seasons.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Mugello, 2020
Elkann shed light on the team’s split from Vettel
“In the past 10 years we have had champions such as [Fernando] Alonso and Vettel. But it is undoubtedly more difficult to rebuild a cycle and ask patience from those who have already won compared to those who have the future ahead of them.

“We are laying the foundations for building something important and lasting, and the contract we signed with Charles proves it: Five years, never so long in Ferrari’s history. Leclerc and Sainz will take home in Maranello, will be close to our engineers. The new machine will be born with them.”

Following its poor start to 2020, Ferrari will be unable to make significant changes to its car next year due to restrictions F1 has introduced to control costs. However sweeping new technical regulations will arrive in 2022.

“We started off poorly and must be realistic and aware of the structural weaknesses of the machine with which we have been living for a decade and which the transition to hybrid has underlined,” said Elkann.

“We have given the ‘okay’ to the new rules starting from 2022, because we believe it is right that there is greater competitiveness within F1, and we do not see the limitation of budget caps as a constraint on our ability to win, we take it as a challenge.

“Our engineers, our mechanics and our drivers will find in those constraints the strength and creativity to bring Ferrari back to the top. Personally I have never seen in the last 10 years such a cohesive and strong spirit.”

Elkann warned Ferrari’s fans it may take several seasons for the team to become championship contenders again.

“The fans are suffering as much as we suffer, but we know they are close to us. This is why it is important to be clear and honest with them. A long path awaits us.

“When Todt opened that historic cycle in 2000, we came from a fast that lasted for more than 20 years, from 1979. It took time from when he arrived in 1993 to when he brought Ferrari back to victory.

“The important thing then is to work on and off the track, bringing cohesion and stability, building the Ferrari we want, step by step.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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47 comments on “Ferrari had ‘structural weaknesses’ in its F1 cars for a decade, says chairman”

  1. Arrivabene was also in team with Todt and Brawn. So were many others who were left by wayside when they didnt deliver championship.

    1. What are you talking about ? Arrivabene was a PM marketing man in charge of their sponsorship activities in motorsport and Ferrari was one of the teams that they sponsored as was Ducati. He joined Ferrari as of 2014 replacing Mattiacci

      1. Never mind, it’s not worth it.
        When you “add hunger to the desire to eat”, the urge and the pleasure of criticizing “just because” the result is this ??!?!
        Then they want to be taken seriously?!?!?!?

      2. Remember seeing him at Spanish GP 96 when Schumacher won and was in team colours.

        1. So Afef Jenifen is also a Ferrari team member. I’ve remember seeing her many times in the Ferrari garage :)

      3. @tifoso1989 mr @Chaitanya is a well known anti-Ferrari troll, don’t feed him. I’m pretty surprised he didn’t mentioned mafia this time.

        1. @m-bagattini
          I already know that from being a permanent RaceFans resident, however he is posting false information that can mislead other riders and needs to be corrected.

          1. @tifoso1989 well done mate

    2. Arrivabene comes from a marketing and sales background. In 1997, he joined Philip Morris International, rising to become Vice President of Marlboro Global Communication and Promotions in 2007, and Vice President of Consumer Channel Strategy and Event Marketing in 2011. Through his work with Philip Morris, he became involved with the company’s sponsorship (through the Marlboro brand) of the Ferrari Formula One team, and sat on the Formula One Commission as a representative of the sport’s sponsors from 2010.

      –Wikipedia article on Maurizio Arrivabene

      Took me longer to cut/paste that block then it did to find it. Don’t people do basic research anymore?

  2. Apart from the 2018 and partially the 2017 car Ferrari hasn’t produced a good car since 2008, so pretty much everyone realized that by now. The question is how can you justify that with their amount of resources, and how do you want to address it.

    1. Also how much they leech from F1 prize pool and with Veto. It took only 10 years to realize the faults.

    2. @pironitheprovocateur 2019 engine was pretty good too though. They could/should have won Bahrain, Baku, Canada, Austria, Russia, Japan, Mexico. The season would actually have been pretty equal if the Ferrari drivers didn’t mess up so often and then the strategists didn’t help on some occasions (Austria, Mexico).

      1. 2019 engine was also arguably illegal. The alleged cheats have been removed and now the engine is nowhere. With that in mind, no, the 2019 engine was not good.

        1. @telvee32 How is that relevant? I’m responding to a claim that Ferrari hasn’t produced a good car since 2008. When in fact they could/should have been WDC in 2017, 2018 and possibly even 2019.

          1. not 2019. No way.

    3. János Henkelmann
      28th July 2020, 12:23

      “bUt ThE 2oI2 cAR wAsN’t s0 bAd”

    4. I am sure Alonso has been telling them that since his first test in a Ferrari too @pironitheprovocateur :-)

      Guess it is good that they awknoledge that now? Also, I think it is important that Elkann spoke out about this and knowing this is the case. And stating they are behind the team to work on gaining back ground with a focus on what is coming from 2022 onward and not firing people putting pressure on that will just make everyone jumpy and overly on edge this year and next year.

      1. @bascb
        In 2010, Alonso said that the F10 was quite a decent car, which it was BTW. However, the RB6 and according to Newey himself is one of the greatest cars ever made because of what the regulations allowed. Those big felxi front wings, and the EBD coupled with the double diffuser made it look like a space shift.
        In 2012, it was Massa that tested first the F2012 and called Montezemolo and said pretty straightforward “Disastro !”

        1. You are off course right @tifoso1989, the 2010 car was a decent car even though it probably was not the car they would have hoped it to be since the RB was a step above, maxing out what was there to be found.

          It was in the years that followed that Ferrari seemed to be continuously lost between hope and despair without seemingly realy knowing what and where exactly they needed to improve.

      2. @bascb @tifoso1989 Alonso even claimed that the Ferrari F10 was the best car he had ever driven, at some point during winter testing. Not sure if it was just to boost morale, or whether he ment in absolute terms. Because relative to the competition, the Red Bull was certanly a good step ahead, but maybe that wasn’t obvious during testing.

        1. I think it was more of a positive vibe from Alonso, although it must have been a huge step forward after the renault in the year before that.

    5. The 2012 Ferrari was a very good car. But for some horrible luck (ex. Grosjean wiping out Alonso), they would most likely won the drivers title.

      1. I take it you didn’t see some of the data leaked during testing then? Someone managed to photograph a set up sheet a mechanic was carrying, and that suggested there were major problems with the front tyre temperatures and excessive wear on the inner shoulder.

  3. Well one of those didn’t have his contract extended and will be leaving the team after this season.

    1. Let’s bring Hamilton to Ferrari and see how he would crumble under their repeating operational failures. Several insiders agree that Vettel bring the same kind of atmosphere to the team as Schumi used to, the sense of togetherness, knowing the employees closely, solving the problems etc. They will miss his experience badly, as was proven by his call for medium tires in the recent GP. I think you are rather biased against him.

      1. @pironitheprovocateur Hamilton would have been WDC with Ferrari in 2017 and 2018 with Vettel at Mercedes.

        It was not Ferrari’s fault that Vettel blundered away the 2017 and 2018 WDC campaign. Especially 2018 was extreme. Auto motor und sport calculated that Vettel could have won with a 54 point lead if he hadn’t crashed/spun all those times. Just keep by keeping it on the road and finished where he was he would have been WDC by a huge margin.

        In fact Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen and probably a whole list of other drivers could have become WDC in that Ferrari.

        Even 2019 Hamilton would have done much much better than the bumbling drivers Ferrari has now and potentially have been WDC then too. They managed to throw away Bahrain, Baku, Canada, Austria, Russia, Japan and Mexico. It’s just staggering how many opportunities these guys waste. Hamilton didn’t and he won most of those. Plus Hungary where Verstappen cracked under pressure and ruined his tyres 8 laps before the end of the race. Same as he did in Styria although he then also broke his front wing.

  4. Fantastic news to hear from the top man himself, take attention away from the technically excellent Mattia Binotto
    This new long term plan is exactly what the team needs
    With Elkann, Binotto and two young drivers willing to be patient and live close to the factory I am certainly happy that structural changes are being made rather than boneheaded suggestions from “experts” to fire people
    I don’t care about 2021 as long as behind the scenes everyone is organised and more importantly lives and breathes Scarlet Red and is loving every minute of it
    Again fantastic things to hear from the top man

    1. Ferrari PR is often stronger then the team.
      We will see..

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    28th July 2020, 12:24

    Given the money and technology they have access too this is fairly ridiculous – they should be better than this, and especially better than ‘it may take several years’.

  6. As of today, “balloon deflated” for everyone who likes to criticize Ferrari, “just because” !!!
    Other teams, those have not won constructors’ championships since 1997 and 1998 and drivers since 1997 and 2008, and apparently they have no problem. It is natural and perfectly normal !!!
    I understand why, they have been in F1 since 1975 and 1996, and at the pinnacle of motorsport it is not easy to always be on top. Especially because when the permanence and hegemony is very long, there are changes in regulations !!!
    Taken advantage of very well by the MB that appears in 2010 again in F1, having won two drivers’ championships in 1954 and 1955 with J.M.Fangio), and until 2014 neither won any championship. But it doesn’t matter now.

    That is why I praise the position of Ferrari chairman John Elkann. Errors are clearly, transparently and objectively assumed. The strategy was taken and adopted to try to return to victory in 2022. Very well, the defense of the working group has been assumed so that it can clearly focus on the mission to be accomplished.
    Forza Ferrari

    1. @trindade It’s not “perfectly normal” when you are running with the biggest budgets in F1. If they are perfectly fine not being in the title fight then maybe they can copy the pink Mercedes

      1. I do not say that it is “perfectly normal” in relation to what has been happening with Ferrari. What I am saying is that what has happened to other teams, who also do not win and have gone through embarrassing situations, (to be nice), is that it is looked at as “perfectly normal”.
        In conclusion, it is not “perfectly normal” what Ferrari is going through, and it has been fully assumed.

        Now, the copying strategy, as Racing Point did, are options that I respect, but with which I disagree. And that in the particular case it is surrounded by many doubtful aspects, in fact, as the protests submitted attest.
        But by the way, in terms of copying, I recall that in 2017, Ferrari produced a very impressive kit piece on the SF70H. After years of producing cars that seemed to have other people’s ideas, it introduced many new cutting-edge aerodynamic features that would later be widely adopted by everyone. For the first time, Red Bull and Mercedes were taking ideas from Ferrari, not vice versa.

        (Perhaps I didn’t explain it well. My native language is not English.)

    2. @trindade I agree coming out like this, giving trust and a longer term plan was a good step for Ferrari, probably a needed step.

      I am puzzled why you implicitly drag in McLaren as a negative, a team who did something like this a couple of seasons ago already, and who now seem on a road to recovery.

  7. Ironically it is also the decade that John Elkann reigned over Ferrari, and was marked by multiple power struggles.
    Resulting in the leadership of Marchionne a man known for firing people over something as simple as a difference of opinion and also a man known for his bad health.
    Resulting in the chaotic mess Ferrari is right now.

  8. Ferrari are doing a few things well.

    Atleast they are talking the talk. And are in for a rebuild, like McLaren was, and Williams still needs to.

    They are not in form to take on championships, and this year they might not even fight for wins. Mostly it is down to their chassis not being the best in the field. There is very little you can make up on the engine side, if your chassis has “structural issues”.

  9. “Structural weaknesses” in their F1 cars?

    They mean that gasket between the steering wheel and the front of the driver’s seat?
    Yeah…

    1. It’s easy to blame drivers when the team and its structure keeps messing things up for more than a decade. You would be surprised how a certain driver would fall if he wasn’t constantly backed by the best car and an endless support.

      1. Lewis was in McLaren, you could see him rising above.

        But wait, you couldn’t.

      2. @pironitheprovocateur Hamilton does not get the support that Vettel had at Ferrari. Raikkonen was used as a pawn for Vettel in almost every race. They told Leclerc to let Vettel past when he clearly wasn’t faster at all from the first races of the season. Ridiculous. Especially after seeing how Vettel totally blew 2017 and 2018. It was most likely he would do the same again in 2019. And he did.

        Mercedes would never do that to their drivers unless the battle between the drivers was already done and it’s in the interest of the championship to support the driver with the most points.

        Besides, Hamilton does regularly win in the second or third fastest car. It’s just that people claim afterwards it was the car anyway if Hamllton wins. If Hamilton doesn’t win than it’s a great performance of whoever won. Almost without exception in the fastest car.

        1. Have you not seen F1 before last year? Bottas was even less worth than a pawn and so was Rosberg occasionally.
          And I take it you never saw Hamilton at Mclaren when they made blunder after blunder. He made a million stupid mistakes then. From probably frustration and trying to overdrive. Just like Vettel in an under-par Ferrari-team.

  10. FANGIO’S SISTER
    28th July 2020, 15:58

    Their true test comes in 2022. Build another failure and look for Ferrari to turn to IndyCar for its own survival.

  11. It is quite astonishing that a globally popular car brand that sells expensive and exclusive road going cars focussed purely on speed and performance could not fix its “structural weakness” in a decade.
    On the fun side, here is a quote from Jeremy Clarkson: “How hard can it be?”

  12. It seems easy, but not, it is in fact very difficult.
    Other major brands / manufacturers arrived with the intuition to win, but failed.
    See the case of:
    – TOYOTA, 8 seasons, entry in 2002 and departure in 2009, the best result a 2nd place and 3 pole positions, the best achieved in the constructors ‘championship the 4th place and a 6th place in the drivers’ championship;
    – HONDA, 8 seasons, starting in 1964-1968 and 2006 and leaving in 2008, 3 first places and 2 pole positions, the best achieved in the constructors ‘championship the 4th place and a 4th place in the drivers’ championship;
    PORSCHE, 7 seasons, entry in 1958 and departure in 1964, 1 pole position and 1 first place, the best achieved in the constructors ‘championship the 3rd place and a 4th place in the drivers’ championship;
    RENAULT, with 24 seasons, entered in 1977-1985 and new entry in 2002-2011 and new return in 2016 so far, has two manufacturers ‘world championships and two drivers’ championships.
    That is why F1 is the premier category, the pinnacle of motorsport, it may seem easy to some, but a rational, attentive and thorough reading shows that it is not so.

    1. And the irony is that when Honda left in 2008 their old team became worldchapions… (with their design)

  13. Mr. Elkann, you should know that it’ll be less costly, more successful and completely legal to copy the 2022 championship-winning AMG Petronas, so enabling Ferrari’s red Mercedes to start winning races in 2023.

  14. I think a lot of us here have been noticing this for years now. I still maintain that with Stefano Domenicialli and LdM, they had a shot, but it didnt work out.

    During the Alonso years, you have to admit that the team was tight. They hardly made any mistakes and usually extracted the maximum on most weekends, but that could have been down to Alonso too. Still, the team was solid in executing race strategy. Unfortunately, in those years, the car wasn’t fast enough, I’d say partially down to the fluid nature of their technical department. Stefano was a nice guy, well respected, but I guess in the end he he was too nice.

    When Mattiaci came in, it was clear that Marchionne had dealt his hand. This was now his team and he was going to run it. And it worked, to a certain extent. Until his untimely demise, the team was on the up, but while they had a quick-ish car, the team failed on various occasion, and their star driver struggled to keep in on track time to time.

    Right now, Ferrari is rudderless. It needs to take a step back and look at itself. Elkan’s comments are refreshing, at least they acknowledge the issue. Hopefully they will restructure the team to a more sensible hierarchy.

  15. playstation361
    29th July 2020, 17:38

    Other guys were way too keen in the system and dominated. These guys had less visibility.

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