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Formula 1

Ferrari chairman admits decade-long ‘structural weaknesses’

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
4 min read

Ferrari has battled “structural weaknesses” in the design of its Formula 1 cars for a decade and doesn’t expect to fight for victories before 2022, says chairman John Elkann.

The Maranello team has not won an F1 title since clinching the 2008 constructors’ championship and is already well out of contention for 2020 honours after a poor start with its underpowered and aerodynamically-limited SF1000.

It follows a controversial second half of 2019 in which the legality of Ferrari’s engine was under scrutiny, triggering an FIA investigation that was only ended by a confidential settlement with the team.

Various technical directives have been issued to clamp down on potential engine wrongdoing and Ferrari has admitted that those FIA directives have impacted on its performance, while underwhelming results from much of its aerodynamic effort have also contributed.

Ferrari has responded to its challenging start to the season by creating a new ‘performance development’ division to which all areas of car development will report, eschewing a designated technical chief – something it has lacked since Mattia Binotto was promoted to team principal last year – for a leadership structure with a group at its head.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Azerbaijan Grand Prix Race Day Baku, Azerbaijan

In a rare interview, Ferrari chairman Elkann (pictured above alongside Binotto) told La Gazzetta dello Sport that Ferrari has “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,” he said.

“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.”

It is an admission that Ferrari’s prospects are bleak in the short-term and are unlikely to change before major new technical rules come into force in 2022.

Mechanical components of this year’s cars are being carried over to 2021 for cost-saving reasons, so while aerodynamic development remains free any fundamental shortcoming in Ferrari’s design will be present next year as well.

Elkann said that would significantly impact Ferrari, “given that we start 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 engines has underlined”.

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Abu Dhabi Test Day One Abu Dhabi, Uae

“We have given the OK to the new rules starting from 2022, because we believe it is right that there is greater competitiveness within F1,” insisted Elkann.

“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.”

Part of that culture has been inspired by Binotto, team principal since replacing Maurizio Arrivabene at the start of 2019 and a man who has been publicly backed by both Elkann and Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri.

Elkann said he had “total trust” in Binotto, who has worked at Ferrari for more than two decades including during the Jean Todt/Michael Schumacher era.

Binotto was credited with overseeing its turnaround in performance from a poor 2016 while chief technical officer, but has also been in charge during the heightened scrutiny over Ferrari’s engine design.

“He has all the skills and characteristics to start a new winning cycle,” said Elkann.

“He was in Ferrari with Todt and Schumi, he knows how to win, and from next year he will work with two young and ambitious drivers like us.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Hungarian Grand Prix Race Day Budapest, Hungary

Next year, Ferrari will replace four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel with Carlos Sainz Jr, a decision led by Binotto and supported by his bosses.

Elkann said the team’s 2022 car “will be born with them” but urged “suffering” fans to remain patient, drawing a comparison to the long unsuccessful spell that preceded Todt’s reign in the 1990s and 2000s.

“We know they are close to us,” he said. “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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