- Maurice Hamilton's blog
Ferrari's vanity unit in overdriveMaurice Hamilton April 15, 2014
"Anyone know where Ross Brawn is?" You imagine that was a regular conversation in the Maranello workshops when news of Stefano Domenicali offering himself (it says here) as a sacrificial lamb became public. The next question (muttered beyond management earshot) should have been: "Anyway, what bloody good is blaming Stefano going to do?"
Ferrari is in the clag, and no mistake. The trouble is, the top man doesn't like walking in it with his posh loafers. Luca di Montezemolo would prefer to pout and pose when a camera comes within range. For the Ferrari chairman, it's all about having the public share his moment of personal anguish when the red cars are being comprehensively stuffed. For Luca, it's about flicking back the hair in the manner of a miffed Marilyn Monroe rather than jutting his chin like Paul Newman when surrounded by baddies. Having Domenicali take the rap for the current mess is not worthy of a B-movie.
The problem for Stefano is that he is a nice guy - too nice, probably - who was on a hiding to nothing if Ferrari did not perform once he had taken over from the imperious Jean Todt.
Domenicali's situation reminds me of the predicament faced by David Moyes as he struggles to carry the massive baton handed down by Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester United were moulded by the dour Scot to such an extent that Moyes was in a no-win situation: if success continued, it was to be expected; if the team failed, blame would be laid at his method of management.
It's going to be the same for the poor sod who takes over the role of performance director of British Cycling from the brilliant Sir Dave Brailsford. In Domenicali's case, add the unparalleled pressure of national expectation and you have the quicksand of blame culture waiting to drag him under, with his boss standing by preening himself instead of throwing a lifeline.
Montezemolo really ought to take a look in the mirror (I mean that, of course, in the metaphorical sense rather than the practical, with which he is well acquainted). Was it the Ferrari boss who pushed for the 2014 regulations to be changed from the proposed four-cylinder engine to the current V6? I do believe it was. And is it Montezemolo who, having signed up for the new package, is currently rubbishing F1 because his team can't hack it? I do believe it is.
The fact is that Ferrari has failed to produce a decent package in the two-and-a half-years since the regulations were published. End of. Being off the pace occasionally is in the nature of F1. Ferrari have been there before - like in 1962, 1969, 1973, 1980, 1992, 1993, 1995 and 2009.
Montezemolo is a charming man and the Latin melodrama surrounding his every move in public has its place in an amusing sense. But this is no time for theatre. It's all about power units not vanity units. The question at Maranello right now ought to be: "Anyone got the phone number for Andy Cowell at Mercedes Benz High Performance Engines?"
Maurice Hamilton writes for ESPN F1.