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Can F1 survive without Ferrari?


Could the Global Financial Crisis ultimately result in the most fundamental shift in motorsport – for Ferrari to be no longer interested in Formula One? There has not been, and probably never will be again, two entities within one sport so intertwined. Formula One without Ferrari is almost unthinkable. But it could happen.

It is not because Ferrari are in any financial difficulty and need to tighten their belt. It is actually the contrary. The whole Ferrari model is about being in a position to be able to hire the best, have the best facilities and the budget to do what they need to do to win. The current changes to regulations do not align with that model, and more importantly they do not align with the fundamental principle and philosophy of why Ferrari is Ferrari.

Why be associated with a sport that essentially becomes a handicap event? And yes, the limit to a budget in Ferrari terms is a handicap. Ferrari infrastructure, brand, business model and corporate knowledge and philosophy would all have to fundamentally shift to work within the budget cap. The required change management to shift an entity with the history, success and sheer size of Ferrari Formula One makes this a handicap of mammoth proportions.

Current indicators are that Ferrari is considering dropping out of Formula One and concentrating their efforts in other areas. This may be gamesmanship. If it was to happen the biggest loser would undoubtedly be Formula One. Sure, F1 could regain Lola — which is a positive — but there are also question marks over Mercedes and Renault. Without Ferrari, the championship becomes a lot less stable and many, many followers will follow Ferrari to another championship.

Luca Di Montezemolo has been invited to start this year’s LeMans, and Stefano Domencialli will be attending with him. This is undoubtedly a power play on Ferrari’s part to tell Formula One management that if the series no longer suits their objectives they are prepared to move on. And it is a move that could actually suit Ferrari. After all they make their money from road cars (plus merchandise and marketing) and the LeMans Series look a lot closer to road cars. The history is also there … Ferrari’s record with GT classes is as strong as open-wheelers. The threat is not an empty one.

Max Mosley says that the Ferrari board will back the initiatives put in place by Formula One management to cap costs, he feels the saving of a $100 million dollars is too inviting for them not to support the initiative. This makes as much sense as his occasional dress sense. Ferrari’s corporate value is in the multi-billion dollar area. Its national worth is priceless. Leaving aside those two points however: the current business model works, they simply don't need to tighten their belts that much, there is no benefit to them. Ferrari also run a university to feed talent into the factory, even laying off the amount of workers that Brawn had to after their first win would not sit well with the Ferrari board or the Italian Government.

Montezemolo questions the current regulations and budget caps on two fronts;

* What he calls the grey regulations — where a rule such as the current diffuser issue can be interpreted, and where that interpretation even when it is outside the intended design intention can result in teams expending millions playing catch-up when it becomes legal.

* The unenforceable nature of the budget cap. It is here that Ferrari is probably in the best position to exploit and interpret rules. Could the FXX and 599XX style programs be used as test beds for Formula One parts and therefore reverse the idiom of race developments finding their way to road cars? Or are the FXX and 599XX programs development mules for future GT racers?

 

The questions we pose are:

* Will Ferrari move their efforts to FIA GT and LeMans Series - feel free to tell us your opinion below…

* Or take our Poll (above)