Sergio Marchionne, now CEO of Ferrari, is known for his pullover & button-down shirt style, his lust for cigarettes and clear statements. During Ferrari’s annual Christmas party, he explained why Ferrari voted against Ecclestone’s and Todt’s power mandate.
While having lost some momentum, there still is some support for a return to the old V8s. It was understood that Renault, who pushed for the current engine format in the first place, Honda, who returned thanks to the new rules and Mercedes, who also demanded proper hybrid technology, would not tolerate this step back. Now, under Marchionne, Ferrari is out as well.
Marchionne mentioned that the climate conference of Paris, where a historic agreement has been passed, showed the direction in which the industry will be moving. Ignoring the relevant technologies would be foolish, especially as the percentage of hybrid cars keeps rising. This unified pro-V6 front could make it incredibly hard for anyone to pass a set of rules undermining the current engines.
He also touched on one of the key arguments for a V8 comeback: the costs. Without a doubt, the V8s were less expensive. But is the V6 the element that brings midfield teams close to collapse? If anything, it’s a symptom of the terribly unjust distribution of money by FOM. According to Sergio, it’s FOM’s job to ensure that the teams can pay for the engines, and I tend to agree.
Next up on the list of topics: the new executive power gained by the FIA and FOM. Ferrari famously has a veto right when it comes to F1 decisions, and this privilege is under attack as Ecclestone and Todt can overrule them if necessary. From Ferrari’s perspective, this sounds strange: they invest hundreds of millions into the business and pay the FIA millions of fees so that it can finance its bloated structures, and now someone is deciding over their heads. The same can be said for Mercedes. Or McLaren. Or Renault. Ecclestone is profiting from all of their participation as he now has a better product to sell.
Another hot topic is cost reduction. Marchionne claims that the rulebook designed by and for lawyers and not for engineers is one of the issues. I can’t imagine a few legal experts, experts that Ferrari most likely has already hired in the first place for their other operations, are the main factors driving the costs. Whatever it is, a budget cap would put an effective end to it. And of course Ferrari is against it and any cost capping of the engine:
“The problem of this sport is that the regulator can not impose conditions on the economic management of the team.
“When we are told that we must make the engine and then sell it for two pounds, from the economic point of view, this argument does not stand – because it is going to change the dynamic business that we are managing.
“The economic conditions by which the Ferrari engine is provided to a customer cannot be established by the F1 Commission.”
Now that’s the most interesting statement for the enthusiast. Is Alfa Romeo coming back? According to Marchionne: yes, in the future. He even talked about an Alfa Romeo works team fighting with Ferrari, which would fit into his plan to lift Alfa’s brand presence to the Ferrari and Maserati level. The question is which engine they would use: the cheapest solution would be the Ferrari powertrain, a smart exploit of the rules would be to have Alfa Romeo build an engine that fits the alternative, simple engine proposed for 2018. Until Alfa has a full line-up of cars, I’ll keep my skepticism.