THE BEST TEAM EVER?
he recent departure of erstwhile Ferrari
Formula 1 team boss Stefano Domenicali
marked the end of an era, for he was the
last key member of the “dream team” that
achieved so much success with Michael
Schumacher. Designer Rory Byrne remains
linked to Maranello as a consultant, but
otherwise all the major players have gone.
The Scuderia of the first half of the 2000s
remains one of the most powerful machines
that auto racing has ever seen. Indeed,
it’s hard to believe that its huge success
grew out of an organization that had hit
rock bottom just a few years previously.
The low point was in 1992, when Jean
Alesi and Ivan Capelli struggled with the
ungainly F92A. The Scuderia finished
fourth in that year’s World Championship
with just 21 points, compared with the 164
of champion Williams. Time for a rethink...
The man charged with turning things
around was the Scuderia’s 1970s F1 team
manager Luca di Montezemolo, who’d
been brought back to the Ferrari fold by
Fiat boss Gianni Agnelli in 1991. At the
time, the road car division was struggling
and addressing that was his main focus.
But given the kudos it bestows on the
whole Ferrari brand, the F1 operation was
his other key challenge, and in an attempt
to recreate an earlier “dream team” he
briefly brought back his old pal Niki Lauda
in a consultancy role. However, the crucial
move was finding a new team principal.
Jean Todt made his name running
Peugeot’s rally efforts, and latterly its sports
car program. The FIA canned the World
Sportscar Championship in ’ 93, leaving
Le Mans as Peugeot’s sole target. Todt was
unable to convince the board to pursue a
works F1 project, so when Ferrari came
calling, he readily accepted. He arrived at
Maranello in July ’ 93, immediately after
securing a second Le Mans win for Peugeot.
Meanwhile, in an attempt to jump start
the moribund technical department, John
Barnard was brought back as technical
director after three years away. As with his
previous tenure he was allowed to open a
“satellite” design office in Surrey, England.
As Todt settled in, the team again
finished a distant fourth in the ’ 93 points.
Keen to hire the best driver available,
Todt made overtures to Ayrton Senna
– as previous Ferrari bosses had also
done. Indeed, Montezemolo recently
stated that Senna would indeed have
ended his F1 career with Ferrari, but any
Michael Schumacher’s 13 grand prix victories in
2004 broke the record he’d set in ’02 of 11 wins.
Sebastian Vettel matched the feat in 2013, albeit
with one more race to achieve it ( 19 to 18). The
Rory Byrne-designed Ferrari F2004 is generally
acknowledged to be the fastest F1 car ever made,
with several of its lap records still unbroken.
Leading by a single
point heading in to
the Jerez finale,
cynical attempt to
secure the ’ 97 title
by taking out rival
in the race backfired.
The Ferrari retired on
the spot; the Williams
driver finished third
and took the title,
was disqualified from
the ’ 97 championship
– although his
allowed to stand.
jerez 1997 T