After three races of varying degrees of frustration, Ferrari surely have put themselves behind the proverbial eight-ball for the balance of the season. All may not be lost but the millions of dollars spent on trying to win the title have been an expensive lesson over a spark plug in Japan.

We know that there was some restructuring in the quality control division of Ferrari between Malaysia and Japan and unfortunately, those changes didn’t catch a dodgy spark plug issue that most likely will cost Sebastian Vettel the title in 2017.

Wondering whose head would be cut next, Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne seems to be relatively introspective on the issue according to Autosport who sourced CNBC television. .

“It was a technical nonsense that had an impact on a car that costs millions of euros,” said Marchionne in an interview with Italy’s Class CNBC television channel.

“It’s a problem we’ve probably ignored over time because it was never of much importance.

“But now we’ve had at least three occasions where we’ve really seen the devastating impact on performance.

“We’ll fix it.”

You may think that part of the fix is to fire the rest of the team but Sergio says he’s proud of them. The struggles that Vettel’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, has had also means fewer points in the constructor’s championship as well but alas, there’s only so many people you can fire at Maranello and even so, that tends to have an impact.

“Without being arrogant, I think it is at the same level if not better than Mercedes’ today,” Marchionne added.

“I’m sure if we’d not had any problems like in the last three races, we would be having a different discussion.

“The season is not lost, there’s still all to do.

“I won’t talk of bad luck, I don’t believe in it.

“The important thing is to not lose the confidence that has brought us so far.

“I’m delighted with what the team has done and I have tremendous confidence that in the next four races we will be able to close most of the Mercedes gap.”

This has to be the frustrating point of all the issues Ferrari have had. The reality is, they have had a car that can take the battle to Mercedes and fans were excited about a tight battle to the end between two iconic teams. Being robbed of that by a spark plug and manifold/turbo issue is a tough thing to take from a team spending something in the neighborhood of $300m.

That’s Formula 1, though. It is a testament to how meticulous you must be to compete at this level. It’s also a testament to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton who have worked around the edges of Ferrari’s improved performance, held them off when they could and avoided the kinds of mechanical issues that Lewis suffered last season. That’s how meticulous the Mercedes team are. That’s how meticulous the Italian team will have to become if they want to win. Confidence is important and perhaps Ferrari will find that confidence in the scope of accuracy.

Hat Tip: Autosport via CNBC TV

An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Roger Flerity

    Nothing in Ferrari’s history or core DNA indicates they are capable of matching the level of ultra tight meticulous attention to the smallest microscopic detail on the level of Mercedes as this point. They are more passionate, they may be bolder and just as aggressive. But when it comes to the extremes of nut ‘n bolt application, the underlying German engineering DNA behind Mercedes is a massive advantage. Ferrari have a long way to go to stand up to the beating Mercedes is willing to put on anyone who gets too near to them. I wish it weren’t true, as I’d give anything to see a real championship battle in F1.

    • TheMan

      You ARE watching a championship battle my friend, and Ferrari is losing. In spite of F1’s favoritism for them over the decades.
      And, by the way, how do you know so much about quality control at Mercedes compared to Ferrari? Ferrari has always been considered a leader in quality and now you come up with a comment that reeks of smoke-out-your-arse and seems to be nothing more than unsubstantiated personal opinion.

      Facts are hard to argue with, but I haven’t seen any.
      Also, what Sergio Marchionne knows about F1 could be written on the head of a pin in all upper case letters. Why would you expect anything more from a CEO that has nearly driven Fiat Chrysler America into the toilet (except for Jeep)?

      • Smee

        I think you are right about Ferrari quality, look at the years Alonso spent at Ferrari, he had very few mechanical failures, and his record of finishing races was unmatched over those 5 years. Let’s face it, they are pushing the envelope trying to beat Merc, and it’s simply catching up wth them. They have only so many engineers and technicians and they are being stretched to the limit. Bottom line: they are back to being Ferrari. Good but not the best and always playing catch up.

        • p1ngu

          It’s hard to talk about “Ferrari quality” as if it’s some homogeneous thing. Race teams change over time, and it’s as much about leadership as anything else.

          Take McLaren – you can knock Ron as much as you like, but he was obsessed with quality. Everything had to be checked, checked, checked, and systems and processes built around that central obsession. Nothing was introduced unless it was checked a zillion times and in every possible way. It meant that in the poorer years, when they’d gone the wrong direction on design, they would still continue to accrue as many points as possible because you just didn’t have silly failures and breakages. It’s an expensive way to run a business, and probably pretty unpleasant to work within, but the relentless obsession had a value in F1.

          Take away that consistent and single-minded leadership, keep chopping and changing, and you’ll quickly destroy morale and, subsequently, quality.

    • Mark Leel

      Ferrari have were meticulous in their preparation of the car when Ross Brawn was in charge of the team.

  • B52Rocklobster

    As NC has pointed out many times, Mercedes has a “baked in” advantage with their PU that they have been enjoying for the last 3.5 years. For any constructor (including Ferrari) to catch up, they have to push the envelope and take risks.

    My take is that Ferrari’s recent failures are a result of taking these risks and pushing very hard to catch up. Looking at qualifying results throughout the season, it’s clear that Mercedes has more power (HAM has consistently finished ahead of VET, and BOT has consistently finished ahead of RAI in qualifying). With that advantage, Mercedes only has to push their PU just enough to beat Ferrari (since Renault and Honda are not threats). This should bring with it inherent long term reliability which Ferrari will not have as they have had to push their PU much harder.

    Renault has seen the same problems and my guess is the same effect is at play here. Look how many failures Verstappen has seen as well as the Torro Rosso’s.

    • MIE

      Ferrari have been building formula one engines for sixty seven years, far longer than anyone else. As a result of this they get far more prize money than any other team on the grid, regardless of where they finish in the championship standings. They started work on this new generation of power unit at the same time as Mercedes and Renault, they were the driving force in the change in regulations from in line four cylinder to V6. If any team has a ‘baked in’ advantage it is Ferrari, no one else can go back in time and enter the championship in 1950. Mercedes do not have a baked in advantage, they have just done a better job than the others.

      • Andrea_Rae

        If I needed anything built and I had to choose between a German crew or an Italian crew I’d choose the German outfit every single time.

      • Andrea_Rae

        If I needed anything built and I had to choose between a German crew or
        an Italian crew I’d choose the German engineers every single time.

      • Andrea_Rae

        If I needed anything built and I had to choose between a German crew or
        an Italian crew I’d choose the German engineers every single time.

      • B52Rocklobster

        What you said about legacy price money etc would matter if this was a money issue, or a time issue.

        You’re right however that Mercedes did a better job. I said as much in my post. The fact that they did a better job up to the start of the 2014 season, combined with the restrictive engine token system in 2014 and 2015, caused the baked in advantage I’m talking about.

        • MIE

          The token system no longer exists. Any manufacturer can completely redesign their power unit as often as they wish (Honda have done so this year). It is just down to money. Ferrari have a baked in advantage of more money.

          While the token system existed, Mercedes had an advantage for the season, as changes to the power unit were banned in year. However, almost all of the power unit could be changed for the following year, if a manufacturer had the money to try different concepts and find which worked best. This got easier when the rules were changed to allow in season use of tokens. However those that campaigned for a relaxation in the power unit development rules seemed to forget that these changes would also allow Mercedes to develop faster.

          it would be interesting to compare the power output and economy of the first generation of these power units with the current ones, to see which has improved most.