20 Oct 2014

Ferrari Racing Blues

There are rumours around that Ferrari are considering withdrawing from Formula 1 at the end of 2015 and going endurance sports car racing to compete with Audi,Porsche and Toyota at the Le Mans 24 hours and in the World Endurance Championship.
I reckon that this is just very wishful thinking on the part of sports car enthusiasts.It would be great but I cannot see it happening.
It is true that Ferrari's F1 performance has been very poor for a number of years and that the F1 team must be costing a fortune and Ferrari's boss,Luca Di Montezemolo has been fired ("resigned"-in executive speak) due to a disagreement with Sergio Marchionne,the hard man boss of the Ferrari parent company Fiat-Chrysler,over the performance of the F1 team and the future direction of the Ferrari brand.
But the fact is that Ferrari and F1 are almost joined at the hip.They have just announced that Vettel is joining the team for 2015 for a massive fee.They would have hardly have made this move if in the workshop down the corridor from the F1 team they were building an LMP1 sportscar.And there is no way that they could afford to do both.
In any case Ferrari,even if they are not performing on the track,are an essential element of the F1 circus and if ringmaster Bernie heard even a feint whisper that they were about to quit F1 he would be firing up the executive jet and hot footing it down to Ferrari HQ in Maranello to ensure that there was a rapid "attitude adjustment" by some means and all would be resolved.
Leaving aside Bernie's vested interest Ferrari's customer base,particularly in the Middle East and Asia are into bling and the vulgarity of F1.I Cannot see City bond traders,Chinese dotcom millionaires,Russian oligarchs and minor middle eastern princelings standing around at Le Mans watching the cars grind around for 24 hours.Singapore,Monaco,Abu Dhabi etc are more their scene.

It was all so different back in 1981 when I took the above photo at practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.The Ferrari is a 1.5 litre V6 turbo and the driver is Didier Pironi.The car looks like the sort of racing car that you would love to have in your garage whereas the current Ferrari looks like a piece of space junk.You might able to get the 1981 car running  although parts would be a problem.There is no way you could even get a current F1 running without another garage load of specialist gear.Now you even have to heat the oil before you start the engine.
Look at the decals on the car.They are literally decals and they are modest in size.Nowadays the car is a giant painted billboard.

But look at all the other little details in the photo.There is Lancia advertising trackside.It's a long time since Lancia advertised at a race track and next year Fiat-Chrysler stop manufacturing Lancias.The Ferrari team manager is standing beside the car in a jacket.Nowadays he would be in corporate gear-wired for sound and not on the pit road.And how about the little picnic table by the pit wall with a driver's helmet on the shelf underneath and the jackets hanging over the chair and the early electronic timing gear? Now they have weatheproof crew capsules alongside the pit wall.It is all so sterile and you cannot make the emotional connection.They are no longer racing car teams-they are technologists supporting a device which is called a racing car but which is barely a car.

The photograph was taken on Kodachrome film-oh beautiful Kodachrome - on an Olympus OM2 camera using a 28mm Zuiko lens.Sadly I sold it a long time ago but most of those early Zuiko lenses were just wonderful.So sharp and with such wonderful colour rendering.I even managed to get part of the face of the glam blonde standing next to me into the frame.I did not put her in with Photoshop this morning.She was really there.Thinking about it a glam blonde on the pit counter maybe the only part of F1 which has not changed since 1981.Sadly I am sure that the particular one in my picture will,like me,have declined somewhat since 1981.

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