Ferrari are rarely away from the Formula 1 headlines, but this past week as been a busy one even by their high standards. After their first season without a win since 1993 and arguably, their worst campaign since the ill-fated double floor of the F92A, few would doubt that change has become a necessity. However, no-one expected change to be quite so rapid and in a whirlwind week, Gutierrez and Vergne have been confirmed as new recruits, with Mercedes’ Jock Clear heavily linked with a move, while Pat Fry, Nikolas Tombazis and Pedro De La Rosa, are all confirmed departures. Maranello now looks markedly different in comparison to just a week ago.
Despite failing to finish in his first Formula E outing, Jean-Eric Vergne made quite an impression on his début weekend, taking pole position for Andretti Autosport. Regardless of his Formula E prospects, I imagine that JEV’s ever-growing army of fans will be ecstatic to hear that he will be returning to F1 – albeit, not in the capacity in which they first hoped. However, a job at Ferrari is illustrious and that is exactly what Vergne has obtained.
It was only Monday night, that the team announced that Esteban Gutierrez would fill the role of the team’s third driver for 2015
, after being ejected from his Sauber seat. Following today’s news, Ferrari have signed two new drivers in the space of six days – and two prime candidates at that. Both Vergne and Gutierrez are fine additions to what is a growing roster of Scuderia drivers, with race seat occupiers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen clutching five world titles between them, already accompanied by test drivers Marc Gene and Davide Rigon. Undoubtedly, the team have an abundance of driving expertise among their ranks.
Adding Vergne to a line-up already bursting at the seams may seem unnecessary at first, but it is a canny move from F1’s longest serving outfit. Vergne is an experienced driver, who has first hand knowledge of the characteristics and traits of a modern F1 car – an attribute that can only be attained from having recently possessed a race seat. His predecessor, Pedro De La Rosa may have a wealth of experience under his belt, with the ability to draw upon knowledge of racing in several eras of the sport across his 106 race starts, but 2012 was his last season as a race driver – he faces the challenge of being a Ferrari development driver without a campaign-enriched understanding of the new technology. Anyone who frequently reads this blog will be well aware of my opinions in regards to JEV – a magnificent appointment to the team, who will surely make significant contributions to the programme at Maranello.
Elsewhere in the team, it has been a seismic week of reshuffling. James Allison’s role has become far more identifiable – he is now Technical Director, following the departures of Head of Engineering, Pat Fry and Chief Designer Nikolas Tombazis. It appears as though these are two high profile names who have been held accountable for this season’s shortcomings, to add to the already surprising list featuring Stefano Domenicalli, Luca Marmorini and Luca De Montezemolo no less. Even the role of team Press Officer will see a new name on the door in 2015, Renato Bisignani will stand down and be replaced by Alberto Antonini.
In terms of radical change, this eclipses even the Mercedes-overhaul between 2012 and 2013. Ferrari seem to be attracting talented individuals, (as you would expect from such an attractive luxury brand,) and are arguably looking stronger now than they did throughout 2014. This is however, only a first impression as it remains to be seen whether these new personnel can work co-operatively and efficiently – after all, Ferrari’s fundamental problem this season was miscommunication between the engine and chassis departments.