Manarello must be a heady place to be right now. I cannot imagine that the Monday after Michael Schumacher’s Japanese GP win was terribly productive in Italy. But somewhere there must have been a bespectacled jobsworth accountant tucked away in some dingy office with a large pile of beans spread over his desk. And he, and only he, knows how much Ferrari have spent since Jody Scheckter won the 1979 world drivers’ title. It must be an astronomical figure.
There are lots of theories why Ferrari have underachieved over the years. But the reason seems obvious to me: only four times have the Scuderia had on their payroll the most complete driver of the era: Ascari in 1952 (when Fangio was injured); Fangio in ’56; Lauda in 75-77 and Schumacher ’96-2000. These periods have provided five of Fenrari’s 10 driver titles, as well as four near-misses. You don’t need to be Einstein. Yet Ferrari missed it.
Stirling Moss never signed an F1 contract with them; neither did Jackie Stewart or Ayrton Senna; Gilles Villeneuve did, but they gave him lorries to drive; Alain Prost did, but they fell out after another of Ferrari’s nearmisses. Moss fell out, too, over a promised drive that was whipped away at the last minute early in his career; Fangio wasn’t keen but had nowhere else to go and left after one year; JYS was also wary of the internal politics — and was canny enough to keep a DFV between his shoulder blades.
Sportscar racing is a different story. Everybody drove Ferrari sportscars — if they wanted to win. The amazing Moss excepted, of course. There can be no talk of underachievement in this sphere. Despite the best efforts of Jaguar, Aston Martin, Porsche and Alfa Romeo, the Prancing Horse usually ran roughshod in the late 1950s, early ’60s. And hand in hand with that reign came American acceptance, ‘mass-production’, expansion and legendary status (see pages 22-30). Formula One on the other hand was just a financial drain.
It still is, of course. Except the whole world now watches every move. And even defeat merely serves to burnish Ferrari’s legend. Had Michael Schumacher romped to success back in 1996 it would not have been met with the same approbation his eventual success has — the trials and tribulations of his first four years were gloriously, typically Ferrari. And that’s why we love them, really. The bean-counters will consider the huge sums that find their way into Schuey’s back pocket as money well spent. The romantics among us, though to see Ferrari turn it around, will have a turn a feeling that a regularly successful outfit will be a less attractive proposition than the ‘bumblers’ of yore. But whatever your view, be sure that the indefinable something Ferrari has is something money can’t buy.