Ex-chief engineer sees 'climate of fear' at Ferrari

(Reuters) - Ferrari are suffering from a “climate of fear” with staff reluctant to take risks in case they are fired, according to the Italian Formula One team’s former chief engineer Luca Baldisserri.

Members of the Ferrari F1 team look at a monitor inside the team garage during the qualifying session for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Pool

“Unfortunately, neither (chairman Sergio) Marchionne nor (team principal Maurizio) Arrivabene have racing experience, a culture that has been lost at the top of the team,” he told Italy’s Corriere dello Sport newspaper.

“They are no longer a team but a group of scared people,” he added. “Inside there is a climate of fear, the boys do not take risks, they don’t make decisions for fear of being kicked out in disgrace.”

A Ferrari spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Baldisserri worked closely with seven times world champion Michael Schumacher and Brazilian Rubens Barrichello during a golden era for the team at the start of the century and subsequently oversaw Ferrari’s driver academy.

He left Ferrari last year to manage the career of Canadian former academy driver Lance Stroll, who is tipped to race for Williams next year.

Ferrari have failed to win a race so far this year with Germany’s Sebastian Vettel and Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, after three victories in 2015, and have slipped behind Red Bull in third place overall.


The most successful and oldest team in Formula One, the Maranello team last won a drivers’ world title with Raikkonen in 2007. Their most recent constructors’ championship was in 2008.

“Raikkonen is going better than in 2015, Vettel much worse,” said Baldisserri. “It’s important for Ferrari to get him (Vettel) back and keep him close, at least in the short term... but the problem is not them.”

Marchionne, who is also Fiat Chrysler chief executive, replaced Luca di Montezemolo as Ferrari chairman in 2014. Arrivabene, a former Philip Morris executive, was appointed in November that year.

Technical director James Allison was the latest high-profile departure in July, with Mattia Binotto moving from the engine department to replace him.

Baldisserri said the engine department had performed miracles since 2014 but Binotto was more of a team principal than a technical director.

While Ferrari have misfired, Mercedes have just won their third successive constructors’ title and are sure of a third drivers’ crown in a row as well with only Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton still in contention and four races remaining.

Former Ferrari designer and technical head Aldo Costa has been engineering director at Mercedes since leaving Maranello in 2011.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris