Motor Racing: Ferrari's dream built on new red machine: Italy's Formula One hopes centre on Barnard's fine creation. Derick Allsop reports from Maranello
Tuesday 22 February 1994
A distant gurgle suddenly became a full-throated scream as the 412T1 appeared beneath them, on the Fiorano test track. All in red, her features smooth and beautiful, she was received with rapturous approval.
This is, of course, generally the way Ferrari's offspring are welcomed into the world and too often in recent years, they have failed to live up to expectations. Fifty races and more than three years have passed since a Ferrari won a grand prix, inflicting heartache and deep embarrassment on Formula One's most famous household. Worst still, they have been displaced at the top of the all- time winners' list by McLaren.
John Barnard, the English designer, is back in the clan, however, and he has created the 412T1. That fact alone has bolstered the aspirations here at the home of Ferrari. The tifosi, those faithful followers who have had to endure the dominance of McLaren and Williams, are daring to believe the ordeal may be coming to an end.
Jean Alesi is a Ferrari driver and fan, and yearns for success in both capacities. The Sicilian-Frenchman said: 'I have been with Ferrari three years now and it has been very hard for me. I understand how the public feel.
'It is a very long time for all of us. I am still waiting for my first win and it's so bad when you cannot get there. I have been second and third, but that is not enough. Not for Ferrari, for the public, or for me. We want to win.
'Now we are very excited because we have a car we believe can take us back to success. I am sure it is the best car I have had here and I know how everyone here is working to make it a winning car. I think it will be.'
Alesi, an incurable enthusiast, deserves nothing less than a competitive car after wrestling inferior machinery around the Formula One circuits of the world.
The new baby now delivered, Barnard has returned to his lair in Surrey to conceive its 1995 sibling. Responsibility for the championship campaign rests with a Frenchman, Jean Todt, and his Maranello- based lieutenants.
For all Ferrari's funds, they have patently lacked the organisation and togetherness of McLaren and Williams. The old reliance on Italian flair and improvisation will no longer do. Todt now presides over a compartmentalised, Japanese-style operation. A significant recruit is the former Honda man, Osanu Goto.
All Italy demands they get it right this time and Todt, who guided Peugeot to the pinnacle of sportscar racing, has been left in no doubt by Ferrari's president, Luca di Montezemolo, that the buck stops with him.
Di Montezemolo said: 'I was not optimistic at the start of 1993 because it was necessary to rebuild. Now I am more optimistic for 1994. We have the organisation with one man, Jean Todt, in charge, and the atmosphere is good.
'Barnard is in charge of future technical development and we want him to keep out of the day-to-day development. That is why Todt has built a strong department here. It is a good team and I am happy with our two drivers. The combination is good.
'Jean Alesi improved a lot last year and Gerhard Berger is an experienced driver many other teams would be happy to have. I say that because I received a lot of criticism for bringing him back to Ferrari. People see it differently now.
'In 1994 I want for many people a Ferrari winner. We want to win a race and continue upwards, and look to 1995 as our championship season. I hope I am too pessimistic and that in 1994 we have more than one win.
'As president I feel I have done as much as I can. Now it is up to him (Todt) and his organisation to give something back. This year is going to be an extremely important one for us.
'Where we were last year was not Ferrari. Sport is sport but we will work day and night to put us back where we belong, at the top.'
Todt sat by Montezemolo's side throughout this declaration, expressionless as the burden was piled on his tiny frame. If he sensed a cunning cop-out by the silky- smooth aristocrat, he was not saying.
In his first year here, Todt has also been reminded aplenty of the passion and mystique associated with Ferrari. He is not immune to emotive oratory and acknowledges that he inherits the stewardship of a unique marque.
He said: 'There is a great pride in belonging to a team that, more than any other, has written history. It is up to us to get back to a winning streak with humility.'
However, Todt is a pragmatist and, if he is to bring Ferrari to the front line again, he will need Napoleonic qualities of leadership. Away from the fanfares and jamboree of public presentations, he prefers to confront reality. He talks of 'hard work' and the 'oneness of determination'.
Surely, though, he has a good gut feeling about the new car, with its radical aerodynamics and gearbox, that it will bring improved results for Ferrari? 'No,' he says coolly, 'no feeling of that sort at all.'
He taps his watch. 'This is the only thing that matters. This is the only way we can tell how quick it is. We'll see.'
The coming weeks of testing and, more importantly, the first race of the season, in Brazil, on 27 March, will provide the indications Todt seeks. This may not be quite what Ferrari are used to hearing or, indeed, wish to hear, but it is probably what they need to hear.
Di Montezemolo had looked upon Niki Lauda, one of his champion drivers and another man unmoved by sentimentality, as his ideal candidate for the job of team director. Lauda, embroiled in his airline business, felt unable to give the necessary commitment and, instead, will continue in a consultative capacity.
On the face of it, though, Todt meets the requirements. He also has his restructured racing department and, in Alesi and Berger, one of the strongest driving pairings in Formula One. Alesi suggests it is the strongest.
Both drivers expect Ayrton Senna, now in a Williams-Renault, to set the pace and the standards, but the chase is on.
Berger said: 'We still have some way to go to win races, but that has to be our aim and we have to believe we can do so. There is a lot of new stuff on the car, and a lot of work is going into engine development.
'It's a nice-looking car and you can see the signs of Barnard in the details of the work. It is important that he has had time to go into the details. Already in testing it is very impressive. Gear selection is incredibly fast.
'This is a new start. It is easy to dream, but we have the potential to win races. It is up to us, all of us in the team, to make the most of that potential.' If, as Todt recognises, Ferrari can separate the dream from reality, they may at last be on the road to recovery. Those parked on the road to Modena have fantasised long enough.
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