Ferrari is rolling in cash at the moment. A month ago the celebrated Italian super-car company announced its first-quarter results for 2014, revealing a profit of £46 million on sales of £506 million, despite a drop in the number of cars that had been sold. Ferrari also said that it now has a cash pile of £1.2 billion.
It is hard to argue that the company is not a roaring success and it is so confident for the future that it has decided to cap its global production figures in order to maintain the exclusivity of the brand and, no doubt, to push up the prices of the cars.
The only real problem that Ferrari faces at the moment is its performance in Formula 1, which is none-too impressive when one considers the budgets available. Formula 1 acts as Ferrari’s primary means of advertising, despite the fact that F1 has little impact in the United States, Ferrari’s biggest market, accounting for 30 per cent of its sales in 2013.
It is now six years since Scuderia Ferrari last won the Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship and that same year Kimi Raikkonen was the last Ferrari F1 World Champion.
Much was expected of a new relationship with Fernando Alonso, which began in 2010, but after five seasons and 84 races with the team, Alonso has won only 11 times, and five of those victories were in his first year. It is now a full seasons since he last won a race – and it does not look very likely that there will be a win in 2014.
Luca di Montezemolo, the Ferrari chairman, says that the F1 team is working hard for the future and admits that winning a race this year is going to be tough but he also says that the team will keep developing the car. Why? Because the company needs to convince Alonso to stay on in 2015. He came close to leaving last year but did not see a viable alternative, hoping that the new rules would give Ferrari an advantage, but that did not happen and the Spaniard must now make a tough decision.
He’s coming up to his 33rd birthday and that means that he is probably doing the last deal of his F1 career. He cannot go to Red Bull nor to Mercedes; both teams are happy with their current drivers, so his only realistic choice is McLaren, which begins a new relationship with Honda next year.
The team wants the best driver possible, Alonso wants the best chance to win and their two ambitions seemed to be aligned… the problem is that their previous relationship in 2007 was disastrous and both are wary of trying again. Having said that, F1 winners are pragmatic people, so don’t write off Alonso at McLaren.
While all of this is bubbling away, there have been more rumours suggesting that Ferrari may be about to embark on a Le Mans sports car programme. Montezemolo hinted at such a project back in December.
The regulations are now such that the F1 engines of today can be modified and used in sports car racing as well. Montezemolo knows that Le Mans is a race that gets a lot of coverage in the United States and that there will be much excitement if Porsche and Ferrari go head-to-head again on the race tracks, for the first time in more than 40 years. The battles between the Ferrari P4s and 512s and the Porsche 917s are now the stuff of legend.
The company runs a number of cars in GTs, with the efforts led by Amato Ferrari’s AF Corse 'factory' team. A full-blown Le Mans prototype programme would probably need to be done in-house and the fear is that such a project might detract from the F1 efforts.
Having said that, Montezemolo wants more success on the race tracks and is aware that his time in charge of Ferrari is probably coming to an end. He is 66 and there have been rumours for some time that he will be soon be replaced as Ferrari chairman by one of the Agnelli Family, probably Andrea, currently in charge of the Juventus football team.
The appointment of Ferrari USA chief executive Marco Mattiacci as head of the F1 programme is one that has left the sport scratching its head. Some say he is a Fiat appointee, others that Montezemolo picked him.
More complicated theories suggest that both of these explanations may be true and that Mattiacci was seen as Montezemolo’s most likely successor as Ferrari CEO and by putting him into the sporting division, Montezemolo may damage Mattiacci’s chances.
It is all speculation at the moment but clearly things are beginning to happen at Ferrari.