Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2011

Ferrari admit failure to innovate holding them back

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2011
Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Shanghai, 2011

Ferrari chief designer Nikolas Tombazis says the team need to “rediscover the spirit of innovation which maybe we have lost a bit over the past two years”.

In an interview on the team’s website Tombazis admits the team’s recent designs have lacked innovation: “Unfortunately, we cannot claim this accusation is entirely without foundation.

“At the moment, we don?t have a winning car and, on those of our competitors we can see innovative solutions introduced in a more aggressive fashion than we have done.

“Maybe we were a bit too passive in our approach: we did not push hard enough in some areas of development and unfortunately, the results can be seen on track.

“Now we are reacting and we want to rediscover the spirit of innovation which maybe we have lost a bit over the past two years.

“Despite that, I am convinced that Ferrari will be competitive again. We have had a disappointing start to the season.

“In order to recover from it, I think it is important to understand what mistakes we made and we have analysed this with much honesty and open mindedness. I am therefore convinced that we can get back to winning again.”

The three-week break since the last race has given the team time to evaluate new updates to the car including new front and rear wings and new brake ducts.

Test driver Jules Bianchi completed a straight-line aerodynamic test at Vairano, and Felipe Massa drove the car in a filming day recently.

Tombazis said: “The problem is linked mainly to the aerodynamics and can be divided into two parts.

“The first revolves around a lack of correlation between data from the wind tunnel and that seen at the track: we are reacting to correct this problem.

“Furthermore, we must admit that, even without this problem, we would not have been in a position to fight for the wins in the first three races. We have tried to see if our approach was too conservative and we realised that, for various reasons, we were neither reactive nor aggressive enough in the development stages.

“We have made some adjustments to our working practices to try and focus much more on car performance: we have changed the working practice in the wind tunnel and in terms of the development of the aerodynamic design side. Based on this, I expect that the results of these changes should be seen in the upcoming races.”

Analysis of Ferrari’s troubled start to 2011 here: Can Ferrari turn their season around?

2011 F1 season

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84 comments on “Ferrari admit failure to innovate holding them back”

  1. JPedroCQF1 (@joao-pedro-cq)
    3rd May 2011, 21:36

    That wasn’t a hard thing to see. Just see the pics from this year’s car in presentation and compare them with the pics from Abu Dhabi 2010. The car looks almost the same! At least they reckoned it…. but it was too late.

  2. “rediscover the spirit of innovation which maybe we have lost a bit over the past two years”

    There’s no maybe involved in that.

    1. Douglas62500
      3rd May 2011, 23:15

      And that before season started they were so confident that they could starting wiping out the Red Bulls…… oh dear…..

    2. Yeah, it was fine to be conservative and winning races, but it was clear to everyone that Ferrari did not get much inspiring ideas into their desing lately.

      Good for them finally admitting it. I hope this will not mean Tombazis being fired for his lack of innovative desing now :-o

    3. Red Bull can allow themselves to be conservative, with the advantage they have. Ferrari can’t.

    4. Well, it actually started when Rory Byrne decided to step aside and reduce his role to that of a consultant. I’m sure he trained Aldo and Nik to be very competent designers, but you cannot train someone to be creative.

  3. Ferrari are really disappointing, all the resources you need, one of the best drivers if not the best driver on the grid and they can’t produce a competitive car. We will see after the next 3 races how determined the development team is.

    1. one of the best drivers indeed.
      and if alonso could get is act together they could pick up a few points here and there…

  4. It comes down to the culture of the team.

    There are already rumours that Tombazis might get the sack if Ferrari continue to have a bad year, and if employees are in fear of making mistakes, there’s unlikely to be much innovation.

    1. Maybe he would like a job at a team based in Grove… ;-)

    2. But if you don’t get the results, you still get sacked. So it’s better to innovate and risk falling back, rather than not innovate and fall backwards anyway as everyone else moves forward.

  5. So they admit to the Massa filming day being a blatant test of the aero parts?

    1. That bit wasn’t a quote. I was thinking the same but thought to myself he wouldn’t be silly enough to admit that!

    2. I doubt you can do much with filming days.

      1. Some straight line aero tests. That’s about it. Ferrari need every bit of data they can get their hands on at the moment

        1. Geordie Porker
          5th May 2011, 10:02

          There was an agreement last year that teams couldn’t test aero parts “which hadn’t already been raced” during filming days, only during the dedicated straight line aero tests (which are limited by regs).

          That doesn’t mean they didn’t, of course…also, not sure if that went into the regs or if it was just a concorde agreement type thing.

  6. They shouldn’t be so knee-jerk. At the end of testing we were saying how their conservatism had paid off and McLaren’s innovation was getting them nowhere. Now it’s the opposite. Perhaps Tombazis is just playing the game, admitting to a “mistake” when simply others just did an even better job.

    1. Totally. six weeks ago it was McLaren in the dunce cap, having gone down a silly and disasterous design path.

      Nonetheless, it’s hard to deny that Ferrari have nothing on their car that is fresh or goes down a new path that might shortcut Newey.

      McLaren saw that they will never get on terms with Newey unless they tried something wacky that Newey didn’t bother to explore or fell off his desk. RBR has a refined dominant package and Newey will not succumb to a competitor whittling down an inferior car into a more perfectly-tuned inferior car. If your capablilities are inferior and your opponent shows no fatigue, you can only prosper by surprise or audacity.

      1. That last phrase is worthy of Sun Tzu! :)

      2. You will be eating your words when Ferrari catch up like they did last year.

        1. He may well indeed be eating them at some point, but with words so juicy, I am sure they will taste great! ;)

    2. That’s because McLaren’s innovation was wrong, but since they did it before the season they had time to get back and win. Ferrari can’t change too much the car because if it doesn’t work they won’t have time to change it.

      1. McLarens innovation wasnt wrong, per se, but rather one of their innovative concepts (the octopus exhaust) was. Other than that stillborn exhaust system it appears that their innovations in packaging, cooling, and aerodynamics have been pretty sound.

        Thats probably what you meant though :)

  7. The big teams really do suffer from the the testing restrictions. Lots of testing, trying many solutions is the only means to fight a genius like Adrian Newey when you lack real talent in your own engineering department.

    1. And if there was testing Red Bull would be testing every new Newey gizmo and probably be even further ahead.

      1. My thoughts exactly.

  8. I just loved this quote about the lack of innovations:

    “I think that’s justified criticism, unfortunately. Our structure had gradually become more complicated, and many people who need to keep their minds free in order to work on performance were distracted by less important things.

    After this cold shower we’ve stepped up a gear to be focused 1,000% on the things that matter. We already have some very interesting projects.”

    Tombazis says that one of those projects includes pushing on with future plans to run a RED BULL RACING-STYLE FLEXIBLE FRONT WING as soon as it can.

    1. I think they need to innovative with their excuses.

    2. Beck, you post would have made sense if you had noticed when the quote ended.

      “Tombazis says that one of those projects includes pushing on with future plans to run a RED BULL RACING-STYLE FLEXIBLE FRONT WING as soon as it can.” Was not said by Ferrari, that was written by F1 Fanatic.

      You cant pin something on them if they didn’t write or say it.

      1. Was not said by Ferrari, that was written by F1 Fanatic.

        No it wasn’t – check the article, it’s not in there. And if you check Becken’s comment you’ll see his quote ends before there.

  9. I don’t think Montezemolo helps them in these situations much. He always makes his feelings abundantly clear and I think that makes for a very dramatic approach to things.

    1. That’s an excellent point. I’d imagine he would be overbearing and hyper-critical, which is not what the red cars need.

      1. What they dont need is engineers taking it easy.

        While Mclaren make it sound as if they are all the best friends in the world back at the factory, I can assure you that it is all just PR. They are a business which is paying huge suns of money is wages, and they also fire people who dont deliver.

        1. Rightfully so!

  10. Innovation. definetely they lack of innovation but innovation is not always pay-off. but innovativ approach makes sport much intersting.

  11. Boomerang
    4th May 2011, 6:56

    I just love to see Scuderia Ferrari dwindling to the mediocre performance characteristic for the 80’s. However, it’s to early to say.
    Hopefully FIA won’t interfere with new set of rules to help them achieve competetiveness next season… As they did many times :-(

    1. Oh so you say that the FIA helped ferrari to they’d be competitive in the past? Are you serious mate? All this changing of regulations in the past 7 or 8 years was all because ferrari and Schumacher won everything between 2000 and 2005. What the hell are you talking about? You’re just happy that ferrari are not competitive like many anti-ferrari fans. I still have to see a team that won so much in F1 as Ferrari did, then you’ll see how people start hating them like they do with ferrari.

  12. I feel a huge reason for Ferrari’s failure this year has been the constant pressure from Luca, Italian politicians and the tifosi in general. Ferrari’s every performance is severely scrutinized, and they are expected to constantly win.

    So, instead of taking some risks and adopting an innovative approach, they decide to play it safe. They fine tuned their last year’s challenger, and left enough room on their car for further ‘copycat’ innovations.. since that is the safer way out. Last year gave them a false sense of belief, and they thought that playing the role of copycat can actually win them the title. This year they are probably one of the least innovative teams on the grid. Even Toro Rosso, Williams and Renault have more original thought put on to their car than Ferrari.

    I know its too early in the season to make any predictions.. but I just cannot see them catching up to the Red Bulls anytime this season.

    1. Oh yes, they will. But once you were at the top, the fanatic Italian tifosi expect the same from you onwards. Ferrari will catch up Red Bull later this season, just like 2010, but I’m afraid it might be late.

    2. Agree with your analyses a lot here Todfod.

    3. The false sense was even more of a folly if you micro-analyse the races they won:

      – Germany: a good showing when they had the same toys as Red Bull
      – Italy: not a Red Bull track
      – Singapore: point-and-squirt i.e. not a classic Red Bull track (the MP4-24 won here for heaven’s sake). A good Saturday and a great drive on Sunday won Alonso the race but it was close.
      – Korea: both Red Bulls retired and Rosberg (set up for the wet, who knows what he might have done) was knocked out. Wet race which downplayed Red Bull’s aero superiority.

      On top of that, in Hungary, Belgium, Japan and Brazil Red Bull easily had them beat.

      I can see Ferrari winning races here and there, but a championship fight is going to need extraordinary circumstances. Then again this is F1…

      1. And add to that: in Turkey (2010) they were barely in the points.

  13. Boomerang
    4th May 2011, 8:22

    Chris, I’m sorry if you’re offended by my comment but you should be a little bit better acquiented to the f1 history.
    1. Turbos were banned because of Ferrari’s political influence and their inability to provide competetive engine, not because these engines were dangerous as mr. Ecclestone once said. He argued that the temperature of turbo engine components was so high that it was major cause of Elio deAngelis’ death. Very qestionable indeed.
    If you analyze exhaust piping from Ferrari f639 you’ll see that it goes almost trough the fuel tank. Berger’s accident in Imola 1989 just proves Ecclestone’s argument without foundation. But, Ferrari was competetive again until…
    2. Williams came out with active suspension. In 1993 during Canadian GP FIA declared all cars illegal except Lola-Larousse. It was a bombshell to the F1 world. Ferrari couldn’t get their active suspension working and what happens… If you can find the article in Autosport covering the issue you can easily isolate only one technical director lamenting they can’t switch active car to passive one. Guess who that was…
    3. FIA banned active suspension for the season 1994 and IMOLA happened. There is so much circumstencial evidence that influence from one team lead to decision making that resulted with losing human lives.
    Than it follows story of traction control, team orders and things like that… The story never ends.
    People managing Ferrari team love F1 – or they love being successful in F1 – so much that their influence is most of the time not in line with the spirit of this fine sport.
    If you ask me mate: THEY ARE MALIGNOUS TISSUE OF F1 Regretably tumors prevail most of the time…

    1. I don’t know about any of the others, but Enzo Ferrari did get the FIA to mandate a heavier car because the light British teams were beating the Ferraris with their powerful but heavy engines.

    2. you can always look at the facts the way you want.
      for sure ferrari plays an influencial role in F1 politics, because it is in the nature of italian people.
      but your explanations of why some technologies were banned are simply anti-ferrari. in general, FIA acts to slow down F1 development to maintain safety and show. they banned ground effect cars in almost every category because the cars were to unpredictable, they banned turbos because the power was becoming crazy, they banned active suspension because it made cars to complicate and fast in corners (and because williams was too dominant). actually few race car series uses active suspension today.
      they banned double diffusers.
      they banned private test, simplified electronics and aero, and changed race rules and pit stops to stop ferrari/schumacher dominance as well.

      1. Reducing turbo – boost pressure in 1988 reduced the power of engines to figure of 700bhp. So, the power wasn’t “crazy”. McLaren-Honda needed only 140 litres of fuel to win American GP, that was crazy!!! Active suspension was complicated to some not everyone. Contemporary cars push more G’s in corners compared to active cars so you should come up with better explanations.

        1. modern F1 (or even 80’s) are faster than ground effect F1 of the 70’s, faster than the v10/v12 of the 90’s, faster than the turbine brabham or the 6 wheels tyrell. grooved tyres slowed down the F1 for a year, before they got faster again.
          modern rally cars are faster than the GrB ones.
          modern le Mans cars are faster than the 917 around corners etc, etc…the natural evolution of technologies means that cars are always going faster and faster. the role of the FIA is to make sure it doesn’t go out of control. GrB, 917, ground effect, active suspension, were to extreme for theit time.
          just look at the last 10 years : all the recent rules in the beginning of 2000’s have been taken to stop the ferrari/schumacher supremacy and any supremacy in general : grooved tyres, no pit stop, no private test, smaller engines.

          to come back to the critic of ferrari being politically influencial, maybe it is the price to pay to last in the business. good ideas aren’t enough, look at brabham, cooper, lotus, tyrrell, ligier, matra, now williams…

          1. Grooved tyres and Ferrari supremacy? Grooved tyres have been introduced in the season of 1998. McLaren snatched both titles. What are you talkin’ about mate?

          2. i like how you take just one of my example (that was wrong, i admit) to ignore all the rest and point out that it was mclaren that won anyway. and I said “ferrari/schumacher supremacy and any supremacy in general”
            i am saying, FIA as always introduced new restrictions to slow cars down or reshuffle cards. grooved tyres for example. and as far as i know, there was a lot of fuss in the year 2000 about ferrari dominating and making F1 boring. that lead to some changements in the sport.
            is it clearer? sorry I am not english…

    3. Why should one ask you about what you think. You already made your statement.
      This anti Ferrari feeling and standing is getting really ridiculous. I know people who root for every possibly winning team, just not to Ferrari in winning position. And every time Ferrari wins there is always an execuse, and among those execuses 50% are that FIA helped them.
      But you are really liek a Boomerang. Is the first time I hear that Ferrari helped in killing and death of Imola 1994.

      1. Ferrari helped in killing

        I think you need to read his comment again because that’s not what he wrote.

        1. There is so much circumstencial evidence that influence from one team lead to decision making that resulted with losing human lives.

          Not exactly Ferrari, but one team.
          Anyway, you can read among the lines, don’t you?

  14. What was the last Ferrari ‘innovation’? It was the nose cone hole featured on the F2008 was it not? And even then it wasn’t a feature picked up by the rest of the grid, by virtue of it not being enough of a gain…

    1. How about last years front wheel covers, or this years tight non-poll rod suspension?

      1. And how do they rank against the blown diffuser, F-Duct and double diffuser?

        Ferrari’s strength has always been innovation on the mechanical side, part of the reason the F2002 was so great. But mechanical parts ceased being that influential a long whole ago.

        1. The whole car was perfect, you can’t isolate mechanical side. Everything must work in unison. Having grooved tyres in mind, F2002 was hardly strong only on mechanical side…

          1. I always hesitate to cite Wikipedia, but read up:


            Loads and loads of mechanical upgrades. And what relevance is grooved tyres? They didn’t invent them for the F2002 and Ferrari weren’t the only ones who used them.

        2. Ferrari’s strength has always been innovation on the mechanical side

          Agreed. I think the last and best Ferrari innovation in F1 was the illegal movable floor in 2007.

  15. The problem isn’t that Ferrari has been conservative this year, it’s that they have been conservative ever since the rules changed in 2009. No top team has suffered the way they have since then. In 2008 they hit the aerodynamic apex of the old rules and since then they have been doing nothing but playing catch up.

  16. The bottom line…..Ferrari kept looking in the enchanted mirror which told them they were the best in F1 Land. Then reality finally came pounding on the door.

  17. I applaud Ferrari for being so humble and admitting their mistakes. Yes, often they are the most arrogant unlikeable team on the grid but here they are at least saying they are not the bees’ knees at the moment.

  18. Someone pointed out that the pressure to win was “still is and will be” ferrari´s worst enemy, i couldn´t agree more. If they doesn´t show in Turkey with a “new” ferrari and a clean mind set they´re donne for this year because Vettel seems even more stronger than last year and Mclaren too.
    Actually i´m still amazed with the way Mclaren turned around after their “horrible” pre-season, that´s what ferrari needs to do and i´m not expecting that in the near future from them.
    The good news is that with “artificial stuff or not” , F1 has been a great this year but i guess we have to thanks to another italian company in this case Pirelli.

  19. I’ve always thought that F1 drivers were a little bit like Poker players in that they’re risk management experts behind a wheel. Hamilton say would be a high risk character and looks like a genius when it comes off. Wheras Button will err on the side of caution and will prosper when disaster strikes the rest of the field. I’m generalizing here, both drivers I’m sure have more scope to their approach than that. But generally a driver will have to adopt one approach or another.
    But this also applies to the teams where Ferarri are playing a very tight, conservative game; testing the car to within an inch of its life so that its completely bulletproof and then hoping that the high risk approach of other teams while apparently fantastic at the begining will faulter. And the percentage Gods reel them back into the clutches of the prancing horses.
    I think they’ll need to reconsider their approach since it seems that Redbull and McLaren are very skilled high risk players, the most dangerous kind.

  20. As far as aero goes Ferrari have never been innovative have they? Just look how similar all the cars from the F2002 to the 248F1 were. During that time we’d seen the McLaren “needle nose”(MP4 18/19A), Williams “Walrus nose”(FW26), Renault wide-angle V engine. The only major Ferrari innovation that other teams copied were double barge boards and wheel covers.

    Also, I think the team is really missing Jean Todt’s leadership. Stefano Domenicali just doesn’t have a strong enough personality to protect the team from all the pressure and outside politics.

    1. I think double barge board solution was inspired by Newey’s use of barge boards in front of the splitter.
      Their invention was high exhaust positioning, if I remember correctly…

  21. The problem is Rory in retirement ;-)

    1. +1. Ferrari is missing Jean badly.Just see the people who left Ferrari Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, MSC… I think Luca’s all Italian team is returning to 1980’s form.

      1. It’s actually amusing to see how many non-Italians Ferrari have in high positions: Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Rob Smedley, Pat Fry, Chris Dyer last year, Nikolas Tombazis. In the past they had Jean Todt, Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Eddie Irvine, Rory Byrne, Ross Brawn.

        1. Don’t forget Nigel Stepney!

  22. How can they keep on developing the cars over and over – surely the engineers know what they need to make the car as fast as possible – but each season they redesign and make them faster again – I’m confused.

    1. If you change the rules (add KERS, DRS, different tyres etc) then you have to change everything else. And particularly because there is now no in season testing, you have to innovate as the season runs along.

      There are many different philosophies on how to make an F1 car go faster. There isn’t just one magic solution. You may wish to combine elements from all of them or you may find something new or even go back to something old.

  23. They possibly got the design concept wrong but they also got testing wrong as well.
    Banging in 100+ laps every test session, with the same car, not changing parts (or very minimal) proves absolutely nothing, it didn’t work in 2010 (it was only after the pre-session testing was in the distant pass and no longer so relevant they found performance) The same strategy didn’t work this year either.
    The other extreme is Mclaren who you’d have to say got very luck with the delay to the start of the season.

    1. I agree mate 100%. In my opinion McLaren had most productive testing with lowest millage. It’s far better to measure everything in short runs and use data in development process. They had problems that was obvious. But, apparently, they rebounded very quickly proving their approach right.

      1. McLaren were very fortunate in that their untried developments worked at the first race. They could so easily have not worked.

        It’s definitely not the right approach, unless you consider yourselves to be naturally lucky.

        Mercedes waited until the final test to introduce its main update, but on further reflection it now wishes that it had introduced it earlier so that it could have ‘tuned’ it into the car better.

        Make no mistake – McLaren took a mighty big gamble!

        Ferrari did the right thing by getting its car running reliably. What they didn’t know, and neither did anyone else, was that it wasn’t as fast as it was expected to be.
        It’s difficult to know how fast your car really is in testing, simply because there are so many variables.

        1. So maybe the lesson is: if you look impressively fast in the tests, do check the circumstances of when and how the competition was running; maybe they have more in the bag than they are showing. Especially if one of them ended the previous season being clearly faster than you and aren’t showing it in testing; and don’t be fooled by troubles for others, they might turn them around to beat you before the end of the first race.

        2. There is no such thing as luck in engineering a Formula 1 car. You might get unexpected secondary characteristics that weren’t planned (the RB5’s superiority in the wet was a famous one), but you don’t bolt stuff on and get lucky.

          McLaren running all those funny gizmos paid off in the end, not a gamble they were forced into.

          1. There is no such thing as luck in engineering a Formula 1 car.

            It’s lucky they had Red Bulls exhaust system to copy from, because it’s as sure as hell the one McLaren were running didn’t work. ;)

          2. I’m sure I read somewhere they had a similar solution they had independently considered, obviously Red Bull already having it confirmed their suspicions. Plus if Red Bull hadn’t had it they wouldn’t be as fast, would they ;)

  24. Ferrari did the right thing by getting its car running reliably.

    Not really, they would of been much better off with only 70 – 80 laps and a box of different bits to try, i.e plan A, plan B, plan C etc. It was clear early on they were reliable, so nothing gain by running two GP distances per day.

    1. Ferrari did bring different parts to each test. They weren’t just running around aimlessly for thousands of kilometres.

  25. If Ferrari can fight back in the next three races then they have a chance other then that I doubt that Ferrari will do anything special this year.

  26. Nice to see Ferrari being modest. Refreshing.

  27. Nice to see Ferrari being modest. Refreshing.

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