[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] MAURICE HAMILTON: POLITICS AT FERRARI

Formula 1 news story about [F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] MAURICE HAMILTON: POLITICS AT FERRARI

In recent days, motorsport’s media has been taking more of a kicking than usual – in keeping with global fashion thanks to daily comments from The White House, most of which are far less credible than the sources being vilified.

If President Donald Trump is under pressure because of the mid-term elections then, in our world, the loss of one title has turned up an already uncomfortable heat on Ferrari.

Maurizio Arrivabene may not have used his thumbs to beat out early morning diatribes like those emanating from the Trump bedroom, but the stress associated with running what amounts to Italy’s national racing team has surfaced in the form of complaints about the media. Which is understandable, I suppose, when correspondents are suggesting there’s no hurry for Maurizio to make personal travel plans for the 2019 F1 World Championship.

This time last year, motorsport web pages questioned Arrivabene’s future following a failure that did not have as many fumbles as this year’s loss to Mercedes. Sergio Marchionne was quick to come to his team principal’s defence, the Ferrari chairman saying it would be ‘idiotic’ to blame Arrivabene for the slump in Maranello’s 2017 title challenge. 

The relationship between these two key men worked both ways, Arrivabene having been employed as someone who was compliant, in return for receiving full support from his paymasters. Marchionne’s sudden and tragic passing in July ended that particular relationship, forcing Arrivabene to mind his back and start dealing with the sort of artful internal politics from which Ross Brawn received absolute protection thanks to the clever intervention of Jean Todt during their heyday together. 

The success of Ferrari back then (apart from being mind-numbingly predictable and a counterpoint to anyone who says F1 is boring now) has made the rod that Arrivabene’s critics are using to beat out a reminder of no Ferrari title for 10 years. It is the work of a moment to move the narrative on to an alleged power struggle between Arrivabene and Mattia Binotto, the man credited with lifting Ferrari onto a higher technical level this season and who could not be blamed if he failed to be amused by Arrivabene’s public criticism of team tactics during qualifying in Japan.

“Fake News” said Arrivabene a few days ago, “put around to create instability within the team.” The ‘creation’, if he’s honest, actually began in Baku back in April, when Sebastian Vettel was pitted too early, and grew during the season, fed more recently by the development blind alley into which Ferrari rushed en route to Singapore and Japan.

But it’s fake news apparently, a theme taken up last week by Kimi Räikkönen. As you might expect, Kimi doesn’t hold back on the rare occasion he has something to say, the Finn claiming too much ‘nonsense’ and ‘bullshit’ is harming F1.

‘Harming’ is probably too strong a word. We’re having to become accustomed to relentless social media reaction created by people taking mortal offense over events that make up the rough and tumble of daily life. But valid judgments about, say, DRS are hardly threatening F1’s position in the sporting strata; the overcomplicated and ineffective race cars are doing that without any assistance from media keyboards. 

You could be cynical and say Räikkönen is actually causing the damage he speaks of by posting such comments and inviting a torrent of animosity from the media’s many critics. Which is probably what the Kimster intended. Then again, he probably couldn’t give a stuff either way.  

Good luck to him. Let’s follow suit and not take it too seriously.