Although Ferrari’s sales in Italy fell by 46 per cent in 2012, its overall business appears in rude health.
Overall revenues rose by eight per cent on 2011, to €2.433 billion, with 7,318 cars delivered. Net pro_ ts grew 17.8 per cent to €244 million. Sales in China rose by four per cent, Japan was up 14.4 per cent and the US, Ferrari’s largest market, by 14.6 per cent. Merchandising and licensing continue to be big business around the world, too, with Ferrari reporting retail sales up five per cent and licensing up 22 per cent: it has long been a fact that Ferrari sells far more caps than cars.
The Scuderia, meanwhile, has further bolstered its much-envied commercial portfolio between seasons, drawing Swiss luxury watch brand Hublot into racing activities – a natural progression from the wider deal the company signed with Ferrari in 2011 – and signing extensions to deals with anti-virus computer software manufacturer Kaspersky Lab and energy drinks brand TNT. There is also a new name on the car, with Weichai Power becoming Ferrari’s first Chinese sponsor.
“I think we can legitimately claim with satisfaction to have bucked the current trend in sponsorship, not only as regards Formula One, but also when looking at sport in general,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali in comments published on the Ferrari website in early February. “These are significant achievements, which alongside the vital support of our long-time partners such as Philip Morris and Shell and more recent ones like Santander, strengthen our position going into what will be a very demanding season, from every point of view.”
Every season Ferrari does not win a world championship sees the pressure on the team, from Italy, ratchet up another couple of notches. Domenicali, though, continues to impress, even if championships have eluded the red cars since 2008. Luca di Montezemolo, meanwhile, continues to flirt with a political career in Italy but remains at the helm as president. Speaking immediately after the team’s 2013 car, the F138, was launched at Maranello in early February, his enthusiasm for the team seemed undimmed. “Apart from my family,” he said, “Ferrari is the most important thing in my life and every time I walk into the factory, even after all these years, it puts me in a good mood and I continue to get new stimuli and ideas.”
Di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari since 1991, is a veteran of Formula One politics and also understands the power that Ferrari continues to wield. When the company wants to make a point the sport still finds itself stopping and listening.
Away from the track, Ferrari will spend 2013 constructing a new facility to house its race team, which will be located alongside its existing headquarters in Maranello in an area currently used as a car park. Ground was broken in January on a project planned ‘in accordance with guidelines inspired by the practicality, efficiency and style that characterise the Formula One programme’. The hope is it will not prove a distraction in a year when Ferrari has to deliver.
“The 2013 season will be a complex one from many points of view,” is Domenicali’s verdict. “We face a few changes on the technical front which will have a significant impact on all areas of the company, not just in terms of design, but also when it comes to the investment and infrastructure required to develop the new engine. Within the limits imposed by the regulations, we need to put every effort into reaching our objectives, while making the best use of the timescale in preparing for 2014.
“Our aim is clear, to win, and the priority is still that of giving our drivers a car that will be competitive right from the very start.”
Ferrari cannot afford to race with a car with as many fundamental deficiencies as its 2012 machine this season, so it was promising to hear Felipe Massa’s positive initial verdict on the F138 after February’s first testing run. Whether that will translate into a genuine title challenge remains to be seen, but nothing less than a sustained run at the big prizes will do.
Before Christmas, Domenicali announced structural changes to Ferrari’s senior start structure, primarily to take into account the increased workload of building a car that will meet the new 2014 technical regulations. Simone Resta and Fabio Montecchi were both promoted to deputy chief designer roles, working under chief designer Nikolas Tombazis. Resta is working on the 2013 car, while Montecchi takes the lead on the 2014 project. “It became clear there were too many demands on my time overseeing both the mechanical and aerodynamic aspects,” Tombazis said. “My role has evolved to oversee these activities, while freeing up time for me to spend on specific aerodynamic issues and on adopting a more creative approach. Over the last few years, Formula One has become ever more sophisticated so one person can no longer do every single thing.”
An unhelpful but unavoidable problem in 2013 will be that the team will have to conduct its aerodynamic development work remotely, utilising Toyota’s wind tunnel in Germany while its own facility in Maranello Domenicali made significant structural changes to Ferrari’s design team ahead of the launch of the F138, which does away with the ‘stepped’ nose that was so prominent on the 2012 model is upgraded after being taken out of service last year. “The ideal solution would be to have the wind tunnel right here,” conceded Tombazis, speaking from Maranello. “I cannot say that having a wind tunnel in Cologne is the perfect solution but weighing up the medium and long-term advantages of having an upgrade on our wind tunnel or carrying on as it was, we concluded that our current strategy was the best. We have taken steps to ensure communications and logistics are as effective as possible in 2013. But still, wherever the wind tunnel, the most important thing is to have good ideas and aerodynamic development and a good facility.”
If Fernando Alonso is to win the team the world championship it and he both crave, only a good base car and a programme of season-long development will do. For Alonso himself, it may be difficult to replicate 2012 given the consistency and excellence he displayed throughout last season. The Spaniard took the intriguing decision to skip the first test of the year at Jerez to give himself more physical preparation time for what will be another gruelling season, with Massa and new Ferrari reserve Pedro de la Rosa – hired predominantly for his experience and simulator abilities – handling the initial driving duties. If Ferrari give him the car, however, Alonso will contend in 2013. The team has huge confidence in him.
Massa, meanwhile, appears rejuvenated by the faith show in him in 2012. A good start to the year will be vital, especially given he is only contracted until the end of the season. The Brazilian’s stay at the team beyond that point depends entirely on his performances in 2013. A return to the top of the podium, for the first time since 2008, would certainly help his case. It would also be amongst the most popular results of the year