The value of technical leadership: why Ferrari need a Ross Brawn

May 25, 2011

With Sam Michael and Jon Tomlinson leaving Williams, and the news that Aldo Costa will be standing down from the Technical Director role at Ferrari, it looks like some of the F1 teams are getting into panic mode and believe that a bit of firing is needed. Unfortunately, although such managerial machismo may create the impression of decisiveness from the top, it will only work if these specific individuals are the real source of the problem. Quite often this is not the case, and that means that the problem remains but is now compounded with all the effort and disruption of recruiting or promoting new people and integrating them into their new roles.

When we interviewed Ross Brawn at Ferrari back in 2004 we asked if there was a particular innovation that had created their success, this was his response: “… if we had an innovation here it’s the fact that we combine the engine and the chassis together as one whole, but we apply that principle to all areas of the car with the electronics, the engine, the chassis, the aerodynamics, the structure, it all had to be a whole, there was no point in having one area very strong and the other area weak.” Aldo Costa had replaced Ross in this overarching role focused on ensuring that all the departments worked together to get the best overall result – this role requires not only managerial skill, but also technical knowledge and capability, these ingredients are only found together in a few key individuals, Ross Brawn is one of these and apparently Aldo Costa is not. However Ferrari have now segregated the technical roles into chassis (Pat Fry), engine and electronics (Luca Marmorini) and production (Corrado Lanzone), each reporting into the team principal. This implies that the only person with an overall responsibility and overview is Stefano Domenicali. Stefano is a lovely guy and a great manager, but he doesn’t have the technical insight of a Ross Brawn to knit the whole thing together, that is what Ferrari need now.

One Response to “The value of technical leadership: why Ferrari need a Ross Brawn”

  1. I think the changes at Ferrari are definitely panic. The problem is that Ross Brawns and Adrian Neweys don’t grow on trees. The Red Bull is head and shoulders above the rest. The Ferrari doesn’t seem to be too far behind the McLarens for me. Massa is struggling though (whether this is legacy of accident at Hungary or being undermined by Alonso is open to debate) and you need two top line drivers to have tactical flexibility in race strategy given the Pirelli tyres. Not sure that taking out the Costa role will lead to a reversal of fortune

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