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There seem to be a range of articles around at the moment analysing the current problems at Ferrari. There are suggestions that Ross Brawn is returning, that Eric Boullier should be recruited, or that Ferrari should relocate to the UK, as they once did in the 1980s.

To add my own pennyworth into the discussion, I see the problem as one which impacts on many organisations around the globe. The problem is the nature of the relationship between a specialist business unit and the corporate centre. Corporate centres, and the senior managers within them, like to feel they are the ones in control, they are the ones that call the shots, and, generally, because they own the overall business, they are correct. However the managers in the business unit are the ones who really understand the industry, the market and how to get things done in this particular situation. So there is inevitably a tension between these two worlds. The term often used to describe the relationship between the business unit and the corporate centre is corporate parenting.

There are many different approaches to corporate parenting. At two extremes we have the laissez faire approach where – to extend the parent/child analogy – we don’t care what our children do, as long as they are getting the right results. We don’t tell them when to work on their homework, or what to write in their reports, we give them a set of boundaries and we let them get on with it, we judge them by their results rather than their activities. In a corporate sense this could be like the relationship between Tata and Jaguar Land Rover. Tata don’t tell JLR what cars to build or where to sell them, they set some overall targets and tell them to get on with it. At the other parental extreme we micro-manage and attempt to control everything our children do. We tell them when to do their homework, we continually check their work (whether they ask or not) and suggest how they could improve things in a great deal of detail, and perhaps we even end up doing it for them. This is over-protective parenting, where we focus on control and micro-managing activities in the assumption that this will produce the best results. This is analogous to the relationship between JLR and their previous owners the Ford Motor Company. In this relationship they were told what models to lauch in what markets, how to price, market them etc. In other words the managers in the business unit were being micro-managed by the centre, unable to do the things that they felt would work best in their specific markets.

Ferrari are the most successful team in F1. Ever. Their most successful period owes much to the driving skills of Michael Schumacher, the technical orchestration of Ross Brawn, the design brilliance of Rory Byrne and engine director Paolo Martinelli. But it owes equally as much, if not more, to the management style of Jean Todt. Todt protected the F1 Team from the parent Fiat. This also would not have been possible without the support from, then President, Luca di Montezemolo. Montezemolo had been responsible for appointing Todt. It was always tempting for Fiat/Ferrari to meddle with the F1 team, particularly in the mid-nineties when the results were not yet there, but this would ultimately have destroyed their ability to compete and dominate F1. Just look at what happened when the Ford Motor Company took over Stewart Grand Prix and turned it into a corporate political football called Jaguar Racing. The team lost its direction and leadership and ultimately failed. When they then became Red Bull Racing the story was somewhat different.

Parents who micro-manage their children may be well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided. If we want our children to become capable, well-developed individuals, we have to give them space to grow, make mistakes, learn and build their own capabilities. Organisations are no different. The main problem I see at Ferrari is the managerial style and approach of Sergio Marchionne. As Chief Executive of Fiat Chrysler he has ended up micro-managing the F1 team – Scuderia Ferrari. He has made their success in F1 a very personal crusade and he has also been quick to get rid of those that he saw as not supporting his approach. Hiring and firing can be very important to build a great team, but, if done badly and for the wrong reasons, it can destroy a great team and create a culture of blame and fear from which success will never grow.

Great leaders are great enablers. Their secret is that they allow others to flourish and develop and bring their abilities to the organisation. Just look at how Mateschitz built up Red Bull Racing. He doesn’t micro-manage. He has good people in place, they know about racing, and he lets them get on with the job. Marchionne should take a step back and give Scuderia Ferrari and its leaders the space they need to build future success.

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There is no question that Sebastian Vettel is a worthy driver’s champion for 2011. He had the best car, but he rarely put a wheel wrong, and so his title is undoubtedly well deserved. I do feel that Sebastian, like Lewis before him, is very much a champion who, although a worthy champion, is still highly dependent on the support of the team for the title, this I would contrast to other champions who really lead their teams to victory. It is the difference between someone who is dependent on the team for their success and someone the team is dependent upon, someone who brings the team up with them.

I guess the contrast I would draw would be the difference between Michael Schumacher at Benetton where supported by Flavio Briatore, Ross Brawn and others he achieved two world championships, here he was a champion, but not a leader. In contrast, during Michael’s time at Ferrari he played a very key role in turning round the whole organisation , becoming the catalyst for change and winning the greatest number of championships that have ever been won, Michael grew from being a champion to being a leader. Similarly, I would also put Fernando Alonso in the leader category, he played a key role in the success of Renault in the 2005/6 seasons and has gone on, with a brief blip at McLaren, to do the same at Ferrari. If we look back into previous champions individuals like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda and Jackie Stewart all fit with the leadership role. The interesting question for me is where Jenson Button is on this, in many ways he seems to be stepping up to the leadership role this season, not only through his performance on the track but his demeanour, his confidence, his approach are all suggesting something stronger than a driver who just gets in the car and performs on the track.

So the obvious thing for Sebastian to do now, or certainly in a year or two, is to move to a new team that needs a leader and see if he can shift up a gear from being world champion, not easy, but some have done it. Who knows, like Michael at Ferrari, he may even persuade Adrian Newey to come with him.

So which do you think was the better race – a grand prix that lasted over four hours and where spectators had to endure hours standing in torrential rain, or a sunny, on time race in a beautiful Spanish city? Montreal and Valencia could not have been more different, and the biggest difference was the racing – in Valencia there really wasn’t any.

Winners

Vettel: Sebastian seems to have moved his driving onto a new level, and despite the mistake in Montreal which created Button’s victory, he really is looking untouchable. Hard to see how he can now lose the 2011 title, but stranger things have happened.

Ferrari: Despite a lot of criticism Ferrari seemed to be the only team with the race pace to keep RBR in check. As usual Fernando is the one that is always there to find the sudden opportunity. He could still win this championship.

Lewis’s radio broadcasts. I always enjoy Lewis claiming 100% visibility when it was chucking it down, as he did in Montreal. In the end it didn’t do him any good, but his radio broadcasts are always entertaining, or LOL as my daughter would text. I particularly enjoyed ‘ I can’t go any slower’ when his engineer was asking him to be more careful with the rear tyres, followed by ‘I can’t go any faster’ when it looked like he was dropping back towards Felipe Massa. F1 would be so much duller (yes really!) without Lewis.

Jaime Alguersuari: Alguersuari has come in for some (undeserved in my view) criticism in the last few races. He silenced his detractors in Valencia with a great drive from 18th on the grid to 8th in the race.

Losers

Valencia Circuit: Although it looks great, with the bridge and the old gothic fish market, but since the first grand prix it has only been able to produce mind numbing processional ‘racing’. Given that Bernie has always said there are too many European Grand Prix, it has always been strange to have two Spanish races, if we have to have two can we find a better track?

McLaren: McLaren made some good calls in Montreal, but the race really didn’t work for them in Valencia, perhaps it was the high downforce, or perhaps they don’t go well at boring tracks, let’s see what happens at Silverstone.

Michael Schumacher: Finished 17th, unlike some, I’ve been very reluctant to write Michael off, but as Vettel looks more and more like a champion, Michael looks less and less like one.

Monaco is always a great spectacle, it is also a bit of an anachronism in terms of F1 tracks, but then that’s what makes it so special. This year’s race also underlined the dangers that are always present when racing takes place, the accident which befell the talented Sergio Perez (who looked like he was going to go well in the race) was very reminiscent of the accident that ended Karl Wendlinger’s F1 career back in 1994, only weeks after the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger. When you see a driver remain still in the car after an accident that is always a very worrying scenario, but the most distressing part was watching Perez’s father clearly beside himself staring at the TV screen in the pit garage and wondering what had happened to his son. Fortunately it looks like Perez and Petrov will be OK, so we got away with it again, the quest for safety is one that should never stop.

Winners

Vettel: It cannot be denied that Sebastian had luck on his side at this race, the big question was how long he had with his tyres, McLaren estimated that they would ‘go over the cliff’ in a few laps, when the red flag allowed him to restart with fresh tyres, I wonder if luck will continue to smile on Seb through the rest of the year, or has he now had his quota?

Racing: Yet again we had an exciting race, and overtaking at Monaco! Some great moves, particular those involving Schumacher and Hamilton (Michael overtaking Lewis at the hairpin, and being overtaken by him at St Devote). Michael, unlike his earlier races, showed how to both overtake and be overtaken while keeping on the road!

Alonso: Another stellar performance from the man who (using Denis Jenkinson’s terminology) is ‘a racing driver ahead of his car’. Alonso could well have won the race if Vettel’s tyres had gone off. Ferrari have done the right thing in signing him up till 2016.

Pastor Maldonado & Williams: OK, Pastor was actually taken out just before the end, while in 5th Place, but this was the second time he had made it into Q3 and had driven a great race. But Rubens did at least get them some points, if only two of them. Keep it up team Willy, we want to see you back where you belong!

DC’s commentary: I have been rather negative on DC as a commentator, and felt that he was very much being propped up by the very experienced Martin Brundle, however in Monaco their roles seemed to have reversed with DC being a lot more authoritative and insightful than his former manager. Sometimes it’s a pleasure to admit you were wrong.

Losers

Regulations: The prospect of Vettel, Alonso and Button battling out in the final laps with different levels of tyre degradation was an amazing prospect, but sadly one that was denied us by the regulations. Perhaps next time they red flag a race they should be prevented from changing tyres?

McLaren: They showed so much potential before the race, and Jenson had been very well positioned to make a bid for the lead, should Vettel and Alonso’s tyres fall away, but it wasn’t to be. I’m sure they’ll be even more determined in Canada to reign in Red Bull.

Hamilton: Lewis can always be expected to provide drama at a Grand Prix. I love the way, like Alonso, he nevers stops racing, no matter where he is in the field. However this time his frustrations seemed to really get the better of him. Ron Dennis once said ‘show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser’. Well Lewis is not a loser, but perhaps he needs to give some thought to being a bit more gracious on those occasions when he is, but then if he did he wouldn’t be Lewis would he?

The Turkish Grand Prix reaffirmed Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance of the season so far, it was an exciting race, but there seems to be some developing unease about the impact of the Drag Reduction System or DRS and the effect it is having on overtaking. The Guardian’s Richard Williams seemed to capture this perfectly with the following tweet: Another hectic GP. But does your heart sing to hear (for example) that Alonso has used his wing flap to pass Rosberg? Mine doesn’t”. Part of the problem is that the DRS provides a differential advantage to one car over another, which means the overtake often looks (as was the case in Turkey) more like someone passing a back-marker than a fight for a place in the race, we certainly did get a lot of overtaking, but perhaps not enough racing.

The other main area of speculation related to Michael Schumacher, who seems to be still struggling to assert himself both as the lead driver in Mercedes and as a serious contender with the current crop of drivers. I was recently going through some old tapes of interviews with some of the senior technical people in F1, and came across one from one of Ferrari’s former technical chiefs, he made some interesting comments on Schumacher: “From a Ferrari point of view I don’t believe Schumacher is so good as a test driver. He is good at setting up the car for himself, but I tell you he is not so good as a test driver because in three years with Benetton the car was not one of the best chassis.” The suggestion being that Michael is great when you develop a good chassis for him to work with and get his own set-up, but if you want to develop the car that is a different story, however given the general absence of testing today perhaps this is a non-issue.

The news that the popular Sam Michael is leaving Williams at the end of the year, along with aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson, has also had quite a bit of coverage. If you look at Williams’ performance, it really drops off from 2005 after Sam Michael took over as Technical Director, but these things are never as straightforward as that. They also, of course, lost the manufacturer support of BMW in 2005. However, given the focus on aerodynamics I also wonder how much is due to them never having really got to grips with their 60% wind tunnel which came on stream during 2004, they say it’s all about aerodynamics and perhaps Williams have struggled to get their new facility to work as well as some of the other teams. It’s interesting to note that Mike Coughlan, their new chief engineer, is not an aerodynamicist.

Away from the track we have the possibility of a bidder for the commercial rights business of F1 from News Corp. and the Agnelli family’ Exor SpA. This appears to have produced some interesting reactions from Bernie Ecclestone (standard response – it’s not for sale, unless they make a really silly offer) and Max Mosley (News Corp. would not be the right buyer for F1 – something to do with them owning the News of the World). The other interesting issue is the view of the FIA and more particularly Jean Todt (who some believe is supportive), and also the teams – what is their take on a Ferrari connection to F1 ownership (perhaps it just makes their implicit influence more explicit!), and is there a place for the teams as part of the consortia? – historically they have always avoided such commitments. Either way it looks like this has a way to go before it plays out, and throws another interesting variable into the Concorde Agreement discussions.

Unfortunatley due to commitments here at Cranfield I have not been able to make it up to the Autosport International show at the NEC. But I have just seen some comments made by Virgin Racing’s Technical Director, Nick Wirth, about their optimism for 2011. I think the way the Virgin car goes in 2011 will be very interesting. I always remember Jackie and Paul Stewart telling me how the second year was far tougher for Stewart Grand Prix than the first, as they were now using a car that was developed while they were trying to make a reasonable go at their first season, and so we can get a far better idea of the capability (or not) of the new teams in 2011 as compared with 2010. I suspect we will see the new Virgin affirming that their approach of using 100% CFD as opposed to combining this with the wind tunnel, as the way to go, but it might still be too soon for this to really pull away from Team Lotus and HRT.

The other unknown is how Michael Schumacher will perform on Pirelli tyres and with a car that was developed with him in mind. At Ferrari’s annual Vrooom press event Fernando Alonso identified Michael as his biggest threat for 2011. So Schumacher and Virgin could be the big surprises of the season, with the other being just how many Lotus’s we end up with (what’s the collective noun for an F1 Lotus team – is it a packet?).

The Jordan team prepare for the Imola race back in 2004: Photo Jenkins, Pasternak & West

To many of the current fans of F1 Eddie Jordan is just another pundit on our TV screens, perhaps overplaying his part at times, but providing a distinctive approach and voice to F1 broadcasting.  However the other thing to remember about Eddie is that there is much beneath the Irish caricature he portrays and although he is undoubtedly entertaining, he also knows a thing or two about how things work and what is really happening in F1. My first meeting with Eddie took place at the San Marino Grand Prix of 2004 when Ken Pasternak, Richard West and myself were interviewing a range of team bosses and movers and shakers for the first edition of ‘Performance at the Limit’. I well remember our visit to the bright yellow Jordan motorhome. Eddie remarking to Richard, on seeing his Oyster Rolex, that he was obviously being paid too much, Richard didn’t have the heart to tell him he’d paid a few dollars for it in a market in Shanghai, but the best bit was when we were interviewing Eddie in his suite upstairs, and Ken asked Eddie how he went about selecting drivers for his team, perhaps hoping for some details of psychometric tests, Ken was rather taken aback when Eddie leaned forward and fixed him with a manic stare – ‘I look them in the xxxxing eyes’, he said slowly, leaning ever closer to Ken, who was now moving back as far as he could manage, ‘and I ask them, have you got what it xxxxing takes?’, still moving forward, Ken still moving back ‘have you got the xxxxing balls to make it?’ at this point Ken was virtually climbing backwards out of the window, Eddie chuckled and satisfied with the reaction relaxed back into his seat.

If we look back to this time last year when the rumours of a return to F1 by Michael Schumacher were building up – who was the person that actually broke the story that, even after being unable to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari in 2009, Michael was planning to return to Mercedes in 2010? It was Eddie Jordan. Well Eddie now has an update to the story which he has posted on the BBC F1 website and it has two aspects to it. The first is that Michael is now changing his mind about continuing with F1 into 2011, and the second is an even bigger bombshell: that due to disagreements with Mercedes management Ross Brawn may also not continue with the team. Now clearly counter-arguments can be put to both of these, and indeed I’ve also blogged as to why I think Michael will stay for 2011, and of course some of this could be part of a negotiation process. But if Ross walks out that would be a significantly different dimension and one in which it may be easier for Michael to also decide to go too. All of this is conjecture of course, but don’t forget, Eddie Jordan has been right before.