There are lots of stories today about Ferrari hiring a bunch of new engineers as it tries to turn around the dismal situation at the moment. Given that the new technical boss is James Allison one would suppose that more than a few of these will be coming from Lotus. Hiring engineers is not an easy task, but if one has worked with them in the past, it is not a matter of guesswork.
But in the finest tradition of the military, changing the men in the front line is not always the answer to the problem. The Ferrari “army” has a new General in Marco Mattiacci, although putting him into the battle is a bit of a risk as up to now his experience is entirely in ordnance and he may not be the right man for the job.
All too often these days, the F1 teams are failing not because of the individuals involved but rather because of the management style and structure. In the old days, when teams were just a few dozen people, everyone knew what everyone else did and whether they did it well. As organisations have grown so management has become more important and the key to success now includes the ability of the middle management as much as the overall leadership. Racing teams are odd entities. They require focus and drive of a kind you don’t see elsewhere. This is how things get done so quickly and efficiently. What is vital is that the command structure works: everyone needs to know who is their boss and feel the hunger. When a team is winning that hunger pervades everyone and everything. If there are cogs in the machine that don’t fit properly the design will be slow or will break down. So while we say that you cannot credit success to one man, particularly in this age when teams have hundreds of engineers, you can see that one man’s vision and drive can affect the results. It is not just about character, either, because management style is important as well: it’s no good having a leader who drops in from time to time, acting like a Winchester Pump shotgun. You need solid day-to-day management skills almost as much as you need wild-haired genius boffins. One can see this reflected in the way in which teams win or lose depending on the man in charge. You don’t have to be dysfunctional to be a successful team principal but it probably helps if you have no distractions in life.