Passion and Ferrari

My friend and colleague Will Buxton has written passionately in recent days about the state in which Ferrari finds itself. He believes that through driving flaws and unreliable cars, not to mention picking Kimi Raikkonen as the second driver, the team has wasted a World Championship-winning car and, as a result, heads will roll. He also points out also that the team’s inexplicable communication policy (say nothing) is not very clever, something with which I agree wholeheartedly.

Ferrari as a brand is all about passion and to shut down communication and simply turn out trite social media messages (with American spellings) is not forward-thinking. The team staff seem frightened to be seen talking to media and, as Will pointed out, they seem frightened, full stop. Looking in from the outside can give a false impression, just as it can bring insight, but I sense the same thing.

Entire books have been written on the question of leading by respect, rather than by fear, and why the former is more successful than the latter. It’s basically Darth Vader versus Obi Wan Kenobi. The down side of the dark side is that people who are fearful of losing their jobs become defensive, they don’t take risks, they do all they can to shift the blame on to others. They don’t work for the organisation, they work to survive.

Great leaders lead with respect. They empower those around them, encourage them with enthusiasm and energy and allow them to make mistakes. Respect moves a company forwards, fear holds it back.

If one accepts the premise that the Ferrari problem is one of fear, one has to then work out from where this is coming. Logically, it comes from the top, and by this I mean Sergio Marchionne, the chairman, who is famed for his use of the corporate stiletto (and we’re not talking heels here), despite his avuncular jersey-wearing appearance. You tell Marchionne he’s wrong and you’re likely to be filleted from the organisation. The great leader is never wrong, unless he decides it himself. So if one wants to survive in this environment, you have to do as you are told. This helps to explain why Maurizio Arrivabene, who was a big marketing banana in a major tobacco company and is obviously no fool, now finds himself with the marketing policy of a medieval castle under siege. OK, he looks like a Sherlock Holmes villain, with his thunderous glares, but there must be more to him than that. Perhaps it would be wise to let the media (aka the world) see the man behind the Heathcliff mask?

But then does it really matter? Ferrari hasn’t won a World Championship since the days of Jean Todt, half a generation ago, and yet the road cars are still selling in ever-increasing numbers. To me, this says that the racing matters – but the results don’t – unless it is REALLY embarrassing. Every time a Ferrari blows up, I have a habit of saying: “Well, I’m not buying a Ferrari”, which is true for two reasons: the first is that I cannot afford a car with a price tag of $200,000 and, even if I could, I’d spend the money on other things that I consider more important. Don’t get me wrong, Ferrari understands road cars. It is incredibly successful in this respect. Successful men buy Ferraris because these red supercars are symbols of success. Their engines scream: “Ladies, I’ve got money and room in the passenger seat for a trim little derrière.” They are status symbols first, great cars second. You never go unnoticed in a Ferrari, and to me this is largely what they are about. Ferraris scream “Oi you! Shut your mouth and look at my wad!”

Formula 1 is different. It’s about clever engineers doing great things. But it is also about communicating, telling the world what you can do, delivering a corporate message. The racing team exists to give Ferrari more glitz than rival products from the tractor manufacturer down the road. It exists as an aspirational brand. Everyone wants to be rich one day, and for reasons which are quite unclear to me, this ambition translates into buying Ferrari-badged tee-shirts and hats.

But media of all kinds are not the enemy, they are your allies and while some can be irritating and self-important on occasion, they are an essential part of the sport, telling the stories, perpetuating the romance, building the legend and, now and then, delivering messages that teams don’t think about, but need to hear, popping the balloons of delusion, into which some teams disappear.

You do not win respect by building a wall around yourself and keeping the gates shut. Perhaps they debate these things within the keep of the Maranello Castle, but one gets the impression that geese can get away with saying “Boo!” to Ferrari folk at the moment.

Everyone with a brain knows that the last thing you should do when things go wrong in an F1 team is to fire everyone and start again, a cycle that Ferrari has been known to go through now and then. The best thing to do is to figure where the problems lie and redirect the energy in the right direction. It’s Management 101, not Harvard MBA.

The World Championship is not over yet, but it’s going to take some whopping good luck to pull this title from the fire.

Let’s see what happens and Ferrari’s reaction to it. It will tell us a lot…

161 thoughts on “Passion and Ferrari

  1. Not sure about people buying only Ferrari road cars only as status symbols. This is certainly true in some cases, but people also buy them because they’re fantastic to drive.

    1. And I’d suspect, to repair, from observations…..

      Which also goes to call out Joe’s status symbol tag as surely, folk of status wouldn’t enjoy being parked roadside with other motorists passing, slowing only to admire the contents of their engine spread on the ground beneath….

      1. One of the funniest things I’ve seen was, while waiting for a bus in my teens in the early 2000s, a white Testerossa (pure Miami Vice, there) deciding the differential shouldn’t remain a sealed unit. It was particularly funny because the chap driving it gave it the big one out of a side road junction when it then showered gears, oil and burst metal all over the road; so we were all looking at him for the wrong reasons.

      2. > to repair

        The fleet manager of one of those supercar-for-ten-weekends-a-year clubs did an interview five or ten years ago with Evo or Octane or some such. He said that his Lamborghinis were routinely costing telephone numbers in maintenance (even the Gallardos that had been developed under VAG control). Multiple times the costs of things like the Ferraris. He made it pretty clear that the Lambos were on the fleet because customers really wanted access to them, but that otherwise…

        1. It was Damon Hill and his business partner. They had a super car hire company at the time, probably still do.

        2. Almost all of these type cars with the exception of Porsche require nearly full time mechanics. Chatting to a McLaren owner the other day and he confirmed exactly that – high days and holidays only. In addition almost undriveable in the wet, aquaplaning an ever present danger as uncontrollable as black ice.
          As an old industry engineer I have always maintained that almost anything requires one unit of time to design and 10 units of time to develop. Small companies, and in this context those we are talking about are small, just do not have the resources to refine their products.

          1. That’s funny. Cos I was walking my dog with an engineer on Sunday whose family firm has done work with McLaren and a few other F1 / supercar firms. He talked at length about the ridiculously stringent standard McLaren demand of their suppliers’ products, saying how much of a complete pain they were to work for, but concluded by saying that if he could afford a supercar he’d buy a McLaren like a shot, cos he uniquely knows just how amazingly well crafted and reliable they are.

          2. > one unit of time to design and 10 units of time to develop

            Absolutely. Having bought a more or less hand-built boat from a tiny but very highly respected Scandinavian company, I learned that lesson the hard way. The allure of hand-built engineering products has been essentially non-existent to me ever since.

            But rightly or wrongly, the source I quoted was adamant that the Lamborghinis were a completely different (and much worse) proposition than the Ferraris.

    2. At the fear of turning this into a car review site, on a wide, open track or airfield (with a support garage nearby) they can give a 911 or other sports cars a run for their money.

      On 99% of normal roads in real world conditions, I would disagree with them being fantastic to Drive (of the handful of models I’ve tried) and certainly outclassed by their less Italian rivals.

  2. The ‘fear’ among Ferrari staff is not only generated by the Ferrari management. Nigel Mansell wrote about his feeling of carrying the expectations of Italy on his shoulders whenever he started a race for them. Eddy Irvine told stories about being given driving advice by shopkeepers in Milan. Ross Brawn said ignoring the Italian media was one of the reasons he succeeded at Ferrari. The entire country wants them to win, they are the biggest brand in F1 and still the most popular global team. A ‘siege mentality’ is perhaps the result of all that expectation and pressure.

  3. Great post Joe. I’m a moderately-serious F1 fan, been to a couple of races, try and watch most races live or via C4 highlights. I remember when the charming Stefano Domenicali was in charge at Ferrari we regularly got insights before or after the race and Ferrari at that time weren’t much more (or less) successful than they are at the moment in F1. I find it very strange that these days you never hear a peep from anyone at Ferrari (at least on the C4 coverage), apart from the drivers of course. Is it the same on Sky? If so it’s a shame and is a real gap in the coverage of the sport. In my opinion C4 rely too much on Christian Horner, who is great value of course, but it would be good to get a wider perspective on the inside track from principals or top engineers in some of the teams other than Mercedes and Red Bull.

    1. On Sky Ted Kravitz very occasionally manages to grab Jock Clear from the pit wall immediately after a race for a quick 10 second soundbite. This only seems to happen if Ferrari win though.

      Apart from that I can’t remember the last time I saw any kind of proper interview with anyone at Ferrari. In the race build up team principles from other teams are available to chat so there’s no reason Ferrari shouldn’t do the same.

  4. Hang on a minute. Last year you were saying it was a mistake that Ferrari fired lots of technical people and they were in for a dismal 2017 with a poor car. But what happened is that they produced a pretty good car and other problems have got in the way instead. I don’t know much about Mr Marchionne but he seems to be a successful businessman and some of that success may be due to getting rid of people who are not performing.

    1. I’m not sure what the basis is for Joe’s speculation about firings this time round. Marchionne spoke of organizational changes; which can mean structural or even hiring. As reported in the Italian press, they have added a very senior quality control person to re-shape the processes.

  5. When you see the likes of Ted Kravitz winding up Arrivabene and taking the micky out of the Communication man on his notebook each week you know Ferrari’s approach has turned into something of a joke.

  6. To be fair, the Ferrari press wallah has always looked a bit under the weather, even when he was working as a journalist. We used to get on pretty well together (he speaks curiously strangulated English at 100mph) but he has never once spoken to me since he donned Marlboro colours. (Oops, did I give something away there?)

    Come to think of it, the last time we spoke was when he gave me a lift to an airport in Germany. He had a terrible case of the sniffles, which I picked up and suffered with the ‘flu for the best part of a month.

    I first met him at the end of 2001, when the press corps was assembled at Monza for an important announcement, called by Sauber, about Kimi Räikkönen. We all knew that Kimi was bound for McLaren, but our Italian colleague was convinced that Ferrari had collared him. I think his editor may have lost a little faith in him when the truth came out about the Kimster’s destination …

  7. I love you Joe, but must take issue with you on the Ferrari ownership comments. Probably many, maybe most, want a Ferrari as a status symbol in a similar fashion that leads others to crave for what are basically expensive plastic bags with “LV” logos all over them. But there are also many enthusiasts who start with posters of Niki Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve on their bedroom walls, and who work hard to one day fulfill their dreams of owning a bit of the prancing horse legend. I am one such person. But I would also say that after following the team through ups and (very long) downs since the ’70s, I have never felt such despondency with how the team is being run, making me feel increasingly alienated from them as a tifosi, F1 fan and indeed as a Ferrari owner. Perhaps I should be writing to Mr Pullover himself.

    1. Well, I don’t to offend you David (but I’m going to I’m afraid) but I don’t think Ferrari have produced anything half decent since the 6O’s, unless you admire the sort of nouveau riche La Ferrari kind of thing usually bound for Saudi or similar. I suppose people divide into two camps – Merc, Porsche and the like then, in the opposite corner, Ferrari, Lamborghini and so forth. It’s the same for F1 fans I guess, except I know which team emanates the right sort of vibe. It’s worth noting that for many Ferrari has been dividing F1 fans since the Schumacher epoch, before that I was certainly in awe of the prancing horse, at least on the race track.

      1. I drove a Testa Rossa on a race track and ran out of brakes halfway through the first lap. Good looking car but in terms of performance, it’s an overweight pig.

        1. Some great road cars make terrible track cars, and vice-versa.

          Ferrari marketed the TestaRossa in period (assuming you mean the ’80s one that became the 512TR) as a supercar, but I suspect it might actually work better as a grand tourer in the mould of a latter day Maserati Bora…

      2. The cars of the 60s and 70s were great and iconic but pretty poor quality. From the 355 onwards Ferrari have produced some fantastic cars. You can’t drive them every day as you might a Porsche, Aston etc but the sound of the engine and their history makes up for that! Ferrari have always been a divisive team, the Old Man himself ensured that.

        1. My ’79 400i V12 was fantastic quality. Hadn’t run in many months when I bought it – hooked up the positive terminal and it fired right up. Never failed to start once, and the quality of the shut lines, door action, panel fits etc made it feel like it had been hewn from a single block of steel. Fantastically impressive compared with most of my other 60s/70s cars to be honest. I think the whole ‘beautiful but shoddy’ thing is largely a fallacy.

    2. Quite. Also ignored is the fact that the whole super/hyper car segment is driven by vanity. As is most of the luxury goods sector. To single out Ferrari as products purchased as status symbols is rather disingenuous.

    3. I think Joe’s partially correct. I also like his line:

      Everyone wants to be rich one day, and for reasons which are quite unclear to me, this ambition translates into buying Ferrari-badged tee-shirts and hats.

      In my 20s I embodied exactly this; I craved wealth and status, and in my impoverished state thought that Ferrari-branded stuff would give off that appearance. To my credit, I limited it to a single black rucksack with the Ferrari badge (I genuinely needed a rucksack and thought black was way more subtle than red or yellow.) But still – as I wore it on the tube I half hoped someone might assume I owned a Ferrari car as well.

      Now I’m in my 40s, I adore Ferraris for what they are more than what they represent. A class car collector, I bought a late 70s V12 400i a couple of years ago, which was a beautiful, understated (in silver) car and the antithesis of the typical screaming red 2-seaters. I ended up selling it 6 weeks later (for a £1500 profit) only because I thought I needed the money for a property deal but have regretted selling it ever since. I’ll have another one at some point.

      In the meantime I bought a Ferrari-engined 1969 Fiat Dino Coupe a fortnight ago to keep me going. My point is basically; there’s a ton of silly nonsense surrounding the brand, but at its core it still represents a passion for automotive excellence that’s hard to beat. It’s why a Williams F1 engineer of my acquaintance recently made a private pilgrimage to Maranello and why to own a Ferrari among my 15 or so classics means as much to me as my E-Type or Bristol.

      Finally – a simple rule of thumb I’ve found to be 99% applicable; if you see someone with a Ferrari-branded ANYTHING, then he or she ain’t got a Ferrari. Because once you actually acquire one, particularly one from when Enzo still ran the factory the last thing you want is a t-shirt that anyone can buy.

  8. LM/FOM must be well pleased at Ferrari’s anti-press attitude just when they’re attempting to turn up the media volume for the sport. They’ve trying to create a buzz with Usain Bolt starting the race, razzmatazz WWE style driver introductions and probably dozens of Z list celebs wandering around the grid, desperate to be recognised by Martin Brundle. And in the red corner they’ve got team Sulk who will only glare at the cameras.

    I found it quite funny at the last race, when the Ferrari PR man pulled up Ted Kravitz and tried to tell him off for earwigging on a conversation Arrivabene had been having during one of Ted’s previous pit walks. What could Ferrari do? Certainly not ban Sky from interviewing anyone on the team. Ferrari have lost control of the media and all they will hear now are negative stories from a disgruntled press. Ferrari are digging a big hole.

  9. Good evening Joe, first post here so I’ll try and keep it sensible, albeit with speculation 😉

    Ferrari’s strategy blunders over the last few years certainly seem to justify the whole “working under fear” claim. The funny part is that they were actually alternate strategy calls that offered high risk with little reward, as opposed to playing it safe, which was the right and sensible thing to do.

    However, I get the feeling that things seemed a bit lazy (for lack of a better word) or maybe somewhere the passion was lost during the Luca Montezemolo / Stefano Domenicali and brief Mattiaci tenure.

    And perhaps it’s that type of culture which Marchionne is trying to address with this ‘get gold or heads roll’ regime?

  10. Perhaps the time has come for the Agnelli famiglia to strongly suggest to Signor Marchionne that he should leave the racing team alone to concentrate his time and energy to the general public division of the road car empire, FCA. That is where is management skills were best deployed.

    Even though the last period of Luca di Montezemolo’s mandate did not yield the highest level of results, the organizational structure of the Agnelli empire seemed much more balanced when FCA and Ferrari were managed by different executives.

    Furthermore, as you so clearly mention, no group can properly function under fear as it creates an additional antagonistic force from within. Competition is already fierce; no need to weaken the team internally.

    Besides, if the famiglia do not put a damper on his amibitions, what will his next move be? Step-in for the suspended Andrea Agnelli and then eventually oust the coaching staff of Juventus to do the job himself?

    Dai, Sergio! Stick to hatchbacks and let the racing guys do what they do best…

  11. For what it is worth, I was unimpressed by Signor Arrivabene’s close attendance to the work on Vettel’s and Kimi’s cars when they failed in qualifying and the race in Malaysia.

    He was peering closely at the car and the work going on. He had the appearance of a clueless man who wanted to be seen on TV as being involved.

    I’d have thought he was better off standing back and letting the guys get on with the work.

    If one can’t be of any use, then one should get out of the way and not impede those who can. Perhaps that is a principle that Ferrari should apply more broadly?

  12. “Room for a trim derriere”, eh? Not for Kim Kardassian, then.
    Question: Do you think Seb is looking eagerly toward to the end of his contract?

      1. When I bought my Bristol 401 last year my architect’s first comment was ‘ah, the one that looks like Kim Kardashian from the rear!’

    1. The question is, why would they want to? He’s turning things around, is he not? I believe that Ferrari is Marchionne’s retirement gig, and he will be around a long time once he steps out of FCA.

  13. You make a comment on Ferrari media releases using American spelling and what do you do? You punch up a Ferrari American dollar value, in your blog. Should it have been in Euros?

  14. Interesting piece but from everything I’ve read about Marchionne, he has been exceptionally successful running the FCA group. I doubt this success has been fluked because if heads rolled every time there was a problem the organisation would be derelict, surely?

    It appears from an outsiders point of view that he doesn’t suffer fools, which is hardly a sin.

    The Old Man was hardly a great role model of management during his life. The stories of his Machiavellian rule and his interaction with the press are legendary. As Ferrari being status symbols, isn’t this true of Aston Martin, Porsche, McLaren, Lamborghini, Bugatti etc?

    Finally in regards the Kimi equation, I agree with both yours and Will’s summation that it shows little ambition going forward. However, it’s reported that this situation is supported by Vettel and if using the 2000’s template that the Todt dynasty introduced – i.e. Schumacher and a.n.other – Kimi is better than both Barrichello and Massa.

    Marchionne made statements at the start of 2016 based on conversations with James Allison. These proved wide of the mark and subsequently, with lessons learnt, this year has been to all intents and purposes a media blackout. Something interestingly that wasn’t evident on Italian TV when I was in the country a few months back.

    To close, with, I believe, a Ron Dennis quote, “I’d rather have a fast,fragile car than a slow, reliable one.”

    1. “I’d rather have a fast,fragile car than a slow, reliable one.”

      Trouble is in F1 today the field spread is so much smaller than it was back in the day. You need to be fast and reliable now. Also Having VET in the car it needs to be pretty robust as well 😉

  15. I am not so sure that Räikkōnen is significant part of Ferrari’s problems. Sure, he is not as fast as Vettel over the season, but just keeps his head down bringing in decent results and quietly dealing with his share of bad luck. Vettel is capable of winning races, but also of losing them through impatient decisions…plus appears to be whining too much when things don’t go his way. The Singapore disaster was of his own doing, arguably ending his title chances, and the entire team seem to have entered panic mode right there and then.

    1. I agree – Kimi is the one person at Ferrari who is just about blameless for their predicament. He just gets on with the job ad puts up with the bad luck and biased srategy calls. In short he knows what he is doing – as he told us years ago!

  16. Spot on. Having worked in various Olympic organizing committees, leadership style impacts results. People often lament about “whatever happened to leadership by example”? It is always “by example”. It just may not be the example we desire.

  17. This is very telling: “They don’t work for the organisation, they work to survive.”. It is the atmosphere that Marchionne has created. However, it is interesting to note that while he spends an inordinate amount of time “managing” Ferrari, FIAT continues its abysmal reliability rating here in the US. Time and effort are currencies and Marchionne is clearly spending them in the wrong place…

    1. The market has spoken on FIAT’s attempt to re-enter the US market, have you seen the terrifying depreciation on their products? I’m tempted by a 3 year old off lease 500 Abarth for pennies on the dollar to scoot around town in…

      Neither FIAT or Alfa will be in the US market in 2025.

      1. No, buy a MINI instead. To shrink the length of the car, the seating position is upright with you legs closer to straight down than out in front of you. More power in a Gen 2 or 3 Cooper S also. I have a 2009 JCW Clubman and I was unimpressed by a test drive in an Abarth…

        1. I live near an Alfa/Maser dealer. I see so few Alfas around. I haven’t seen a single Giulia Quadrifoglio on the road, not one! Can’t swing a cat without hitting a Tesla though.

      2. I am reminded of a line from a movie, “A Christmas Story”, in which a man receives a prize in a big wooden box marked “FRAGILE”. He says, “Frah-Gee-Lay. It must be from Italy!”

  18. As a long time Ferrari fan I might find some of the characterizations a bit painful to read, but the problems described are spot on. I really wonder what Arrivabene/Binotto might accomplish if the specter of Marchionne was removed. Yes, Luca di Montezemolo couldn’t recreate the magic he had with Todt/Brawn, but at least he exuded passion and seemed to let his guys get on with it rather than the Sword of Damocles approach Marchionne seems to take. I’d be willing to bet that without that sword hanging over them even the marketing policies might change for the better.

  19. Excellent piece. Thank you, Joe.
    Part of Ferrari’s problem is the Italian obsession with ‘La Bella Figura’, which could be briefly explained as overdeveloped pridefulness and extreme vanity. Quite pathetic and sad.
    By the way, I follow F1 from the States, and Will Buxton’s work on NBCSN’s coverage is fantastic. His intelligence, energy and passion for his work is infectious. I hope that he is hired by ESPN to continue his work as a smart and passionate advocate for motorsport.

  20. Joe Wrote:
    “The World Championship is not over yet, but it’s going to take some whopping good luck to pull this title from the fire.”

    And if Ferrari DO manage to pluck the championship away from Mercedes, WHO will reap the acclaim for “fixing” the problems???

    It won’t be the team, or the drivers, Mr. Marchionne’s ego will be proclaimed loudly over the results.

  21. I agree with you about Marchionne, but it isn’t entirely his fault that Ferrari’s initially excellent season has gone to pot.
    If Vettell hadn’t had his two red mist moments, he would still be well in touch in the drivers’ championship. Add to that the failure of an externally-sourced spark plug, without which Vettell might well have won the race, and he could have been still leading the WDC.
    I don’t think either of those catastrophes can be laid at Marchionne’s door. Or are you suggesting that Vettell’s red mist moments are brought on by bullying?

  22. Joe

    So why is an ex-Marlboro marketing man sitting on the pit wall? Seriously, can you explain what his qualification are? For this role?

    And one more thing, most media types are NOT like you. As a general rule, descriptions like lazy, trawling, bottom-feeders with scant regard for the facts come to mind. Maybe Ferrari has had enough ?

    And finally! Coming second to AMG is no disgrace. Something isn’t quite right. But it isn’t screaming for a huge shake-up.

    Take care

    Amnon Needham

    Sent from my iPhone


  23. Personally I feel that if Marchionne wants to fulfill a bloodlust for Ferrari failing to win either championship this season then he will handing the 2018 championship to either Mercedes or Red Bull.

    While it is true the Ferrari has been the most consistently fast car this season, it’s worth remembering where they were last season. While there was a technical shake up this season, it was not as fundamental as the 08/09 or even 13/14 changes. The cars look very different because they are wider and the wings are lower down, but the power units are the same and its just reopened aerodynamic avenues previously known to the teams.

    The pecking order has largely remained the same as a result. Ferrari are the only significant movers and the fact that they are challenging the previously impervious Mercedes is a testament to what the team has achieved.

    Yes, the car has had some high profile reliability problems in the past few races, however that’s a result of pushing the envelope hard to catch Mercedes. If they had played it safe they’d be the number 2 team. Mercedes would have walked another championship.

    It’s easy to look at what could have been. If the turbo had been more reliable then we’d have won those two races. But the reality is that if the turbo had been designed and manufactured with more reliability it would have had less performance.

    It’s more difficult to make a slow car fast that to make a fast car reliable. Ferrari have got a concept that works now, they just need to engineer reliability. This isn’t the civil aviation industry where every component gets tested a thousand times under different conditions before going into service. That’s the beauty of Formula 1 and what attracts engineers to it despite getting less competitive salaries, you design, you build and you run it tomorrow. You don’t design something and wait 5 years before it turns up on the plane after you have long forgotten about it.

    But, I suspect Mr Marchionne will not heed this advice (even if he were to hear it) – it has been apparent even to those of us only able to witness it through our TV screens and laptop screens that Ferrari is a pressure cooker at the moment. From the embargoes on the team members talking to the media (beyond their contractual commitments) through to the personnel changes that have occurred under his reign, it seems very much that he is a character who feels he needs an element of fear to get results.

    And there will be no fear if an imperfect season is allowed to pass without the swinging of the axe.

  24. Excellent piece, Joe, one of your very best. I have not read Will Buxton’s article but I commend him on the bravery of his journalism, considering his position as an official F1 interviewer.

    As a passionate F1 fan of very many years – and Ferrari is not bigger than F1 – I feel a passionate response is in order. This year’s Ferrari team has not only failed to evoke comparisons with Enzo Ferrari, Luca di Montezemolo (c. 1970s) and Jean Todt (although Gunther Schmid comes to mind) or great drivers from Ascari to Schumacher, the prancer, the horse and the horse’s end have through their combined actions and strategies spoiled what should have been the best F1 season in years, potentially one of the greatest ever. Putting the former colt out to pasture is the least of their problems.

    Frankly, this lot have completely failed to earn my respect as an F1 team, never mind the custodians of a once great F1 team. The Scuderia has become the Squandered and I am beginning to question whether, in this guise, they deserve to be in F1 at all. It’s a failure comparable with any of the great tragic heroes of literature and further proof that F1 is for dedicated racers not automobile magnates, cigarette salesmen or draconian communication strategists for whom a tweet is an intellectual challenge.

  25. I like Will generally but the last article he wrote felt like a hit piece borne out of the frustration the media has had with Ferrari’s reluctance to open up this year. He made some pretty startling accusations in that article and I’d like to see him back then up.

    As for Ferrari, I am sure they will fire a lot of people this winter – a mistake in my view, as the team has made great strides.

    1. The WB article is a bit short on fact, and on the face of it seems borne of frustration. Lets see how his bold prediction about Arrivabene pans out…

  26. “You do not win respect by building a wall around yourself and keeping the gates shut.“ hum works for Apple, certainly when Steve Jobs ran it. Oh Steve had no love for the press and only used them for his advantage.

      1. Press never used him. He was very selective whom he allowed to interview him. Plus he set the rules. On one ocassion when asked a question he said was off limits, he walk out of the tv interview. He had a saying leaks sink ships. If a Apple employee leaked anything and Steve found out that person was fired.

  27. I’m a Ferrari owner of the past 25 years. I’m not impressed with your description of owners, but that is not what this article is about. I would however ask that you look at owners outside the “glamor world of F-1” – its a bit different.

    As for Ferrari and press blackout, I think its the right thing to do. Ferrari have historically got in trouble with the press, as there is a lot of it, and they all want a slice of the horse. The best way to keep the press pressure out – is to not invite it in to begin with. What do you expect, Ferrari to admit that they suck? and that its engineers who are paid a fortune just cant deliver against MB ? I think the actual performance on track has demonstrated that.

    For Mr. Buxton? – not impressed. We have to watch his child like antics on the grid with NBC TV’s coverage, and everything is always hyped up. he moves around bouncing like a top…. however I do like his “Off the Grid show, so he’s ok, but needs to slow down a bit and stop making everything so sensational.

    In the end Ferrari suffer from its own fame. As some journo’s in the past have stated, you go to Ferrari to become wealthy, then famous. I think that is where they are trying to get everyone focused. Is there pressure from Marchionne? sure – there needs to be. If you have ever been to the Factory or the team HQ and see the resources – they should be winning everything all the time. its a matter of keeping the people there focused and on target. at all times. At this level of the sport – if you have to be motivated by an outside force – you need to get out. this is for the big boys – you need to show up every day with your best performance or get out of the way. Enzo sent that message – and that still applies today. Journo’s are not part of the plan…. sticky wicket.

    1. Look Tom, I don’t agree with all Will Buxton says, but he is one of the future faces of F1. Murray Walker’s over 90 for goodness sake. Buxton’s in his mid-30s. I’m nearly twice Buxton’s age. He is full of energy and the like of him will attract a younger audience. Give him a go. He works hard at giving us an insider view of the pitlane. And apparently, he organizes a cool karaoke session in Austin.

      1. I don’t dislike Buxton as a person, however I think he can use his prime position to explain a bit calmer what is going on in F-1. I’ve been following f-1 all my life – my first race was Watkins Glen 1968 ( as an infant ) … and been to most of the F1 tracks… and lived down in the Paddock in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It’s a fascinating sport/ show. But sadly its been turned into a huge business, with lots of money at risk. Ferrari have always fallen into the trap of talking and listening to the press.. so unless you go out of your way to know the Ferrari folks you are not going to get much… and with the press ban, I think its a good idea, as it keeps the team focused.

        There has always been fear in F-1 – Working for Enzo was not fun, nor for Colin Champman, Ken Tyrrell, or a number of others… Mr. B Ecclestone comes to mind… these guys are hard charging and demanding… much like Marchionne.

        I agree that Marchionne is “cheapening” the Ferrari brand with more production and an SUV, but he’s also focusing on getting F-1 back to winning… Montezemolo took a winning team and tried to make it all Italian… WRONG move.. and now we are seeing it being rebuilt… its painful. what I find sad is journo’s complaining about not getting anything out of the team… do your job, get to know people better, and stop complaining.

        P.S. – I know Murray Walker … super nice guy! &I’ve met Buxton and the entire NBC Sports F-1 team… all good people. I would say – just report what is happening and stop the speculation… cause you don’t really know.

    2. “What do you expect, Ferrari to admit that they suck?”

      They haven’t won any kind of title in the past 10 years, despite spending more each year on their team than anyone else in the sport, and being paid more than any other team in the sport, regardless of where they finish. So going by your value system, I would suggest that they do indeed “suck.” There is something fundamentally wrong with them. Now I’m not saying that they should go and admit that to the press, but their blanket refusal to talk to the media does indeed lead the public to thinkng that they do indeed, despite their lack of dialogue, still “suck” – on several different levels

      If anyone or any team in this position wanted to win, it would require a good deal of honesty with yourself, taking a long hard look in the mirror and admit that you are doing things wrong, because that self realisation is the first stage of putting things right.

      Ferrari – or more to the point, Marchionne – seem singularly incapable of doing even that, so they will continue to “suck” for a good while longer.

      1. It seems to me he’s done exactly that. he’s looking in the mirror and thinking I don’t have the right team in place- what else can it be? I don’t buy into the fact that all these guys at Ferrari – who are top earners, and top technicians cant cope with the “stress”… really? then why are you in the sport.

        in the early 90’s there was this saying in the Paddock – you get into F-1 to learn the trade, and get good at what you do, then you go to Ferrari to get rich. Because they just kept poaching everyone for huge salaries…. its still the same thing. Marchionne is saying – where is the ROI? … I don’t blame him.

  28. What a Tractatus Magnus! bang on! and Will did as mighty job. and seems He and You are right on this one on all accounts. As per Leaders or leaders, there are ones who set up the business or come in with passion and pull and encourage the people with reasonably relaxed and inspiring but still controlled environment and there are others that have been parachuted in by remote owners or shareholders to achieve the numbers. these dependant ones then set up the steely cold corporate climate where everyone is scared as hell and what creativity and excitement can you expect then if you feel every hour could be your last at the job? now, imagine SM is your big boss . . .

  29. I have an English friend who has a 1988 Ferrari 328. He’s in love with it. He has taken me out a few times in it, and I have say, it sends shivers up your back when driven in anger round the country lanes of Cheshire, especially with the V8 wailing just behind your head. It’s red too! He won’t hear of anything bad said about Ferrari, so I tend to hold back so he doesn’t get upset.

    But I have to wonder what the heck such a pedigree F1 team as Ferrari is doing with an accountant, Sergio and a Marlboro man, Maurizio running the squad. Even LdM had some rally experience and JT also from his Peugeot days. I miss Stefano Domenicali. He was such a personable guy, or at least he appeared so to me. It’s a tragedy that at the moment, the team seems so inept operationally when they have a potential championship-winning car. You’d think that someone like Binotto should be running the team as he would seem to have a technical background. They already have a good team player with Jock Clear. And, really, Kimi, bless him, should make way for another younger, hungrier driver who would really push Seb, despite Seb’s probable objection to such a move. (Although I read somewhere that Seb stated that he had no influence over the team’s choice of his teammate).

    I listened to Will Buxton last night on Marshall Pruett’s podcast, and he seemed quite disappointed with Ferrari.

    I am not generally a Ferrari supporter, but I really feel sorry for all the people doing the real work there. They deserve much better.

  30. If there is poor management at Ferrari, it contrasts sharply with the MB senior management, whose protection of and belief in Hamilton have allowed him to show a much more mature face to the world. It always helps Lewis to have a lesser driver in the other car as well, but his driving this year has been fantastic.

    I´m not as hard on Vettel´s “throwing away the championship” as most UK posters (should have got black flag at Baku, but most of the rest is actually bad luck). SV is operating in an uncomfortable situation where management support seems as good as his last race. Responsibility for this can only come from the top but over a long season the unecessary pressure will take its toll. Nor does he get much support from his team-mate. When push comes to shove, Kimi´s not usually there. Singapore excepted, naturally.

    I make no excuses for Raikkonen,he´s the least effective driver in the top 3 teams. If the Ferrari really is that quick, bringing it home 4/5 is not worthy of the car. If Vettel actually does have the say on keeping Kimi, you have to doubt Ferrari´s ability to negotiate a contract.

  31. I so agree with you Joe. Your article mirrors my experience in the corporate world in sales and marketing with a major oil company (Shell) for 22 years. When there is the a good leader at the top, the organisation works well. When there is a control merchant at the top, as you say, people are focused on just staying employed, which is usually detrimental to the organisation.

    I am also hearing a rumour that Fiat are planning to stop producing RHD cars. DUH!!!

  32. Joe, as ever thank you for your interesting blog. I think Mr. Marchinnone should be replaced at the Scuderia and concentrate on FCA. Whilst it’s obvious that Mr. Arrivabene has done a decent job at Philip Morris I don’t think he is the man for the F1 team.

    I take issue with your comments about Ferrari owners being rich: my wife and I own one. I was an office clerk and my wife a secretary. Our car is far from being ‘mint’ and we can only afford to take it out a few times during the summer and it cost us less than our new 2-litre diesel. We both enjoy driving it and don’t care if nobody looks at the car or us.

    I have been a Scuderia Ferrari fan since the 1950’s and I proudly wear Ferrari branded shirts and hats and to me our Ferrari means Enzo, Ascari, Hawthorn, Collins, Von Trips, Parkes, Giunti, Bandini, Surtees, Gilles etc.,and many of the GT drivers both past and present.

    I’d like to see Luca di Montezemelo back (dream on) and I do wish Seb would calm down…

    1. Obviously I was generalising with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but humour often flies over the heads of those in low-slung vee-hickles

      1. Well Joe, easy for us to miss that is was humour…., it is not generally one of the words to be found in descriptions of your excellent emails…. felt like a bit of Clarksonesque inverted snobbery. Personally, no matter what road car I see, it’s only red Ferraris that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end (oh, and and E-type).

      1. Sorry, not intentional but there are so many drivers, if I tried to list them readers of Joe’s blog would fall asleep. I’m interested in Ferrari’s history and the drivers, mechanics and current technicians, despite all the politics and gimmicks added for ‘the show’.

  33. Great work with this article Joe. Thanks.

    BTW, have you heard anything else about the [supposed] power struggle between Arrivabene and Binotto for the F1 team principal position.

  34. ” (with American spellings)”

    Joe, this criticism is not valid, you spell “football” as “soccer”, even though the world governing body for the sport, FIFA, clearly has “football” as the name of the sport. When I email you about this, or people critique you on this blog, you always say “American market”. You can’t have this both ways. Cake and Eat it.

      1. You have to let the Brits have something… they did come up with the language even if the stick to outdated words.

          1. Oooo ! If you take a look at Bill Bryson he will tell you that many of the words we Brits smile at are actually English as spoke 200+ years ago and it is on this side of the Atlantic that we extend the language with the OED passing the 1 million word mark a few years ago. Of course we do not have an Acadamie Anglaise to tutt tutt or worse when our language gets mangled. One I particularly dislike, currently, is the Beebs rigid use of skeduled instead of the much much more pleasant scheduled. But hey ho I’m an old f*** and anyway just an ignorant engineer not a skola of the English language.
            To join in the debate I believe Ferrari have the enviable position of being pretty much able to do exactly as they please and give 2 fingers to all.

  35. Regarding status symbols, a Tesla does the job.

    Faster AND quieter.

    Noise equals wasted energy, or put another way, the noiser the car, the less efficient it is.

    The days of a Ferrari and Lambo are done.

    1. No I don’t agree, Fast car and noise is match made in heaven….Race car with no noise is not a race car….

    2. No, the ICE has a way to go yet. I do like the Tesla Model S to be sure. But I’ll hang on to my Chevrolet Corvette, MB GLK, and Ford Bronco (a bit eclectic I know) for now.

    3. > Tesla

      Show me a car whose minor controls can only be accessed by touchscreens, and I’ll show you a company that is either completely clueless about UI design for road vehicles, or hasn’t got a budget big enough to do the job properly.

      I assume JLR fall into the latter category. Tesla I assume just choose to do it that way. When Tesla decide to reverse engineer a competent equivalent of the once much-derided iDrive, it will be time for the rest of the industry to start worrying properly. Because it’ll be a sign that they’ve had a culture change that moves them past the ‘we know better than Detroit’ dogma to the ability to learn from best practice as well as transcending it. Which will also allow them to make a step change in quality (and don’t tell me about the customer satisfaction survey results until you’ve read the detail about vehicle fault numbers). At which point they will be pretty much unstoppable.

    1. HaHa, I think you have just reinforced Joes definition of Ferrari and Lambo drivers 😉

      It must be frustrating for the genuine enthusiast drivers to be lumped in with the big watch and gold handbag brigade.

      Cars bring out irrational feelings and behaviours in some folk, others can simply distance themselves and think of them as a practical object like a tin opener or table.

      I am in the former camp, I get it why someone would want a Ferrari and svae for years to own one. I more modest sights, and means, and have owned a few Alfa’s over the years. I loved the entire experience, even though rationally there are equal cars that outperform them financially, dynamically and reliability wise.

  36. If Ferrari continue in the current shambolic, blame-game manner through 2018, none of the big names out of contract will want to go there, however prestigious the name. They’ll not get the grand prizes -Max or Ricciardo,and have to plug in one of their young guns parked at Sauber next year. Good drivers, likely, but not Championship challengers for a few years more. Other
    teams will continue to do the winning.

    1. Just doesn’t work that way they will always get pretty much anyone they want.
      They are able to write their own rules. Always have and for the foreseeable probably always will. Like it or lump it !

  37. Thank you Joe

    …the appointment of the unqualified Signor Arrivabene to replace Mattiaci and the charming Stefano Domenicali always puzzled….is he there because he is Malboro’s place man since the company continues to sponsor the team ?

  38. I think that Ferrari road cars are automotive works of art. I adore them. That is despite the performance of their F1 efforts.

    But the thing that bothers me now, is that the current car was the only one that had a decent level of James Allinson’s DNA in it. It looked like it had winning potential from pre-season testing.

    Any genuinely innovating thinking in the car would be known to him and so that IP now also belongs to Mercedes. So I suspect that Ferrari has climbed to the top of its cyclical hill this year and without a clear technical leader, it will slide back down, until the Godfather is eliminated and a new cycle starts once more.

    1. Allison reckons it wasn’t him. And they seem to have kept up OK in the development race. I thought they’d be a shower this year, and I was completely wrong. Don’t see now why they shouldn’t do pretty well next year too, even if they again turn out to struggle under the pressure of the championship run-in.

  39. Given the last races, there’s understandably pressure at the team. I wonder if this sticks with the prancing horse and blows out as a sudden change of driver/staff over winter in search of better luck?

  40. I’ve thought for a while that Ferrari are their own worst enemy and this article confirms it. Under the present conditions, I can’t imagine a top drawer driver such as Riccardio or Verstappen going to Ferrari, and not just because they would be expected not to challenge Vettel as is Raikkonens role at the moment. I heard recently that they’d tried to put pressure on Sauber to change their driver line-up so that Le Clerc can be slotted in – no doubt in order that he can gain some experience and then take the no.2 seat at Ferrari, and once again, Vettel gets what he wants – a driver who won’t challenge him, being a young rookie driver this time. Sauber in diplomatic terms told them where to get off. So they are even driving a wedge between themselves and other teams now. I imagine that apart from heads rolling because of the current implosion – both no.1 driver and the team – that there will be more shenanigans once Raikkonen finally decides to hang up his driving gloves.

    You don’t win world titles like this. Not only can I not see a title being won this year, I can’t see them winning anything at all in future years with their current mentality. The results speak for themselves.

      1. I think he’s proved this year through his behaviour and his driving that he is probably not the best driver out there.

        1. +1 – absolutely agree with this 100%. Certainly not the best. I’ve always felt his WDCs owed more than a little to the Newey design genius and some good old-fashioned patronage. And, as Joe has pointed out elsewhere, like his famous fellow countryman, more than a little bit ‘wobbly’ at times if put under pressure. In boxing speak – a ‘glass chin’.

  41. I don’t buy into the whole ‘culture of fear thing’. I think it’s become a bit of a standard cliche to roll out about Ferrari. I have first hand reasons for this opinion.

    After JA left (which was sad, but probably inevitable given his tragic family situation), people were promoted from within and given a chance. After several high profile strategy blunders last year, was anyone from the strategy department fired? No.

    And quotes like “Shambolic blame-game manner” etc are just ludicrous. Ferrari are second in both championships with a car that is the equal of the best. They are not winning because they’ve made some mistakes, and also had a bit of bad luck. To call such an organisation shambolic is frankly absurd.

      1. Yes, but I have several years of first hand experience, and it doesn’t tally with what I’ve seen. I accept that doesn’t mean it’s not there, but it’s not what I’ve seen.

  42. Re the merchandiizing – besides loving racing in many shapes and forms, as a baseball fan I know better than to try and strike up a sports oriented conversation with someone wearing a Yankees or Red Sox hat… Glory by association?

    The prolific in-town use of sport-exhaust-with-sound-control does appear to bolster your point re the Ferrari drivers!

  43. Hamilton and Mercedes would have to have truly abysmal fortune to not win both the WDC and the WCC from here. Ferrari have only themselves to blame for this fiasco and for the storm of critical media coverage. It is truly terrible when not only are respected journalists like Joe and Will criticising them but the trackside reporters for the UKs main F1 TV broadcaster are openly making fun of them live on air.

  44. American spelling?????
    Look like they just rolled out of an opium den?????
    Taking their message directly to the people instead of chatting with “journalists” who do not like their looks?????

  45. It would be good if someone reminded Ferrari (and some others) that it is against the reulations to cover or conceal parts of their car from observation by others including the press. This was enforced a few weeks back, in the WEC, which has a similar rule, and a heafty fine imposed. Since the regs include “other obsrtuction” a wall of mechanics is definitely agaist the regs. As is shielding everything from the press.
    Tech RegsArt 21.4.
    21.4 During the entire Event, no screen, cover or other obstruction which in any way obscures any
    part of a car will be allowed at any time in the paddock, garages, pit lane or grid, unless it is
    clear any such covers are needed solely for mechanical reasons, which could, for example,
    include protecting against fire.
    In addition to the above the following are specifically not permitted :
    a) Engine, gearbox or radiator covers whilst engines are being changed or moved around
    the garage.
    b) Covers over spare wings when they are on a stand in the pit lane not being used.
    c) Parts such as (but not limited to) spare floors, fuel rigs or tool trolleys may not be used as an obstruction.
    As a form of retaliation against Ferrari’s exclusion of the press, several journalists could complain to the FIA that their view was deliberately obstructed. (Not that I actually expect any will, however some teams have been know to cause mischief)

          1. Selective application of the rules….Look what happened to Max today 🙂

            I’m with you….Why don’t they enforce THEIR rules evenhandedly??

  46. Back in the late 70s, before Will Buxton was born Ferrari were the laughing stock of F1. Not only were they slow, when they actually turned up at a race, but also unreliable and had different drivers every week. When your top driver is a peacock in a cowboy hat your are in deep trouble. At least today they are pretty quick, just making stupid mistakes.

    1. 75-77 Lauda, Regazzoni/Reutemann 2 WDC for Lauda
      78 Reutemann,Gilles Villeneuve Race Wins
      79 Scheckter, Gilles Villeneuve WDC.

      To which bit of the late ’70s were to referring?

      (I’m not a Ferrari fan, purely mercenary).

  47. Really enjoyed reading this post, many an organization (including the one I am currently employed for) could learn much from paragraphs 3-5. Thank you and well said.

    1. True, Paragraphs 3-5 definitely define the way in which companies should be run. This could explain why there is an every increasing number of ‘young’ companies taking huge chunks of the market.

  48. From a watchng fan point of view they have missed a trick .
    Every other team has someone talk to the media and pretty much repeat everything that is already known.
    No bombshell news ever.
    What the hell do we ever hear from force india,red bull etc on their regular media bits?
    Only bland air filling fluff once a strategy has already happened.
    The ferrari problem is not sending someone to do that sort of thing.
    It would annoy me but please people that want to hear someone say something.
    I think that bouncing tyre in the pits did more to ruin things during a race weekend.

  49. When Ferrari had a bad year in 2014 and started sacking people left right and centre it reminded me of somewhere I have worked, the atmosphere just seemed the same, and I heard the words ‘not good enough’ and ‘underperforming’ all the time at my work and with regards to Ferrari.

    This kind of leadership is based around fear and pointing out mistakes, finding fault first and making employees justify and explain themselves. From my experience this does make people work harder, but they are working harder for themselves, to protect themselves so they don’t get the finger pointed at them, not working harder to benefit the company. You end up spending your time working to ensure the boss is happy, making sure you have an explanation for what you are doing and hoping when something has gone wrong it wasn’t you. The place where I have worked which was like this, the boss would stare at data all day and pick out anything that looked strange, usually in a complex environment (like F1 certainly is) you can’t explain everything from a spreadsheet there are too many factors influencing things, when the boss found something it would immediately be assumed as something ‘wrong’ that someone was responsible for so we’d run around in circles to explain it, 99% of the time wasn’t to do with someone underperforming or doing something wrong, just a symptom of a complex and unpredictable environment. This stifles creativity, I’d never take a risk with things to move the business forward as when it didn’t work out this would be pointed out to you repeatedly. This approach can give the impression of working well but generally doesn’t. In contrast I’ve worked at places where when there is a problem, the effort is focused on finding a solution rather than identifying who was at fault and making an example of them. Perhaps some people may shirk in an environment without fear of the boss but in F1 I’d imagine you’ve got a bunch of highly motivated people at the top of their game, who you don’t need to micromanage and point out their faults. I’ve seen many ‘leaders’ in business like Marchionne who always blame those below them for poor results.

    A good leader accepts responsibility, even if it isn’t truly their fault and builds respect from their employees who should want to work hard and be successful rather than be coerced into hard work through fear.

    Sorry for the long rant, I’ll find someone to blame for it.

    1. If you want a text book on how to do it right try Field Marshal Bill Slim’s (probably the best general of WW2) book “Defeat into victory” Not an easy read nor especially well written but straight form the horses mouth by someone who actually did it (not a eunuch). Self effacing, little criticism, lots of praise.

      1. Looking at the same subject from the other direction, may I recommend “On the Psychology of Military Incompetence”, by Norman Dixon? There’s a lot to be learned from seeing how to do it wrong, as well…

  50. Joe, fantastic article that works on so many levels. On your many travels have you met with Michael Balle who wrote Lead With Respect? I am sure that you as a Francophile Englishman would have a really interesting time with the Anglophile Frenchman that he is.
    Paragraph 4 is so true, but really hard to make happen. I am fortunate enough to work for an organisation that is at least trying to ensure that its leaders follow these principles.

  51. Cigarette man’s time may be coming to an end. He should be careful or he may get kicked upstairs like Luca (Literally to Alitalia) and up in the gigantic very Itlian mess in the air, which is very soon to crash to earth and break into very small pieces.

    1. Oops sorry! Eddie Jordan said much the same on Channel 4 so it is almost an impossibility!
      (About Arrivabene, not Alitlia.)

  52. I don’t like nor approve of Donald Trump, but he has a point about fake news. OK… it suits Trump to be able to scream “fake news” at anything he doesn’t care for, but there is a lot of it about.

    Certainly in F1, there are many news sources, but a rather smaller number of reliable sources. Too many blur the old distinctions between reportage, analysis and opinion. Quite a few seem to resort to pure invention.

    It’s not an F1 thing, and it’s not that new. Some years ago, when I was volunteering for what is now EspnCricinfo, I got to cover an international match from the Wanderers. It was a disillusioning experience for me. Suddenly I was in the midst of professional reporters, people I’d held in high regard, with access to all the press conferences that they had access to, with the same information being fed from the team press liaison officers, with reports from the match referee coming from the horse’s mouth into the press box. And I saw how many of them made things up to get juicier stories.

    Given all of that, is one valid response to just put up the walls, say as little as you have to and let the press get on with the speculating that is going to go on anyway, with or without you?

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