Team wants to build from within

Updated: February 5, 2004, 12:47 PM ET
By Alan Baldwin | Reuters

LONDON -- Familiar faces took center stage when Ferrari launched the F2004 that could take Michael Schumacher to a record seventh Formula One title.

Behind the scenes, however, the understudies are learning their lines.

Quietly, and without fanfare, the champions are planning for life after the group of men who turned them into a world-beating team are gone.

That day may yet be some way off, with the likes of technical director Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Byrne under contract to the end of 2006 when Schumacher's deal expires. By then the German will be 37.

But just as the new car unveiled at Maranello on Monday is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, so too is Ferrari's view of the future.

They are making sure that when Brawn, Byrne and engine expert Paolo Martinelli decide the time has come to move aside, there will be men ready to step into their shoes.

Brawn, who has been with Schumacher since his days at Benetton a decade ago, said success lies in continuity.

"It is a stability that bonds the team during difficult periods, such as in 2003," he said, speaking in the Vecchia Meccanica building that once housed a production line and now symbolizes the link between past and future.

"But it is also a stability that allows us to grow from within.

"For the past few years our objective has been to develop key members of our staff so that they will become the Rory Byrnes or Ross Brawns at Ferrari in the future."

This year Luca Baldisserri has been promoted to become Ferrari's chief race engineer, responsible for activities including race strategy.

Previously race engineer for Gerhard Berger, Eddie Irvine and most recently Schumacher from 2000 to 2002, he also helped Brawn with strategy last year.

Aldo Costa has taken more overall responsibility for the design of the new car than in the past and that trend will continue.

Ferrari, which lost aerodynamicists Antonia Terzi to Williams in 2002 and Nicholas Tombazis to McLaren last year, has recruited John Iley from Renault as head of aerodynamics.

Asked whether the new roles were the first manifestation of the next era at Ferrari, Brawn concurred. He said Ferrari, constructors' champions for the past five years, needed to strengthen certain areas.

"Luca is a good example. I think during 2003 we didn't have strong enough support for the race engineering and because of the tighter schedule we weren't optimizing the car as often as I would like to see."

"Aldo is a very good design engineer and organizer and he's been great support for Rory," added Brawn.

"In the next few years we want to see Aldo take more responsibility because one day all of us will stop and we need to have an organization which is built from within."

"If Rory wanted to stop, for instance, I look around Formula One and I don't see anyone who could replace Rory directly ... we will do much better building an organization from within and these are the first steps to build that."

"It's the same with the engine group," said Martinelli. "We have younger people and we too have given them more responsibility."

The approach differs from the start of the Schumacher era, with Ferrari struggling to live up to its glorious past when team boss Jean Todt arrived in 1993.

Schumacher was hired at the end of 1995 and Brawn and Byrne, technical director and designer respectively at Benetton, followed in 1996.

"We don't have any dramatic new concepts," said Brawn of the new car. "For many years now it has been an evolutionary process following a certain philosophy.

"And I think this continuity of people that we are talking about is important to maintain that philosophy. It's a philosophy which has so far been successful.

"If we were to bring a new technical director or a new chief designer into our organization, the philosophy may change. Maybe it would change for the better but it would certainly change and we're not sure that's a good thing."