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Ferrari’s Strategy Fiasco in Imola: From Potential Heroes to Zeroes



Ferrari Addresses Strategy Disaster in Imola: A Terrible Day

At the WEC race in Imola, Ferrari completely botches what was thought to be a guaranteed victory. The Italians openly admit to making several mistakes in their strategy.

Before joining MSM, Robert contributed to sports industry publications. Since 2011, he has been covering events such as DTM, Daytona, Le Mans, and more, reporting live from the racetracks.

Sunday evening, 9 PM, Imola paddock: The atmosphere in Ferrari’s sleek hospitality area was noticeably calmer than in the preceding days. Animated discussions were confined to one corner, where a group of journalists, including, sought to comprehend how the Italian team could squander what seemed like a certain victory at their highly prestigious home race.

Giuliano Salvi, Ferrari’s highly seasoned chief race engineer, was assigned this somewhat thankless task. The former race engineer for Formula 1 drivers such as Kimi Räikkönen and Felipe Massa didn’t beat around the bush, given the clear strategic blunder that left Ferrari with a disappointing fourth-place finish at the season’s second WEC race, following a triple pole position.

Ferrari After Imola Debacle: “A Terrible Day”

“Stuff happens,” Salvi straightforwardly admitted. “It was definitely a terrible day. Truly regrettable, and I feel sorry for all the people who supported us here.” What had transpired? Ferrari was on track to clinch their first season win at the 6-Hour race at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, with hints of a possible one-two finish even in the air.

Approximately two hours before the end of the race, the anticipated rain shower began, which significantly hindered Ferrari’s chances. While Toyota and Porsche competitors swiftly adapted to the increasingly wet conditions by either collectively switching to rain tires or, in Porsche’s case, cleverly diversifying their strategies, the initially leading factory Ferraris and the privately owned AF-Corse-499P continued to lap the circuit on Michelin’s medium slicks.

Ferrari Suffers Up to 14-Second Loss Per Lap

By the time Ferrari directed its #50 (Fuoco, Molina, Nielsen) and #51 (Pier Guidi, Giovinazzi, Calado) cars, as well as the #83 499P (Kubica, Shwartzman, Ye) to pit for tire changes during the 139th of 205 laps, the damage was already done. During this crucial period, the Ferraris lost as much as 14 seconds per lap to the event’s eventual winner, the #7 Toyota (Conway, Kobayashi, de Vries), and the runner-up, the #6 Porsche 963 (Estre, Lotterer, Laurens Vanthoor).

Mr. Salvi stated, “The information we had was clearly incorrect. We believed the weather would only be temporarily adverse. The drivers were under the impression that only the final sector posed a challenge, with the remainder of the course being manageable. However, things didn’t go as planned. We need to review our communication process, as this was definitely a mistake. Our decision was based on an inaccurate scenario.”

Salvi continued, “Our goal isn’t to point fingers at anyone. We’re the same team that, as newcomers, clinched victory at Le Mans last year. Back then, we nailed it and were hailed as heroes, but now, we’re seen as zeroes. Obviously, we should have divided the cars. We attempted to do so but ultimately failed to. We need to closely examine our processes because this was clearly a mistake.”

Ferrari Doubts Its Own Weather Radar

Ferrari’s weather radar had forecasted rain well in advance, but initially, the historic track remained dry. Anticipating the wet conditions early on, the lead drivers, Nicklas Nielsen and Antonio Giovinazzi, initially undertook triple stints and were cautious with their tires to extend their time on the track and adjust their strategy accordingly.

Salvi expressed, “The pivotal moment came down to interpreting the weather radar. Our radar indicated a deterioration in conditions well ahead of it actually happening. As a result, we lost faith in the radar’s accuracy. We assumed it was one of those instances where relying too heavily on the radar wasn’t advisable. That was a definite mistake, but it’s something we still need to fully grasp.”

After the skies had finally ceased pouring, the Ferraris found themselves out of contention for the much-anticipated victory. Antonio Fuoco, the weekend’s and the race’s fastest driver (boasting the fastest lap and on average the quickest of all competitors), managed a late surge to fourth place in the #50 Ferrari using slick tires. The sister car bearing the #51 had to settle for seventh place, finishing just one spot ahead of the yellow AF-Corse Ferrari.

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