What if ? Ferrari's brewing perfect storm

Sebastian Vettel visits Ferrari

But then there's the case of the talented Mr. Vettel. On the one hand, Vettel's accomplishments at the highest level of motor racing are outstanding, by any norm, and a testimony to his ability and prowess. But give a quadruple World Champion one hit-and-miss season and he suddenly falls victim to the whims of free-market judgement. By the end of 2014, some paddock pundits questioned the German's true value, noting that in his 8-year presence at the pinnacle he was never really forced to cross swords with a truly strong team mate. While Mark Webber was certainly no slouch, they said, he was never considered 'World Champion' material either. And when Vettel finally was confronted with a hugely gifted talent at Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo simply cut his head off and spit down his throat every other weekend!

This, acquiesce the critics, proves that he may not be as good as we thought, while others enforced the argument by claiming that Vettel was merely a 'Newey-enhanced' driver, alluding to a theory that his past merits were first and foremost the result of the exceptional machinery supplied to him by Red Bull's chief technical genius. Regardless of Vettel's motivations for being led to the gates of Maranello, there is no doubt that his cycle as a driver has also reached an important inflection point. In a sense, it defies logic for a hugely successful but dispirited driver to seek asylum with a team facing its own gusty head winds. The challenge is immense, for all parties involved, and there will be no shortage of torment and hardship. How Vettel will deal with these issues, especially if they persist, is anybody's guess…

Looking back at Ferrari's past trials and tribulations, restructurings and turnarounds, it's difficult to pinpoint a context comparable to the present one, involving a similar amount of uncertainties. When Jean Todt head the Scuderia in the early '90s, it took the better part of three years for the Frenchman to stabilize, revive and uplift Ferrari's fortunes. He did it by drawing on his extensive experience gained as a highly successful leader at Peugeot Sport, and by gradually recruiting and placing top of the heap individuals at every level of expertise. The only real obscure factor was how it would all gel and combine, a feat eventually achieved by strenuous organization and the instilment of trust and faith amongst all departments and workers, from top to bottom. While obviously innocent before proven guilty, Maurizio Arrivabene cannot be compared to Jean Todt.

Sergio Marchionne has already fired off a warning and promised a year of transition in 2015, but given the task at hand and the unknown quantities linked to the team's new administration, 365 days of transformation and passage appears optimistic. Or is it even possible for Ferrari to recover in its present guise? What if down the road Marchionne's strategic vision only yields stagnation and disparity, while his unaccustomed management style breeds divergence or discord amongst the troops? What if Maurizio Arrivabene fails to infuse reliance and conviction, while interaction dwindles and initial buoyancy fizzles out? What if underperformance persists beyond a reasonable duration and Vettel's patience runs thin, causing the vulnerable German to simply lose his heart for the sport?

What if Maranello's present rainy days were just a prelude to a perfect storm, forcing Ferrari into a deep secular downtrend with no end in sight? A depression so grim, its effects ripple through the entire company and corrode its enterprise value, now under the scrutiny of demanding stock market investors. What if this was just the beginning of a prolonged declining cycle for Ferrari? Curious minds would like to know...

Ferrari's Christmas press conference