FERRARI have recruited former Heriot-Watt University student Jock Clear, the Mercedes engineer who helped Lewis Hamilton win this year’s Formula 1 world championship, as the last key element in the Italian team’s rebuilding after a dismal year.
Ferrari failed to win a race in 2014, their first blank season since 1993, while dominant Mercedes won 16 of the 19 grands prix and took both titles.
The sport’s oldest and most successful team have carried out a major restructuring, with a host of senior staff leaving and Maurizio Arrivabene now installed as their third principal of the year.
Arrivabene told a news conference at the team’s Fiorano test track that Clear would be taking the departed Pat Fry’s job as head of engineering with his arrival date still being negotiated with Mercedes. “We respect agreements and regulations,” he added.
Clear, who also worked with Jacques Villeneuve at Williams when the Canadian won the 1997 world championship, will bring invaluable know-how to Ferrari from Mercedes at a time when the Italian team are playing catch up.
Arrivabene dismissed speculation that former Mercedes technical director Bob Bell, who resigned in December 2013, could also be moving to Maranello and said Ferrari now had the right people in place.
“The team is there,” he said. “There is no great news to be announced, no surprises. We have to believe in the people we have.”
Spain’s double world champion Fernando Alonso has left for McLaren and been replaced by quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel from Red Bull, with 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen staying.
Asked what he expected from Vettel, Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne smiled: “I expect the same thing from a German driver as I do from a Spanish driver. To drive the hell out of the car and win races. Their role in life is to race and to win.”
Arrivabene, who previously worked for team sponsor Philip Morris, said he was looking to the German to lead and motivate a team that finished fourth overall this year.
“No man is an island,” he said. “I am not a magician, there are no miracles to be made. We have to work as a team, this is the most important thing.
“I don’t believe in individual success. I believe in team success,” he added.
“Drivers become the stars of the show but they must be treated like employees. They must work as a team and help rebuild the team.”
Marchionne left no doubt there was a hard road ahead before Ferrari could catch up with dominant Mercedes. “We must forget 2014,” said the Fiat Chrysler (FCA) chief executive who replaced Luca Di Montezemolo as Ferrari chairman in October. “I don’t want to talk about 2014 – 2015 will be a difficult year that will put the team to a real test.”
Asked how long it would take Ferrari to recover, Marchionne said: “I think 2015 is going to be a reconstitution year. It will be Maurizio’s first full year with the team.
“I think hopefully within the next 12 months we will remove all the baggage of uncertainty that is going to plague at least the initial phase of 2015.”
YEAR OF CHANGE AT FERRARI
22 Dec: Ferrari confirm that senior Mercedes engineer Jock Clear is to join as engineering director, replacing the departed Pat Fry.
19 Dec: Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, dropped by Toro Rosso in November, replaces Spaniard Pedro De la Rosa as a test driver.
Dec 17: Tyre expert Hirohide Hamashima, a former Bridgestone motorsport tyre development boss, leaves Ferrari.
Dec 16: Ferrari announce the departures of chief designer Nikolas Tombazis and engineering director Pat Fry, two of the key men responsible for designing the 2014 car. James Allison handed responsibility for the technical side.
Dec 15: Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, dropped at the end of the season by Sauber, is appointed test and reserve driver for 2015.
Nov 24: Maurizio Arrivabene takes over as team principal, replacing Marco Mattiacci, who leaves the company.
Nov 20: Ferrari announce that double world champion Fernando Alonso is leaving and will be replaced by quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who joins from Red Bull on a three-year deal. He will partner Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion.
Sep 10: Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo says he will leave on 13 Oct, handing over to Fiat Chrysler chief executive Sergio Marchionne. Montezemolo had been chairman since 1991 and also worked with founder Enzo Ferrari.
1 Aug: Ferrari confirm the departure of engine designer Luca Marmorini. Mattia Binotto takes his place.
11 May: Ferrari go a year without a win.
14 April: Stefano Domenicali, appointed team principal in 2008, resigns after the new V6 turbo era starts with nothing better than two fourth places from three races. He is replaced by Marco Mattiacci, Ferrari’s North America president.