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Pressure on Ferrari (again)

THE Italian press gave Ferrari a rough ride in the newspapers in the days after the disastrous Magny-Cours weekend, and when Michael Schumacher suffered another engine blow-up in testing last week at Monza, there were renewed calls for change at Maranello.

Such was the violence of the reaction that Michael Schumacher went on the offensive in his defense of team manager JeanĘTodt, the main target for the attacks.

"Jean Todt is one of the best people at Ferrari," said the World Champion at Monza. "If you want to destroy Ferrari, then kick out Todt. If you want the team to grow, let him stay."

Todt had said after the French GP that he was ready to resign from the team if he was asked to do so because of the dreadful results in Canada and France.

The signs are that Ferrari's top management will not take such a drastic step despite its reputation for panicking under pressure. At the start of this year when the F310 gearbox was causing problems there were calls for sackings in the design staff but Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo held firm and the storm passed. After Schumacher's virtuoso victory in the rain in Barcelona, Ferrari was the toast of Italy. The failures in Canada and France have swung the pendulum back once again.

The curious thing is that the racing team under Jean Todt is in good spirits and making progress. Todt has achieved a remarkable amount but he will always be susceptible to panic in the top management, and this is often more due to political issues than to performance.

The Italian press seems to have forgotten Schumacher's remarks at the launch of the car, which are currently proving to be on the nail. "We will be competitive, I am certain of it," said Schumacher, "but we must work at reliability. My aim to win a couple of races before challenging for the title in 1997."

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