APRIL 15, 1996
Ferrari at Mugello...
While the race team had been in South America Nicola Larini had been engine testing at Mugello, but the Monza test was designed to address the problems with the 1996 gearbox - which was not used in Brazil and Argentina - and the handling of the F310, which is clearly not an easy car to drive.
The Monza test does not appear to have been very successful, with rumors in Italy suggesting that the modified 1996 gearbox is still not a reliable unit, and that Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine had to stop work because of gearbox failures. The team is now wondering if it is possible to use the 1996 gearboxes at the European and San Marino GPs or whether it is more sensible to continue with the tried and tested 1995 units. Luckily the units are pretty much interchangeable.
The team is expected to try a raised nose within the next few days at Mugello to see if the handling of the car can be improved while the team's aerodynamicists at both Bristol and Maranello are in the windtunnels almost every day at the moment.
Despite the team's efforts to play down its chances in 1996, the expectations in Italy seem to be high and so the pressure is on. Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and his Sporting Director Jean Todt are trying to avoid Ferrari falling into its traditional panic, and are concentrating their efforts in developing the F310 and holding the team together.
The F310 is fundamentally a pretty good car. It has been reliable since the disastrous first tests and pretty competitive in Australia and Argentina. It still needs a lot of fine-tuning to close the gap to the Williams, but Ferrari will gain nothing if the team panics and start replacing people. Todt and Montezemolo know this but it remains to be seen if there are more powerful forces in action at Maranello. The next few weeks will be significant because they will tell us if the team is being run by JeanÊTodt.
It is therefore unlikely that Ferrari will drop its designer John Barnard. The Englishman is under contract to Ferrari until the end of July 1997 and seems to be quite happy in the Ferrari Design & Development facility at Shalford. Whether or not the FDD deal will continue after 1997 is another matter, because there is little doubt that ultimately the Italians are not all convinced that FDD is a good idea and feel that the team would be better off with everything in Italy. As Barnard is still not keen to work away from his home base, the long-term future suggests that he is likely to end up elsewhere - the obvious choice being at McLaren.