Updated: Back in April of this year, the word was out that Ferrari’s wind-tunnel at their stunning Maranello facility in the rather beautiful commune of Modena in northern Italy was to be placed at the disposal of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team as they tested their final wing set up and aero package for the Match against Team New Zealand. The full write-up from those times were reported HERE in my post entitled ‘Prancing Horses’ but we heard little more either from the sailors or the petrol-heads. Ferrari quickly scuttled back to Formula 1, battling against the perennial early-season speed blues and a backlash against the worst colourway ever seen on a Ferrari car – green and Scuderia Rosso do not mix. The Tifosi went nuts.
And whilst Mercedes and Red Bull have gleefully jumped on the America’s Cup bandwagon with Ineos and Alinghi respectively, Ferrari have, like the Italian Cup Team, kept a very low profile. We heard snippets that not only was Luna Rossa fully entered and paid up but that Prada have, according to Grant Dalton, exercised their rights for the sponsorship of the Challenger Selector Series. It was good news that Dalts imparted. It was anything but, the next day in Milan, with a resounding rebuttal in the media pending the venue decision by the Defender. Head-scratching times.
But it’s confirmed today that the Luna Rossa Team are back in the America’s Cup with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron rubber-stamping their December 1st entry. Great news for the America’s Cup all round.
It’s been a curious media stance though by Luna Rossa. It almost feels as if they were/are smarting from their defeat and the PR around their last, highly successful, campaign. They came closer than anyone expected to winning and they seemed to have a team spirit, led by Max Sirena and translated via Checco Bruni and Jimmy Spithill, that had all the hallmarks of a juggernaut campaign for AC37. But we’ve heard nothing (until today). The boats were transferred back to Italy, Cagliari we presume, and there’s been no word from anyone on what their plans are. The social media accounts of the team and its members have been quiet. They launched a fabulous photo-documentary book in early December by the incredible and much-loved Carlo Borlenghi, and they posted promising words about the Protocol announcement in mid-November but not a lot else. Until now…
It’s well known that all the teams underwent a thorough debrief after the last Cup and you have to suspect that the conclusion for many was to disconnect from media engagement and adopt a high-brow communications strategy. Certainly that’s the case for Ineos Britannia who are rather enjoying the walled-off approach and careful management of every message, speaking directly to a perceived audience and ignoring the rest. Good for them. It works right up until the point that it doesn’t.
But the Ferrari speculation is gathering pace, it was alluded to in the Alinghi press conference, and rather like Mercedes and Red Bull, the F1 team’s largesse is all rather predicated around the new budget cap. None of the F1 teams want to lose top talent that they have invested in to other teams so side-projects are valuable and necessary ways to cleverly account and balance the books. Park a design team or an engineering division over to a complementary endeavour and the bean-counters at the FIA haven’t got a leg to stand on. Nothing to see here.
Ferrari however is a different case in point. A wildly successfully listed entity on the Milan and New York Stock Exchanges, they have a workforce where you cut them and they bleed a shade of the Ferrari marque. They are so bought-in to the company and its motor-racing heritage and lineage that anything else is culturally seen as a distraction. Persuading teams that are so invested in the sheer beauty and majesty of mechanical motor engineering to go and do America’s Cup stuff is like asking a ballet dancer to do break-dancing. It’s going to be tough. Unions might get involved.
But it would make absolute sense on any number of levels. Ferrari in the America’s Cup takes everything up another level. Formula 1 has historically been so desperate to have the Prancing Horse competing that for a long while they took the lion’s share of the split revenues. Guarantees were in place to ensure Ferrari were on the grid as without them F1, it was thought, would die on its knees. In a similar vein, if the Scuderia logo were to be displayed on Patrizio’s next boat, it would be different class. Merchandise sales would rocket. The profile would be other-worldly. The event would be forever changed.
And in John Elkann, the young, thrusting, sailing-mad (he sponsored the Maserati trimaran of Giovanni Soldini) as the CEO of Ferrari, we have to think that he’s eyeing the Cup as a brilliant marketing opportunity as well as being a design challenge – hopefully not a distraction.
Elkann’s role is a tough one at the moment. On one side he’s fighting the autonomous driving and electric zeitgeist that is dominating the car industry’s thoughts whilst on another level he’s battling to keep the family football club, Juventus, clear of the financial fair play brigade that have questioned the club’s transfer policies. Everywhere he looks there’s 99 problems but he has youth on his side and the Agnelli fortune to protect. The America’s Cup could be a brilliant and welcome distraction. And my goodness would it do wonders for Grant Dalton’s efforts around the venue – Prada and Ferrari with Mercedes and Red Bull puts zeroes on the hosting fee.
In a month full of good news for sailing with the Alinghi Red Bull Racing announcement, the Youth Worlds going swimmingly down in Oman, the right sailors honoured at the Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards and at the Elysee Palace and with the SailGP about to explode in Sydney at the weekend, it is great to go into 2022 knowing that the Italians are back in the Cup game in a big way.
Luna Rossa Prada Ferrari has a ring to it. Wonderful if it happens.