Ferrari, Williams in battle to avoid F1 crisis

London: Two of Formula One`s oldest, greatest and most famous teams face the threat of mid-season upheaval in a bid to revive their flagging fortunes after making disappointing, or dismal, starts to their 2011 campaigns.

Both Ferrari and Williams have, by their own standards, flopped alarmingly in the three season-opening `flyaway` races this year in Australia, Malaysia and China - and each has conceded the need to make dramatic improvements to avert a major overhaul of staffing and structure.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo made this clear earlier this week when he reacted to the team`s third race without a podium finish by declaring the scarlet scuderia were now in "a very delicate moment".

He added: "This cannot, and must not, be the team`s level. I expect our engineers to act with determination and know-how, unleashing the maximum of their capacity to improve the performance of the car in a short time.”

"I want Ferrari to be at the level that both we and our fans demand it should be.."

Ferrari, of course, is an Italian sporting institution that has enjoyed a recent era of unparalleled success with German Michael Schumacher claiming five successive titles, but has struggled to match that since his departure and original retirement from F1.

Current drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have been unable to break the latest team to take a stranglehold on the sport, Red Bull, and seen McLaren pass them as the main challengers since the season started in Melbourne.

Massa and Alonso finished sixth and seventh respectively at last Sunday`s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai where Lewis Hamilton, using a clever tyre strategy, won the race ahead of defending champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, who finished third after starting 18th on the grid.

In effect, Ferrari were not only beaten for sheer speed on the track, but they were out-thought and out-raced by outfits that the team Italian team`s founder Enzo Ferrari once sneeringly referred to as merely `garage teams`.

And, to make matters worse for Ferrari and di Montezemolo, this setback to their ambitions - an anonymous, unimpressive start to 2011 when the president had demanded a title-winning campaign - has followed a dreadful end to 2010 when a strategic blunder at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ended their hopes of any glory in the final race.

It has been understandable this week that the silence from the drivers, and the men in charge of the team, at Maranello has been deafening.

Something similar has unfolded with Williams, another once-great `garagiste` team, but without a win since 2004 when Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya delivered their 113th victory.

Williams has also won nine constructors world titles, but the last of those came in 1997 when Canadian Jacques Villeneuve lifted the drivers crown, the seventh time a Williams driver did so.

Ferrari, at least, can point to Finn Kimi Raikkonen`s success in 2007 - the 14th champion driver in a Ferrari car. The team has also won 16 constructors` titles, the last in 2008, when Hamilton took the drivers` honours.

This season has seen Williams fail to score a point in three races, yet there remains optimism at their Grove headquarters, in England, where the team`s innovative thinking has always been a strength in their performances.

Now, however, that is under analysis with new shareholder, Austrian invester Toto Wolff, a former racing driver, taking an interest in how they tackle the challenge of their worst start in history.

Technical director Australian Sam Michael said an overhaul of the team`s working structure was essential - and admitted he was prepared to move if that was a necessary outcome.

Wolff said: "Our ingredients seem right, but somehow it doesn`t seem to translate into performance. But I am optimistic that we will get back to the performance that the team deserves to have. I can see in their faces that everyone is working hard.”

"It is all about timing. Other teams seem to have made major steps from testing to the first race and we seem to have not done these steps."

Williams has undergone major changes this year following a winter flotation.

Team co-founder and engineering leader Briton Patrick Head, once seen as the finest technical director in the paddock, has started to reduce his involvement with the team.

Wolff commented: "I don`t know whether it is linked to Patrick, but his history speaks for itself. I have no doubt about that.”

"However, at a certain stage, every team has to make a step from the founding generation to new generations.”

"We have that new generation with young guys, compared to the founders.”

"But it is no excuse to say Patrick is not involved like before -- it is up to our new generation to make the team successful again."

Bureau Report