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Raikkonen's Ferrari will be very different
November 03, 2006 18:05 IST
Michael Schumacher's retirement marked the end of an era for Formula One and Ferrari's managerial shake-up last week brought down the curtain on another.
When Kimi Raikkonen reports for duty at Maranello for the first time in January, Schumacher's replacement will find a very different team to the one of his illustrious predecessor.
The Finn will still communicate, as did the seven times world champion before him, in English but the team will be more Italian.
The 'Dream Team' so closely associated with Schumacher's success is no more.
Technical director Ross Brawn and engine expert Paolo Martinelli are leaving, while Jean Todt is likely to hand over the running of the team in the not-too-distant future. Designer Rory Byrne has taken a back seat since 2004.
Another team, whose faces are largely unknown beyond the factory walls, has been promoted to take their places.
Briton Brawn, the master strategist who was a key figure in all of Schumacher's titles with Benetton and then Ferrari, is taking a sabbatical.
Todt has been promoted to chief executive of the Ferrari group, with president Luca di Montezemolo saying at Monza last weekend that he would remain team boss for an interim period.
It is entirely conceivable that Brawn could return in 2008 as Todt's successor, possible with Schumacher's assistance, but next year his role will be filled by Mario Almondo, previously head of human resources, with Stefano Domenicali as sporting director.
South African Byrne -- who penned the cars that won Ferrari's six successive titles from 1999 to 2004 -- remains a design consultant but already spends much of his time in Thailand, with Aldo Costa now the main man.
Engine director Paolo Martinelli moves to parent Fiat and is replaced by Frenchman Gilles Simon, his close assistant.
Most of the new generation are in their 40s and the big question is how much the handover will affect Ferrari's performance.
Once-dominant Williams have not been the same since top designer Adrian Newey departed in 1997, even if there are plenty of other reasons for that.
When Newey left McLaren for Red Bull in 2005, the team highlighted the fact that the departure was amicable and expected, with the designer fully involved in restructuring the technical team prior to going.
The fact remains that Williams, for whatever reason, have not won a race since the day Newey left.
A winning team has been broken up but both Brawn and Byrne are confident that the transition will be painless -- indeed that it has been proven to be so already -- and that Ferrari will remain the team to beat.
"I think Ferrari has possibly got the best continuity," Brawn said at the weekend.
"All the guys who are now designing the car and running the team are the guys who have been doing it for the past few years. So although I'm leaving and Michael's leaving, most of the structure is still there.
"It's important there is a 'clear the decks' time for them to get on with the job and show what they can do," added Brawn. "They are my proteges and nothing would make me prouder than for them to do a better job than I've been able to do."
Ferrari will have the advantage of years of working with Bridgestone, who become Formula One's sole tyre suppliers next year following Michelin's departure, and have been planning for some time for what Montezemolo referred to as the third era of his Ferrari presidency.
"I think Ferrari will continue to be strong, I see no reason why not," Byrne said in September when Schumacher announced his retirement.
"The 2004 car was the last I was responsible for and you've seen a car out there that was just as competitive, that's going well and is reliable. We've achieved the transition from me being responsible for the car to Aldo and Nikolas [Tombazis]."
Raikkonen, a very different character to Schumacher, may bring far more of a change to his new surroundings. But if he makes a winning start to his Ferrari career, it will soon seem like business as usual.
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