RaceFans graphic: A 2020 IndyCar with a Ferrari F1-style livery

Analysis: What would a Ferrari IndyCar or WEC project look like?

2020 F1 season

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When first Ferrari announced back in April that it would consider entering categories other than Formula 1 should the sport’s budget cap be further reduced below its new level of $145 million, paddock folk took the words to be either a belated April Fool’s stunt or a hollow warning aimed at foiling cutbacks.

History is, after all, littered with examples of the Scuderia using such tactics to get its way. During the mid-eighties the company threatened to defect to CART – forerunner of the current IndyCar championship – while the brand is currently active in endurance and GT racing via customer teams.

In March 2017 Ferrari’s then-president Sergio Marchionne announced Formula E was on his radar. “We need to be involved in Formula E because electrification via hybridisation is going to be part of our future,” he said.

However a Ferrari source, in conversation with RaceFans, recently characterised those remarks as the late Marchionne posturing at the height of a wrangle over future engine regulations. Clearly, ‘threats’ form part of Ferrari’s negotiating arsenal.

In addition, conditions contained within Ferrari’s veto right – to be carried over under incoming commercial agreements, although in diluted form – were taken by many to mean that it could not stray outside of F1.

Alberto Ascari, Ferrari, Indianapolis 500, 1952
Ferrari sent Alberto Ascari to the Indianapolis 500 in 1952
That said, these conditions were confirmed in a letter from the FIA to Ferrari (dated 27th January 2005), and carried over in subsequent agreements. A copy has been seen by RaceFans, and while it places restrictions on activities, it permits Ferrari to participate in competitions “Run under the International Sporting Code of the FIA and under the ultimate authority of the FIA.” That certainly applies to WEC and Formula E.

Although IndyCar is sanctioned by the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States, ACCUS is affiliated to the FIA, with the ACCUS website reflecting it as ‘the National Sporting Authority (ASN) of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) for the United States’. Hence IndyCar races are inscribed on FIA sporting calendars, while competition licences are transferable. So there is no regulatory impediment to Ferrari entering any of these series.

Formula E remains a long shot, for even under its hybridisation strategy there are currently no firm plans for a fully electric Ferrari. High-performance sports cars are the company’s core product.

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The Americas account for a third of Ferrari’s global sales of 10,000-plus cars annually, making WEC and IndyCar attractive propositions.

Mattia Binotto, Albert Park, 2020
“We are looking to alternatives”, Binotto told RaceFans
Until F1’s introduction of a budget cap there was no imperative for Ferrari to venture into new activities. Why risk losing focus as McLaren arguably did whenever the company moved outside its ‘comfort zone’? It’s most fallow years since the late seventies coincided with mid-nineties GTR sports car activities, while the team has not won a grand prix since gearing up for production of its current road car range in 2012.

Now the FIA has rubber-stamped confirmed a reduction in budget cap levels – from $175 million to $145m in 2021, decreasing by $5m per year in each of the next two seasons. So which of these two categories might Ferrari embrace in order to preserve manpower and redeploy facilities?

The probable answer is both, for very sound economic and welfare reasons. As outlined here last week Ferrari may need to redeploy as many as 300 staff in order to operate within the initial budget cap, and shed a further 30 or so per year as the gradual glide-path kicks in. That clock starts ticking on 1st January 2021 – every cent spent operationally by the F1 division thereafter counts towards this stringent budget cap.

Marcus Ericsson, Ganassi, IndyCar, Texas Motor Speedway, 2020
Luring Ferrari would be a coup for IndyCar
Equally, the company does not wish to lay off swathes of staff come December, losing good people with vital skills, not to mention incurring the cost of redundancy packages. Furloughing of excess staff makes no economic sense either, for these costs are unlikely to be covered under Italy’s Covid-19 measures, so being a further financial drain on Ferrari, whether by the F1 division or greater company.

“It’s true we are looking to alternatives,” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto told RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “The reason [is] as Ferrari we invested in the last two years in our resources and our people, trying to increase our know-how. We think somehow it is a shame that we would be missing not only the people but also the know-how.

“So looking at alternatives is a way of somehow assuring that we are keeping internally our know-how.”

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Individual WEC or IndyCar projects are, however, unlikely to absorb 300 heads. Another challenge is that engine supply-only arrangements for those categories present no solution as F1 engine departments are largely unaffected by budget cap restrictions, while the engineers Ferrari would need to redeploy are mainly on the chassis and production side. This was something Binotto alluded to.

Ferrari 333SP
Ferrari’s Dallara-crafted 333SP
“What would be the right platform? We already see the know-how that is affected by the reduction of the budget caps is on the chassis,” he explained. “The know-how we are trying to preserve is [mainly] on the chassis side, and we need somehow to find a formula around which we can somehow use that type of skills.”

Clearly the company clearly needs to cast its net wider than just engine supply. Embracing a combination of WEC and IndyCar projects, covering both chassis and engine development, may be a solution.

For the former category it could develop an LMH hypercar to be raced in both WEC and, with modifications, in IMSA’s LMDh class from 2022. Being able to compete in WEC and the US series ticks Ferrari’s global boxes.

It would have to get out of the blocks quickly, and here the past may prove a guide. A specialist designer could provide expertise, as per the Ferrari 333SP, designed in the nineties by Dallara.

“Yeah, it’s not easy” Binotto admitted when whether such co-operation was under consideration. “Could be possible. So we are considering all the solutions coming there as a racing team, because then we’ll have a completely new regulation in 2022 and maybe [we can] assist somehow with the development of the regulation.”

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According to sources Ferrari has been active at most recent WEC technical and sporting working group, thus enjoying input into the various regulatory processes, as it also has with IndyCar.

The latter provides another pressing timeframe for it also has new technical regulations in the works for 2022. Although the details have not been finalised, Ferrari has been an active participant in discussions, as confirmed by series owner Roger Penske to Sirius XM radio last week.

“Obviously we’re looking at potentially adding other manufacturers,” he said. “You’ve probably heard it. There’s been discussions with Ferrari, [they] might be interested in joining the series coming in 2022 when we have the new engine rules and that would be a great asset to have a third manufacturer in the series.

“I think we’ll have a rule change as we go into 2022 on engines. We’re hoping at that point that we’ll have more than two engine manufacturers.”

The series’ current chassis supplier – Dallara again – is in pole position to retain that contract. It could do so with Ferrari, with the end result being given a Ferrari type number. Here Maranello has (half) form: in the eighties it produced the 637 Indy prototype which, though, went unraced. Enzo Ferrari had long wanted to see his eponymous marque win at the ‘Brickyard’; and his son Piero could well soon see that come to fruition.

On the endurance racing side, Ferrari last won Le Mans outright in its own right in 1964 – the following the NART customer team took line honours – which leaves Ferrari with three years to develop a 60th anniversary winner. Don’t bet against it.

Don’t miss today’s new RacingLines column on RaceFans featuring much more from our exclusive interview with Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto

2020 F1 season

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Ferrari 333SP
Ferrari 333SP

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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38 comments on “Analysis: What would a Ferrari IndyCar or WEC project look like?”

  1. How wonderful it would be in a few years to see Ferrari complete the Triple Crown in the same year.

    1. With Alonso driving for them again :D

  2. Don’t see how IndyCar would help Ferrari solve their personnel issue, but maybe Le Mans indeed would be a good one to try and win again.

    1. Yeah, IndyCar would mostly be about the race crew, since the cars come from Dallara, and there is no aero development allowed. I guess if Ferrari cooperate with Dallara in development of the new car for 2022 they could sink some aero / simulation work into that for that first year?

      A sportscar project would surely offer the scope of work to get behind it. And I would think that it would also fit better with their line of cars to sell – I am sure that a toned down version of the sportscar would get very high demand from the ferrari collectors. Especially if the cars win something on track.

  3. That cheeky racefans sponsoring on the aeroscreen.

    1. @turbof1 We decided colouring one mirror blue and the other one green would be a step too far…

  4. Ferrari should do Le Mans.

    With a factory LMP1 but based more on sportscar not artificially prototypes.

    Porsche is gone, so they have a fighting chance against Toyota.

    Indy is so highly specialized they are bound to fail.

    1. @jureo LMP1 class will be replaced by Le Mans Hypercars. So that would be perfect for Ferrari I guess.

      1. @f1osaurus on paper, the class is being replaced by the “Hypercar” class – however, in reality the decision to allow the Daytona Prototype class to compete in WEC events in the “Hypercar” class has basically killed that class off.

        The only manufacturer known to be entering, which was Peugeot, have now stated that they’re building a DPi car instead, as it basically makes no sense to build a “Hypercar” class car – it’s more expensive, the Balance of Performance rules should, in theory, make the DPi car as quick as a “Hypercar” and a DPi class car can compete in WEC events, but a “Hypercar” can’t compete in IMSA events.

        Because of that, if you’re going to build one of those cars, you’ll build the cheaper and easier to design car (DPi cars having a standardised survival cell) that can be used in more events. In that sense, the “Hypercar” class isn’t great for Ferrari as it is arguably overly expensive for what it is – Toyota are basically only sticking with it because they’ve gone too far to switch to the DPi class instead – but, equally, DPi cars don’t really need that much in terms of resources, so it wouldn’t allow Ferrari to really deploy that many staff onto an alternative project either.

  5. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    10th June 2020, 10:59

    I have one question: What prevents the F1 teams from transferring the payroll of their staff to some another branch of the same company? This would show up as reduced expenditure on the balance sheets of purely the F1 division, while the team manages to retain its headcount.
    Eg- Ferrari could transfer the 300 heads to the sportscar division for bankrolling purposes, while they continue to work on the F1 project.

    Would this not be considered a loophole? And how would the FIA police this?

    1. And how would the FIA police this?

      @asleepatthewheel – whistle-blowers, methinks. F1 staff move between teams quite regularly. While they will have signed an NDA, it would hardly be enforceable if they were to reveal wrongdoing.

      If there is grounds for suspicion, the FIA might start requesting other information, such as access control logs (physical, and online) for their employees, to see who have been accessing the plants/servers/etc. This is especially a given since the majority of teams have their chassis operations in distinct locations. The engine suppliers might be more co-located with the parent organization, but they’re not capped anyway.

      Of course, those can also be circumvented using measures similar to what you’ve outlined, but the FIA is also relying on teams not wanting to get caught in an embarrassing and top-down orchestrated cheating. And definitely not getting caught in an easily proven way (e.g. take Ferrari’s engine shenanigans – it’s been far harder to prove any cheating, given the technical complexity).

      A budget cap might be hard to police in the face of a committed intent to cheat, but I think the FIA is also relying on teams doing a risk/reward analysis – the risk and embarrassment of being caught vs. the not guaranteed rewards (hint: look at Ferrari’s expenditure vs. performance).

      The fun might happen if – when such a team is caught – and they start hinting at pulling out of the sport. At that juncture Liberty might step in to try and defuse the situation, especially if times in F1 start getting tougher in a tougher economic climate, and there is a risk of teams leaving.

      1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
        10th June 2020, 13:42

        Thanks @phylyp for the insight!
        FIA granting immunity to whistle-blowers would make the NDA a futile exercise, and it is indisputable that there are ways to modify log entries within a company, unless the FIA integrated their own software into the servers/logs (which is doubtful?). I’m in the medical field, so forgive me for using any incorrect technical terms.

        Trust is likely to be the key factor in the initial years of the budget cap, along with conscience. But this being Formula One, one can never say!

        From what I infer, there’s no concrete method to evaluate wrongdoings in a short span of time, and whatever rule infraction does occur, will be investigated and acted upon in the following season(s).

      2. At that juncture Liberty might step in to try and defuse the situation

        Maybe they can consider penalising an offending team by starting at the reverse end of the grid or allow less wind tunnel time ;)

        1. My takeaway from what Binotto has been saying is firstly that they are obviously going to abide by the budget cap, as opposed to those fans who are suspicious that they (presumably all teams) will try to game the system, and secondly it is admirable that they want to not have to put anybody out of work if they can possibly avoid it, in spite of the newly reduced cap.

        2. Dint forget about the conveniently timed launch oh the new FIA whistleblower hotline 😉

  6. Ferrari have two major markets the US and China, Indy would obviously help in the US. But only F1 delivers the marketing clout needed to sell their cars in China.

    1. genuine question, @johnrkh: Is the typical US Ferrari customer the same who aspires to be linked to Indy?

      1. IndyCar’ second biggest race is Long Beach which is in the heart of Ferrari country.

      2. @coldfly @mrmuffins
        Typical? Mmm that I can’t say it is their premium racing program. Maybe a factory effort in sports cars as well would broaden their exposure.

  7. there are currently no firm plans for a fully electric Ferrari. High-performance sports cars are the company’s core product.

    The two are not mutually exclusive.

  8. A Ferrari IndyCar would look like all the other IndyCar’s but red!

  9. Much and all as i would love to see Ferrari in Indycars i ‘m not sure how they would compete without their car being fully developed and powered by Ferrari. I very much doubt that they would entertain competing in a Dallara chassis and anything other than a Ferrari engine. The rules would have to be changed to allow a third engine supplier and another chassis builder…with the latter being an offshoot of Dallara but named Ferrari. I’m sure that they’ve got it all nutted out but it would be interesting to know how this will work.

    1. pastaman (@)
      10th June 2020, 13:59

      Did you read the article? Ferrari have worked with Dallara in the past, and there are no rules against a 3rd engine supplier.

      1. Yes, Ferrari have run cars developed by others in the past (Alfas, Lancias, Dallaras) – this time the difference is that everyone else will be running the same car against them. There’s no advantage of having a factory team in IndyCar, which is why the current manufacturers partner with established teams (Chevy -> Penske, Honda -> Andretti) for their unofficial factory effort.
        I can see Ferrari as the 3rd engine supplier, but even then under the existing rules they would have to be prepared to supply a significant % of the grid (if there are any interested teams) with exactly equal equipment. So once again no factory team advantage to be gained there either.
        And to avoid having to learn everything from scratch (think McAlonso last year), their best course of action would be to partner with an established team (Ganassi?) just like the other two manufacturers did. That’s pretty much as far as i can see Ferrari’s involvement in IndyCar could logically go.

      2. @ Pastaman….Did you actually read my post? It seems not as i have qualified my comments which would take into account that the current rules would need to be modified?

    2. They could also brand the car as a Fiat if they think a spec series would hurt the Ferrari brand.

      1. Ferrari is no longer a FIAT company.

        1. @coldfly thanks for the info.

    3. They’d join as an engine mfg. They’ve powered Dallara designed sports cars, makes total sense in IndyCar with the States being their biggest market.

  10. tony mansell
    10th June 2020, 15:27

    Oh I know this one. Is it a power ranger glued onto a part bin airfix kit?

  11. Ferrari aren’t going to Indycar to race someone else’s car. It would be disastrous for the brand.

  12. “The Americas account for a third of Ferrari’s global sales of 10,000-plus cars annually, making WEC and IndyCar attractive propositions.”
    A more attractive proposition would be an American driver in one of the F1 cars…

    1. Not quite related to your specific comment, but if the Americas already accounts for a third of Ferrari’s global sales, why would they need to enter WEC/IndyCar? You don’t need to market to people already buying your product, and (as a comment above pointed out) competing in IndyCar probably isn’t going to make a difference to most Ferrari customers, unless we’re talking about the customers buying the key-rings.

  13. It just seems strange and inconsistent on at least two counts.
    How is it that the likes of Ferrari have not seen the budget limits coming around the corner.? This has been the rumble for years. The manifestation was always going to be limits on staff as staff are the largest controllable expense.
    I get it when Binotto refers to keeping the know-how and expertise in the company and controlling redundancy costs. But they should have been considering and planning for this a while ago.
    From a business perspective, a company leadership would be looking at what they do, what makes a profit, where do you want to and can go and of course, what are you good at. It doesn’t make much sense to have the avoidance of staff reductions driving your business model. “Let’s go race Indy Car because we have excess staff”. Ooops Indy Car doesn’t need people.
    Empty rail yards and deserted factories around the world can attest to the fallacy of this approach.
    Yes, this is Italy and Ferrari has an obligation of sorts with their staff, but at some point the rubber is going to hit the road.

    1. @rekibsn If by this has been the rumble for years you mean particularly the last 2 or 3 years under Liberty, then yeah. However, it was only about a year ago that they (Liberty and the teams) negotiated through actual numbers. Under BE no serious effort was ever made to actually instigate a budget cap. So Ferrari and the other teams have only just gotten used to the new normal in terms of budget, only to have that further reduced in recent weeks, and that greater reduction and at a greater rate than was previously expected pre-pandemic has accelerated Ferrari’s need to now react. I’m sure Ferrari and others were already thinking of this staffing aspect of the budget caps over the coming years, but as I say now that has been accelerated and therefore so must Ferrari’s attention to the matter be accelerated.

  14. Glenn Watkins
    10th June 2020, 17:56

    Ferrari should creat a B team simular to Torro Rossa and race in Formula 1 with the Maserati brand, I know they aren’t part of the same company the same family controls both brands

    1. Glenn Watkins, I presume you have forgotten about the fact that FCA and Groupe PSA are in the process of merging their operations, having agreed to merge in late 2019. The process of merging the two companies together on a 50-50 basis by the end of 2020 means Exor, and by extension the Agnelli family, will see their overall influence within the merged company diminish quite significantly.

      At the moment, Exor owns about 29% of FCA, but has about 44% of the voting rights due to an arrangement that gives certain shares they hold double voting rights. Peugeot have confirmed that Exor will lose those enhanced voting rights, and although Exor will still be able to nominate two directors to the board out of the total of eleven, it looks like EPF, which is the Peugeot family’s own version of Exor, could have the same right to elect two directors as well.

      The net result is that Exor, and the Agnelli family, will be one of the larger stakeholders in the combined FCA-PSA company, but their voting rights will be scaled back and their ability to appoint directors will be reduced. OK, maybe you might be able to say they control the Maserati brand, or the other FCA brands, for about six more months at most, but that’s it – they might be one of the more influential shareholders in the FCA-PSA group, but they won’t have direct control over the company.

  15. Got to say, the paint job’s a bit of shocker.

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