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Is Giorgio Ascanelli heading for Maranello?

By Berthold Bouman

Toro Rosso Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli was notably absent during the German and Hungarian Grands Prix. Team Principal Franz Tost did not want to discuss the matter publicly when he was asked about Ascanelli’s absence during a press conference at the Hockenheimring. “I can only tell you that Giorgio Ascanelli is on holiday and there’s confidentiality between the two parties. That’s all that I can say to this,” said the Austrian.

Is Giorgio Ascanelli heading for Maranello?

With his reply Tost of course fuelled the suspicions Ascanelli isn’t happy at Toro Rosso anymore and is in fact on garden leave, and many believe the Italian will not return to the Faenza-based squad, but instead will join Ferrari, where he could join the technical team led by his old pal Pat Fry with whom he worked at Benetton and McLaren.

Initially the season started well for Toro Rosso, but with 11 races now behind the belt they are ninth in the Constructors’ Championship with only six points, 40 points behind Force India, and this probably means they will end up ninth at the end of the season as the points deficit is almost unbridgeable, even with still nine races to go, as Force India are not going to rest on their laurels, and will keep scoring points to secure their position in the championship.

Ascanelli was born in Ferrara, Italy and is one of the most experienced Formula One engineers, but he is also a great strategist, and if anyone has seen it all in Formula One, it must be Ascanelli. He started his career in 1985 with Ferrari where he worked as a calculation engineer. He soon moved up the ladder and became Gerhard Berger’s race engineer, when Berger left Ferrari Ascanelli moved to Benetton and became Nelson Piquet’s race engineer.

At the request of Berger he then moved to McLaren and later became a legend working with Ayrton Senna, who was a good friend of Berger. When Senna left McLaren Ascanelli moved back to Ferrari in 1995, but when he was sidelined after Ross Brawn joined Ferrari, he left Formula One in 1998 and moved to another legendary Italian sportscar marque, Maserati, where he set up a very successful sportscar racing programme.

Again at the request of Berger who was the co-owner of Toro Rosso at the time, Ascanelli was appointed Technical Director in 2007. Ascanelli of course also worked with now two-times World Champion Sebastian Vettel, and he even compared him with Senna.

“I am very lucky. Twice in my life I have experienced perfection; once with Senna, again with Vettel. In one respect Michael [Schumacher] was different because he had to work harder for his success than did Senna and Vettel. With those two it was something else,” Ascanelli said in 2011.

A return to Ferrari would make sense, Ascanelli is an Italian, has worked for Ferrari before and knows the team inside-out, is a very talented engineer and is a good friend of Pat Fry. Ferrari need all the help they can get to maintain Fernando Alonso’s advantage in the Drivers’ Championship, and it could well be Ascanelli will turn up in the Ferrari garage at Spa-Francorchamps next month.

Rumours say Ascanelli could be replaced by James Key, who unexpectedly lost his job as Technical Director of the Sauber team just before the start of the season this year.

Below a video of Ascanelli at the launch of the 2012 Toro Rosso, explaining the technical developments on the STR7 and sharing his thoughts on seeing the new car on track. Video by Toro Rosso.

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