Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne says his team has been punished for ignoring the finer technical and reliability details in its quality control department.
Sebastian Vettel's hopes of claiming a fifth Formula One world championship have been left hanging by a thread following his engine trouble at the Japanese Grand Prix. A faulty spark plug -- detected on the grid just moments before lights out -- proved a terminal issue and led to the German's costly retirement in Suzuka.
The technical problem in Japan -- caused by a spark plug costing just 59 Euros -- marked the latest setback in what has been a disastrous six weeks for Vettel and Ferrari. Vettel has seen a seven-point championship lead over Lewis Hamilton in Belgium turn into a 59-point deficit, with a crash at the start in Singapore and engine reliability failures in Malaysia all-but ending any realistic hopes of winning this year's title.
When asked about Ferrari's latest reliability gremlin, Marchionne told Italy's Class CNBC television channel: "It was a technical nonsense that had an impact on a car that costs millions of euros. It's a problem we've probably ignored over time because it was never of much importance. But now we've had at least three occasions where we've really seen the devastating impact on performance. We'll fix it."
Marchionne previously said Maranello's quality control department would undergo a reshuffle following the issues it faced in Malaysia, suggesting youth and inexperience were behind the failures. Despite his team's dwindling title chances in both world championships, Marchionne is adamant Ferrari still has time to recover its F1 campaign.
"Without being arrogant, I think it is at the same level if not better than Mercedes' today. I'm sure if we'd not had any problems like in the last three races, we would be having a different discussion. The season is not lost, there's still all to do.
"I won't talk of bad luck, I don't believe in it," he added. "The important thing is to not lose the confidence that has brought us so far. I'm delighted with what the team has done and I have tremendous confidence that in the next four races we will be able to close most of the Mercedes gap."