Now that the biggest domino at Ferrari has fallen, what happens next? Who will replace Luca di Montezemolo?
Less than six months after Stefano Domenicali shocked the F1 world by resigning from the position of Ferrari team principal on the eve of the Chinese Grand Prix. Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo followed suit, mere days after denying a resignation was in the works.
Not the sign of a company in chaos
While di Montezemolo’s is the second high profile departure to strike the Scuderia this season - the third, if you include former engine chief Luca Marmorini - these departures are not the sign of a company in chaos. While the Gestione Sportiva are undeniably in a slump, corporate Ferrari is going from strength to strength, and the marque is central to the forthcoming Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV IPO.
But for Maranello to be happy, Ferrari needs to be as successful on track as it is in the business pages. Performance has been below expectations, but there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic for 2015, not least the prospect of James Allison’s influence on the design of next year’s car. What the team are looking for now is the right kind of leadership, someone - or a group of someones - who can restore Ferrari to their winning ways.
The return of Ross Brawn?
So where will the Scuderia go from here? While Ross Brawn is the marquee name doing the rounds, it is up for debate whether or not the Briton will be tempted from what is a very comfortable retirement. And it is worth remembering that on the same day Domenicali announced his surprise resignation, Bob Bell quietly departed from Mercedes.
Mattiacci and Marchionne's role
The appointment of Marco Mattiacci was as much of a surprise as Domenicali’s departure, and at the time of the announcement I wrote elsewhere that “Mattiacci's new race role may just be an opportunity to teach the Ferrari star about a side of the business he has yet to experience so that he is better equipped to step into the older man's shoes when the time comes for di Montezemolo to retire.”
Sergio Marchionne’s temporary stewardship of Ferrari will never become permanent. The FIAT boss is already heavy with corporate responsibility, with a list of titles that includes CEO of FIAT SpA, CEO of Chrysler Group LLC, Chairman of CNH Industrial NV, Chairman of SGS, and sits on the Philip Morris board of directors. With the FIAT-Chrysler merger now in its final stages plus a Wall Street flotation to supervise, Marchionne has enough on his plate as it is.
Mattiacci - Di Montezemolo's successor?
By allowing Mattiacci to see out the difficult season as Ferrari team principal, Marchionne can ensure that the now race-aware corporate superstar can step into di Montezemolo’s shoes fully aware of the responsibility he has not only to the company, but to the army oftifosi who may never buy a road car, but whose passion is as key to the brand’s spirit as it is to the profit margins. To serve Ferrari is to serve a country, for the two are linked in a way that no other company has managed to achieve.
Mattiacci has long since earned his spurs in the road car division, and while there are likely to be changes to the corporate structure as the flotation gets underway, he is the most logical man to step into the equivalent of di Montezemolo’s role.
There may also be changes to the way in which the race team is structured, with Mattiacci currently using lessons learned in the boardroom to help the Scuderia use its talent more effectively, partly by streamlining structures and also by attempting to eliminate the culture of blame which has stifled innovation of late.
Taking a page out of Mercedes' book
Instead of pushing Brawn out of retirement, or attempting to poach a big name - with lots of gardening leave - from another team, it is entirely likely that Ferrari will adopt a similar structure to that which has proved so effective at Mercedes, dividing corporate and technical responsibilities between two talents better suited to each role. Should that be the case, Bell would make an excellent technical chief while Mattiacci could continue his involvement in the commercial side of things.