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"We haven't won since 2008": Writing on wall for Montezemolo as FIAT boss criticises Ferrari record

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"We haven't won since 2008": Writing on wall for Montezemolo as FIAT boss criticises Ferrari record
Sep 8, 2014, 10:48 AM

Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo made a characteristically swaggering appearance at Monza on Saturday, affirming that he will decide if and whe...

Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo made a characteristically swaggering appearance at Monza on Saturday, affirming that he will decide if and when he leaves Ferrari, but last night the boss of Ferrari's parent company FIAT Chrysler said that enough was enough and that "no -one is indispensable".

Sergio Marchionne, who was barely 40km away from Monza at an event at Villa d'Este but declined to visit the F1 paddock, spoke to reporters soon after Fernando Alonso's retirement from a disastrous Italian Grand Prix for his team in which Kimi Raikkonen was scrapping for minor points placings. To compound the humiliation Ferrari was overtaken for 3rd place in the Constructor's championship by Williams, which operates on less than half Ferrari's annual budget.

"The heart of Ferrari is winning in Formula 1. I don't want to see our drivers in 7th and 12th place," Marchionne said. "To see the 'Reds in this state, having the best drivers, exceptional facilities, engineers who are really good, to see all that and then to consider that we have not won since 2008…

"The important thing for Ferrari is not just the financial results, but also it is winning and we have been struggling for six years.

Luca di Montezemolo

Marchionne acknowledged that Montezemolo's record in turning around the car company over the past 20 years to the point where turnover is in excess of €2 billion annually, with strong profits and product lines has been a great achievement. Montezemolo has also overseen 14 world drivers and constructors' championships in his time as chairman.

"On volume and economic results Luca has done an outstanding job," added Marchionne. "We are good friends but when I read his statements, these are things I would not have said myself."

Marchionne was referring to Montezemolo's defiant message at Monza on Saturday that he has a contract for three years and he will be the one who says if and when he is leaving.

"I consider myself essential, of course," said Marchionne, "But I also know very well that I am at the service of this company. So to create positions, illusions that one can operate outside the rules, is talking rubbish.

"It's the same for him as it is for me, we serve the company. When the company has a change of plans, or if there is no longer a convergence of ideas, things change."

Luca di Montezemolo

This leaves little room for doubt what Marchionne has in mind. Italian colleagues point to Montezemolo's record over 20 years and the fact that Ferraris is so synonymous with him, to voice concern about the wisdom of bringing his tenure to an end in this way. Next week he will again announce record profits.

Sources in Italy suggest that one area of disagreement between the two men is the volume of cars made. Montezemolo's strategy is to preserve the prestige of the Ferrari brand by producing only 6,000 cars a year at a high price, which makes it exclusive and preserves residual value for customers whereas Marchionne wants to double that volume at a slightly lower price.

Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 10.42.58

Well placed sources say that the key to all of this lies in the imminent flotation of the newly formed FIAT Chrysler Automobiles on the New York Stock Exchange next month.

Share are due to begin trading on October 13 and this looks like the day that Montezemolo's FIAT/Ferrari career will end unless he pulls a rabbit out of a hat.

Marchionne's strategy with the IPO is to raise €48 billion of new finance to push and expand the Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Jeep brands globally and of course Ferrari will be the flagship. That IPO ship will sail without Montezemolo.

Sources suggest that Marchionne himself will become Ferrari chairman, following on from just Montezemolo and founder Enzo Ferrari himself in a very short line of succession.

So where will this leave the Ferrari F1 team and its drivers? No-one knows for sure, but it seems likely that Marco Mattiacci will stay on for at least the rest of this year to put in place his plans for reconstruction. He is looked upon positively by Marchionne, sources suggest and may end up being moved back to the road car division and being promoted to General Manager or something of that order. Road cars are where his heart and expertise lie, not F1. He is in presently as a "fireman" to sort out the structure and the culture of the F1 team.

The grand vision is for Ross Brawn to come in as Head of the Gestione Sportiva, F1 division, but does Brawn now in his 60s, have the appetite for such a challenge. And having made tens of millions from the sale of his F1 team to Mercedes in 2009, does he need the aggravation?

Fernando Alonso

And what of Fernando Alonso? He will not welcome the upheaval and the turmoil. He has a spectacular offer on the table from McLaren and Honda but how long will it be before they are challenging for the world title? Sooner than Ferrari? There is no route for Alonso to Mercedes - Toto Wolff is not an Alonso admirer - and Red Bull would appear difficult as they have their own home grown talents should Vettel decide to take a McLaren Honda offer.

It was noticeable that the tone changed subtly this weekend from Alonso and Montezemolo away from mention of "extending" his contract to simply seeing out the remaining two years. Alonso has to wait and see what happens in the aftermath of the exit of Montezemolo.

They say many great careers end in disappointment. If this is to be the way Montezemolo exits, it's a shame for a man who has achieved so much in 20 years, especially when you consider the shambles Ferrari was as a car company and a racing team in the early 1990s.

But as Marchionne says, "No-one is indispensable"
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