Ferrari F1 team starts new era without Montezemolo
Friday, 12 September 2014 02:14
Reuters: Luca di Montezemolo’s resignation as Ferrari chairman on Wednesday severs an historic link with the company’s late founder Enzo and marks the end of an era for Formula One’s most successful and glamorous team.
Without him in Maranello, or followed by a media scrum on his rare visits to the F1 paddock, Ferrari may seem a little less flamboyant and the sport a little less colourful. But both will survive.
The Prancing Horse’s era of dominance on the track has been over for a while, however. The Italian team have not won a championship since 2008, or a race since May last year. Their last pole position was in 2012.
“I suppose we’re approaching the end of an era in F1, dear old Luca, it started back when we were all so young,” said former International Automobile Federation (FIA) head and old sparring partner Max Mosley, who stepped down in 2009.
“But in truth, Ferrari have never been quite the same since Jean (Todt) left. If they want to win races again they need to find another outstanding manager,” he told Reuters after Montezemolo announced he would leave on 13 October.
The same day, the newly merged Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is due to be listed in New York.
“I wonder if (Fiat chief executive and new Ferrari chairman Sergio) Marchionne should try and persuade Jean to return to Ferrari and if he did would Jean accept? Honestly, I doubt it, but they need someone of Jean’s singular drive and focus now more than ever.”
The suave Montezemolo - who combined a passion for racing with an elegant manner and extensive contacts among the world’s social and political elite - was in many ways the embodiment of the Italian sportscar maker.
“I first met Luca in 1973. So yeah, it’s a pity. We’re going to miss him,” the sport’s 83-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters.
“His leaving is for me the same as Mr Enzo dying. He has become Ferrari. You see him, you see Ferrari. You don’t see anything else. You don’t see Luca.”
One of the big personalities who strode the stage as the sport was transformed into a billion dollar global business from the 1970s onwards, taking over at Ferrari after Enzo’s death in 1988, he was also sounding increasingly at odds with the newer generation.
He had favoured a return to the old and expensive days of in-season testing, and with Ecclestone had been a vocal critic of the new and much quieter V6 turbo hybrid engines favoured by volume manufacturers like Honda and Renault.
Executives from the automotive industry call the shots now, with Montezemolo’s job taken by Marchionne and former Ferrari North America President Marco Mattiacci as team principal.
And while Montezemolo’s old rival Ron Dennis remains in overall charge at McLaren, and Frank Williams is enjoying a revival at his team, the landscape has changed with Mercedes and Red Bull the pacesetters.
Ferrari’s millions of fans will care mostly that their drivers are given the tools to be triumphant again.