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“Thoughts on Montezemolo and Ferrari”

September 12, 2014

When Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo arrived at Monza at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, it quickly became clear that the endgame was being played out and Montezemolo, omnipresent during the glory years, was being readied to be cut loose.

The Ferrari team – so successful less than a decade earlier – were struggling to not just to match their Mercedes-powered counterparts, but often could not even get close to them.

At one point humbled by a lacklustre Renault engine and power unit, even Red Bull has past Ferrari by, underlined by Daniel Ricciardo’s collection of three Grand Prix victories since June.

Ferrari, meanwhile, are facing their first winless season since the dire 1993 season – the early days of Montezemolo’s reign as Ferrari chairman.
The Scuderia’s naturally flamboyant and occasionally bombastic flair still make the team a feature, but it is unlikely that Ferrari envisaged trailing Williams for 3rd in the Constructors’ standings.

On the track, there is little doubt that Ferrari are underachieving – a mere 9th place finish for Kimi Raikkonen from Monza following on from Fernando Alonso mechanical failure was the nadir.
It mattered of course, as Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was all too keen to point out at the weekend. Marchionne’s comments cut Ferrari’s 2014 F1 efforts to ribbons, with the Fiat man calling it ‘unacceptable’.

Times change and with that, so do political, business, cultural and sporting factors and it is a factor that demands constant metamorphosis.
Within the greater Fiat organisation, Montezemolo became a Tyrannosaurus-Rex. After 23 years in charge, he had become a representative of a different time and with his influence waning, the 67-year-old did not only lost much of his battle on the results sheet.
More importantly, however, was his seeming inability – or unwillingness – to fall into line with the planned future of Fiat (and Ferrari), effectively making his position untenable.

Despite the on track crumbling, Ferrari – the car company – have enjoyed a bumper year, with a strategy of promoting exclusivity (and therefore upping the price and prestige of the brand) encouraging a very healthy income stream; however Fiat are looking beyond that – far beyond that.
If anything, the decision to finally cut ties with Montezemolo was promoted by the Bologna native’s dismay with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles desire to raise an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange next month.
While Montezemolo and Marchionne have not always seen eye-to-eye on a number of matters, Montezemolo’s objection to the floatation went some way to finishing him off.

And so with Montezemolo set to leave in mid-October, the door has opened for Marco Mattiacci to move into the position of chairman – a placement far more suited to his talents.
There were some rumblings too that Bob Bell, soon to be ex-Mercedes, is a consideration for the team principal seat at Maranello, should Mattiacci move onward and upward.

For Montezemolo, one supposes there could always be another stab at politics…

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