John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
3 minute read
17 Sep 2014
3:00 pm

Di Montezemolo’s notice rings in Ferrari’s new era

John Floyd

It has been a rather interesting season for Formula One, with the new regulations the biggest change in decades.

Ferrari's new F1. Picture: AFP

Now, we come to the end of an era for Italian icon Ferrari.

The resignation of the company’s president of 23 years, Luca di Montezemolo, was initially denied by the 67-year-old charismatic Italian businessman, but within four days he was out.

There can be no doubt Montezemolo’s influence was almost as significant as Enzo Ferrari’s.

His contribution to the company’s growth has resulted in the Maranello manufacturer’s record sales and it becoming the world’s best-known sports car brand.

On the sporting front, 118 race wins, six drivers’ titles and eight constructors’ titles will be a hard act to follow.

During all the media hype surrounding Montezemolo’s retirement, a lot has been said about the on-track performance and its possible influence on the potential Ferrari client.

People say the fact that the Scuderia is now one of the also-rans in the field is detrimental to global marketing.

Horse feathers! I have yet to meet a Ferrari owner who bought his car purely on the strength of the company’s F1 results. If that were true, the Maranello bottom line for the last eight years would have been pitiful – but it is the exact opposite.

If buyers of performance cars used F1 as the criterion for purchase then, with the team’s current standing, McLaren should not have bothered to launch the MP4-12C. They did, and it is selling, despite the last championship title they won being in 1998 and the last victory in 2012.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and now Ferrari president, has issued press releases praising his predecessor’s achievements since 1991, taking the company into a new era of prosperity.

On the other hand, he has said the F1 team’s current lack of performance is unacceptable.

“The heart of Ferrari is winning in F1. I don’t want to see our drivers in seventh and 12th place. 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.”

Marchionne has said the biggest priority is the power unit and this needs to be addressed.

Someone should tell him that because of motorsport controlling body FIA regulations, no further development is allowed at present.

Ferrari got it wrong and concentrated on aerodynamics, but the Renault power unit was even worse, seriously affecting four-time world champions Red Bull.

Let’s face it. Mercedes have produced the best possible package for 2014 and this shows in the results, but when your hands are tied behind your back by the rules there’s not much you can do.

I have to admit some recent statements and actions from Montezemolo led to me thinking it was time he retired. Was there a hint of desperation in some of his actions?

If so, perhaps the new president can revive the fortunes of the F1 team – and it will be a tall order.

But with the pending initial public offering of the newly formed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV it will probably take Marchionne away from Maranello and hopefully allow team boss Marco Mattiacci to get on with the reorganisation of a once-dominant force in F1.

What will become of Ferrari in F1? Let’s hope the new president’s statement to the media holds good. He was quoted as saying: “Montezemolo explained to me we are bound by contracts with Ecclestone to stay in F1 at least until 2020, but for me it should be much longer. If it were up to me it would be 120 years.” Let’s see if the potential shareholders agree.

This weekend it is Singapore. Under the lights and under the new FIA ruling, driver instruction from the pit wall is no longer allowed and any contravention will be punishable.

So no more “watch your fuel”, “change the setting to XYZ” or “you’re slower than Charlie in sector 1”.

This should be good, for a while at least, until the teams work out a code system. Then the FIA will need an Enigma device to find out who’s pushing the boundaries.