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Luca Di Montezemolo Has No One Left to Blame If Ferrari Does Not Improve

Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari chairman Luca di MontezemoloPaul Gilham/Getty Images
Matthew WalthertFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2014

Midseason coaching and management changes may be common in other professional sports when a team is under-performing, but they are somewhat more unusual in Formula One.

That is why, even after a particularly poor start, it was such a shock this week when Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali resigned from his position just three races into the season.

Ferrari is currently sitting in fifth place in the Constructors' standings with just 33 points. More importantly, though, it is way behind Mercedes in terms of engine development.

Still, it seems an odd time for Domenicali to step down.

Montezemolo and Domenicali
Montezemolo and DomenicaliLuca Bruno

Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo praised his former team principal for falling on his sword, telling Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport (via Autosport) that, "After 23 years with us, Stefano has had the courage of resigning, a rare occurrence in our country. He pays for the lack of results, it's a rule in sports."

But was Domenicali even the problem? Replacing him will not instantly give Ferrari the horsepower it needs to catch the Mercedes-powered teams.

Montezemolo no doubt recognizes this, so perhaps he is playing the long game: putting in place the pieces he wants now so that the team will be ready for a renewed challenge next season.

And the chairman was very clear about what he wanted. In the same interview with Gazzetta dello Sport (again, via Autosport), Montezemolo said, "I've decided to go for a young manager I strongly believe in, and on a person from the Ferrari family, thus avoiding me going around the world looking for some mercenary."

That member of the Ferrari family is Marco Mattiacci, who is very experienced in the Ferrari road car business, but not on the racing side. That need not be an issue, though. For example, another Italian businessman—Flavio Briatore—won championships as the head of Benetton and Renault, albeit before his career ended in controversy.

It is quite interesting, however, that Montezemolo made such a point of picking someone from within the Ferrari company. Domenicali was nothing if not a "Ferrari man" himself, but that obviously did not guarantee success.

Brawn, Todt and Schumacher in 2003.
Brawn, Todt and Schumacher in 2003.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Ferrari's last period of extended dominance, the early 2000s, was the work of a number of "mercenaries" who were neither Italian nor lifelong Ferrari employees: Michael Schumacher of Germany, Frenchman Jean Todt, South African Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn from the U.K.

The biggest problem at Ferrari right now, though, is not who is running the team. It is the fact that, despite having the rules of the sport tipped in their favour, the Scuderia has been unable to produce a competitive car.

And now, rather than putting their heads down and trying to catch Mercedes (although surely the team in Maranello is working hard), Montezemolo has decided to complain publicly about the sport's new regulations.

Before the last race, in Bahrain, the Ferrari chairman said, per ESPN F1, that the "public doesn't like a taxi driver that has to respect the fuel. This is not Formula One." Embarrassingly for Montezemolo, Bahrain turned out to be one of the best races in recent memory.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was a vocal critic of the 2013 tyres.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was a vocal critic of the 2013 tyres.Luca Bruno

If his tactics seem familiar, though, it is because Red Bull did the same thing last year when the tyres produced by Pirelli at the beginning of the season did not seem to function as well on the Bulls as on some other cars.

Red Bull campaigned relentlessly against the tyres until Pirelli was forced to change them. Sebastian Vettel dominated the rest of the season and Red Bull won its fourth straight Drivers' and Constructors' titles.

Montezemolo must figure that if it worked for Red Bull, it should work for him. He should save his breath.

Unlike the Pirelli tyres, the new power units are not going anywhere. It looks like the other teams will be battling for second place behind the Silver Arrows for the foreseeable future.

If that does prove to be the case, Montezemolo has no one left to blame but himself. As he said, it is the man in charge who is held accountable if the results don't come.

 

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