The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

Your Guide to Who’s In and Who’s Out

23-12-2014

Story by Winston D’Arcy:

 

Revolving door or careful restructuring?

That’s what everyone is wondering and so we thought we would bring you a ‘Print-out n’keep’ guide to all the comings and goings at Maranello in the last few weeks. There might well be more coming up so we will try to keep this updated until it all settles down.

It all started with Stefano Domenicali, the all-round good and amiable bloke who was stuck into the position of team principal in 2007 when Jean Todt left. He had been with Ferrari since leaving university, in mostly personnel and PR related roles, and how he survived the rough end of F1 racing for so long was anybody’s guess. Suffering the decline of the ex-Schumacher/Brawn/Todt years he handed in his notice in April 2014 rather, it was said, than fire engine guru Luca Marmorini.

Marmorini was blamed for a down-on-power engine when the F14T managed just two podiums in the first 11 races of the 2014 season and he left the company in July ’14. He subsequently mounted a robust defence of his design, saying that he was told (by Nikolas Tombazis – see later) that aerodynamic advantages would complement the small packaging of his engine which had less horsepower but smaller cooling requirements.

Domenicali was replaced as team principal by someone called Marco Mattiacci. No one in F1 had ever heard of him. Quick searches revealed he was CEO of Ferrari North America, a job he had apparently done with great success. Credited with steely resolve he kept a low profile in the job and apparently out-stared Fernando Alonso when the latter began to express itchiness about moving elsewhere to pursue his unfulfilled dream of further world championships. Mattiacci did not like this ‘lack of commitment’ to the cause and encouraged him to move elsewhere – which he did.

In the meantime big things were happening to big people higher up in the organisation. Fiat (and Chrysler) boss Sergio Marchionne was in need of cash to finance his ambitious plans for the FCA group, and floating off the luxury Ferrari brand could possibly provide a big source of funding. He was not romantic about the brand and even suggested that annual production could be lifted from the publicised limit of about 7,000 cars per year to over 10,000. There was a gasp of disbelief from some in the Ferrari world, none more than from Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo and he promptly got himself fired after 23 years with Ferrari during which the production cars became better and better and many championships were won with the supreme F1 team that he assembled in the Brawn era.

Next to go was Mattiacci. Maybe he was too low profile, maybe progress was not obvious enough, maybe he was too much Montezemolo’s man. Whatever, he left the team in November 2014 and was replaced by someone else none had heard of: Maurizio Arrivabene. He was a Philip Morris ( = Marlboro) executive and is said to be a mate of Bernie Ecclestone and quite savvy with the way the excruciatingly complex politics of F1 work.

More changes then quickly followed. Amongst the technical staff Pat Fry (no, not Nick Fry) the Engineering Director, was quickly shown the door. Fry was hired in 2010 from McLaren and in 2011 was put in charge of engineering following the sacking of Aldo Costa who went on to Mercedes to engineer the all-dominating car of the 2014 season… Chief Designer Nikolas Tombazis (remember him from above?) was also part of the same exit procedure and he has been replaced by his no.2 Simone Resta.

It carries on. The long-time tyre expert, Hirohide Hamshima, is the latest to go. He joined Ferrari in 2012 after having been with the racing department of Bridgestone since 1981. He was brought in to maximise the increasing interaction between the performance of a modern F1 car and its tyre usage, but will now leave the team at the end of 2014.

In all of this blood-letting James Allison, the Technical Director, has survived unscathed. He is presumably one of chosen ones for the future. It has also been announced that Jock Clear will join the team from Mercedes, as Head of Track Engineering. Clear has a long and distinguished history, having made his reputation by engineering the Williams in which Jacques Villeneuve won his World Championship in 1997. When Villeneuve went to BAR Honda in ’99 Clear followed him and he had stayed there until now, through successive name changes to Brawn and Mercedes, and was also Michael Schumacher’s engineer during his Merc days.

And all of that does not even include the drivers! As is well known Alonso has left, and is seeking to reconcile himself with his old enemy Ron Dennis at McLaren. Honda will undoubtedly provide him with fabulous engineering support, but how many years will it take to catch up with the rest of the V-6 hybrid pack? Somehow Kimi Raikkonen has survived, and will have another season as a Scuderia driver, this time alongside Sebastian Vettel who was comprehensively outdriven by his Red Bull colleague Daniel Ricciardo whilst they were using the post-diffuser 2014 cars. It seems that both Vettel and Raikkonen lost their mojo when the 2014 cars lost their glued-down rear ends due to the regulation changes, so it will be interesting to see how they manage with the unchanged regulations in 2015.

Test driver Pedro de la Rossa has not had his contract renewed and will no doubt go back to McLaren from whence he came; Marc Gene will stay as test driver, but then come a really curious pair: newly announced are that Jean-Eric Vergne and Esteban Gutierrez will join the F1 team as testers. Vergne comes from Toro Rosso where he handily outscored his team mate Daniil Kvyat in 2014 but still lost his place in the team, despite being well funded. Gutierrez comes from the Ferrari-powered Sauber team where he had a poor 2014, showing little form. Both have affluent personal sponsors but it is not known whether they owe their Ferrari assignments to this aspect.

So, we continue to watch the webpages for further announcements. Will it stop here, or will it continue? It’s always a fine balance between a good clearout and a panic reaction. All us tifosi will be praying for the former.