Ferrari’s bleak run unlikely to end with Luca Di Montezemolo resignation | Paul Weaver

With Fernando Alonso frustrated, fans will link the president’s departure with an awful few years in Ferrari’s history
• Di Montezemolo to step down after criticism
• Alonso to stay at Ferrari despite ‘boring’ car

The resignation of Luca Di Montezemolo as Ferrari president, coupled with the news of the death of the Santander chairman Emilio Botín, will intensify the widespread speculation concerning the biggest team in Formula One.

The less than surprising departure of Di Montezemolo brings a gilded curtain down on one of the sport’s most commanding figures. He has headed Ferrari for 23 years. Perhaps only Enzo Ferrari himself had a greater stature at Maranello.

At the high risk of offending the passionate tifosi who follow their beloved Ferrari team, the monolithic parent Fiat company has bigger fish to fry than motor sport, and the departure of Di Montezemolo at the grand age of 67 – as he said himself – had much to do with the flotation plans of the new Fiat Chrysler Automobiles company on Wall Street. But followers of Formula One will still link his resignation with a bleak epoch in the team’s history, culminating in an awful performance in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, their worst since 2005. In the biggest race of the year for Ferrari, Fernando Alonso failed to finish, his first mechanical DNF for five years, and Kimi Raikkonen came a distant ninth; before the disappointing race the drivers had qualified seventh and 12th.

The Fiat CEO, Sergio Marchionne, who replaces Di Montezemolo, also mentioned problems with the Formula One team when he said: “Luca and I have discussed the future of Ferrari at length. And our mutual desire to see Ferrari achieve its true potential on the track has led to misunderstandings which became clearly visible over the last weekend. For the last six years we have struggled like hell despite the best drivers.”

Ferrari are fourth in the constructors’ championship, behind the budget-hampered Williams and 292 points behind the leaders, Mercedes. They have not won pole position since the 2012 British Grand Prix and last qualified at the front of the grid in dry conditions in Singapore, 2010. That is some contrast to the first half-dozen years of the century, when they were dominant with Michael Schumacher.

Their results in recent years have been a lot better than they should have been because of Alonso, who is probably the best all-round driver in the paddock. But Alonso, frustrated in his efforts to add to his two world championships, has been critical of Ferrari and his position at the team is less than comfortable.

He has a contract until the end of 2016. But unless there is a considerable improvement in the performance of the car, he is expected to quit next year, perhaps for McLaren, who are desperate to sign him as they embark on a new era with the Honda engine. Raikkonen, meanwhile, has been a failure in his second stint with the Italian outfit.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Di Montezemolo said: “This is the end of an era and so I have decided to leave my position as chairman after almost 23 marvellous and unforgettable years, in addition to those spent at Enzo Ferrari’s side in the 1970s.

“My thanks, first and foremost, to the exceptional Ferrari women and men from the factory, the offices, race tracks and markets across the world. They were the real architects of the company’s spectacular growth, its unforgettable victories and its transformation into one of the world’s strongest brands.”

Next year will be huge for the British designer James Allison. He is highly regarded but joined the team from Lotus late last year, when the current car had already been designed. Ferrari’s new team principal, Marco Mattiacci, is likely to continue in charge. But there has been so much blood spilled on the Maranello carpet in the past year that more casualties would surprise no one.

Meanwhile, Santander’s sponsorship of Ferrari is vast – essentially, it makes Alonso the best-paid driver in Formula One. Botín’s death will not end that sponsorship, which has years to run. But it will create more uncertainly in the future.

Ron Dennis, executive chairman and CEO of the McLaren Group, who also receive sponsorship from Santander, said: “Everyone at McLaren is shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Emilio Botín. He was a consummate businessman who made Santander what it is today.

“Passionate and charming, he was firm but always fair. I feel privileged to have known him, and proud to be able to call him a friend. He adored motor racing – there was no one more enthusiastic in the McLaren garage than he was when a race win was in the offing. The world has lost a great man. To his large and loving family, I send my condolences.”


Paul Weaver

The GuardianTramp

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