How will Marco Mattiacci succeed as new boss of Ferrari F1 team?
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Apr 2014   |  8:14 am GMT  |  168 comments

This weekend in China the new Team Principal of Ferrari, Marco Mattiacci, will be in charge for the first time.

In promoting Mattiacci, the company is taking something of a gamble on one level, as he has very limited knowledge of Formula 1; it’s culture and the complex, difficult people who populate its higher echelons.

He will have to learn quickly not only the politics of the sport, but also the culture of winning, which used to run through the corridors of Maranello in the days of Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Jean Todt and which more recently has pervaded Red Bull in Milton Keynes and now Mercedes in Northampton.

Ferrari is some way from that now, as is McLaren. This is the spirit that Ron Dennis has come back hoping to rekindle.

An F1 team is highly responsive, able to adapt quickly to innovate and to change course as required, but it is also like an oil tanker on another level, as infrastructure can take time to build and hiring top personnel can take up to a year once gardening leave is taken into account. It’s about making a series of right decisions and very few wrong ones.

In promoting Mattiacci to the role, Ferrari has a proven decision maker and leader, who knows the Ferrari and the wider FIAT/Chrysler empire well. Indeed, Mattiaci’s appointment comes after Sergio Marchionne, the Chairman and CEO, Chrysler Group LLC CEO, Fiat S.p.A, visited Maranello last week and the appointment could signal a shift in emphasis, with the race team being brought closer to the seat of power. However, despite Mattiaci’s management credentials  he will have to quickly identify who are the people around him whose voice and opinion he must trust. Running a winning F1 team is about knowing the right moment to invest in CFD, or a new wind tunnel or a new technical director or designer. A team principal is like an orchestra leader who needs to keep the violinists and the brass section at the top of their game at all times. It is a relentless job.

Keeping Fernando Alonso at Maranello will be one of Mattiacci’s first order priorities as the Spaniard has suffered a frustrating five years at the team with no world title to add to the two he won with Renault.

And it’s about giving nothing away to the opposition. Critics of former McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, for example, would argue that he gave too much time to the task of looking for consensus among teams with FOTA and got distracted from the job of making McLaren unbeatable on track.

Domenicali was a strong boss, a popular character, but not a ruthless leader. Perhaps this was his downfall. He was always earmarked in the Italian succession plan to take over from Jean Todt, who was an utterly ruthless leader and a very effective one. Aldo Costa was earmarked to take over from Brawn and fell well short in that role. But now look at him, as the chief designer at Mercedes, doing what he does best making fast racing cars without the pressure of the technical director role.

These examples prove that success in F1, in sport and indeed business generally, is more about empowering the right people and not over-promoting. It is also about having vision.

Currently Mercedes is well ahead of Ferrari in hybrid ERS technology. This is because they started investing heavily in it six or more years ago, before KERS came into F1 for the first time.

Everything about Mercedes’ current domination of F1 is due to careful long term planning of the kind Mattiacci will now be looking to put in place at Ferrari.

Ferrari has most of what is needed to win in F1; a top technical director in James Allison, good aerodynamicists, great facilities for wind tunnel testing and two world champion drivers.

The engine department has let the side down this year, building a power unit that falls well short of the benchmark Mercedes. This is year one of a new technology and Ferrari will have a chance to improve its engine for the 2015 season. They must take that opportunity and then make sure that Allison and his team produce a chassis that is the equal of Mercedes and Red Bull.

Then they need to think like winners again.


Mattiacci, 43, has been one of the rising stars of Ferrari, first through his work selling cars in China and more recently in the USA, which is Ferrari’s biggest market and where sales are at record levels.

Mattiacci is 43 and has an economics degree from Columbia Business School in New York.

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1

Geez…the guy has been in the position for less than a week and the wolfs are out.

Bottom line Domenicalli didn’t motivate the team and did not deliver the goods after 5-6 years. You can be a nice guy and everyone can love you however as a manager, motivator and team leader he did not deliver period. He was given a team that was the best the in F1 and during his rein it has become upper mid tier.

You don’t have to be an engineer to become Team Principal you have to be a leader and motivator. Ferrari has an extrememly talented group of engineers that can do the job as well as the drivers.

What they lack is a leader and the new man could be the man. A fresh set of eyes. Let’s see where the team is after 3, 6 and end of year. He may surprise everyone.

Give the guy a chance before the witch hunt starts. He is an experienced leader and is not known with the organization. Will he bring in a technical leader from the outside? What about Fry? What about Allison? The people are there and now they may just have a Team Prinicpal that will lead and motivate versus being someone ping pong buddy.

If he brings back Ferrari to the top and/or challenging for poles and wins this year I can see everyone sending kudos to the Chairman for the move. We all know that Domenicalli was given the choice of resigning (with a nice retainer) or get fired (with zippo coinage)

2

Just a thought on Mattiacci- If supposedly he was appointed by Marchionne, then this is a hypothesis- He is being tested as ultimately the successor to Luca. F1 is just a stepping stone- just like Luca in the past?

Luca is 60’s and Marco is 43 and very successful in China and USA, the largest markets for Ferrari. He may get help from Luca and who knows what other mercenaries (Brawn?), but the ultimate play is to replace the Top guy at Ferrari in 3-4 years…what better way than to test him in F1?

In any case, it is great they got rid of Stephano!!:)

3

I would like to buck the current trend and try to think what might have been going on behind choosing Marco Mattiacci, a non-F1 figure, at the helm of Gestione Sportiva.

First, let us look at what Formula 1, specifically FIA, is aiming for currently or at least for a past few years. It is trying to expand to a very wide base of viewers in countries far east and west of Mainland Europe. Also, it is trying to be more technically relevant and sustainable. While some of the top leadership may say “it’s not F1 business”, I would like to think otherwise. Bringing back Car Manufacturers into the fold is essential for Formula 1. As an example, it is much easier for someone from a non-F1 country(read Asia and USA) to watch a head to head between Ferrari, Mercedes, Honda and Ford – names they’ve heard and cars they could hope to buy – than core UK based Formula 1 names.

In such an environment, Marco Mattiacci , a person who has known these markets and people very well, could prove to be a game-changer. Not only does his proximity to road car development and closeness to the management, but also as someone who can drive Ferrari’s business interests within the paddock. Also, it is quite important for Ferrari to be able to sell their technology to other teams (Gene Haas,I’m looking at you) and find partner teams (Forza Rossa?) to succeed.

Typically, that is not the way Formula 1 works or has worked, and the decision has potential to be a huge near-term disaster(names like BMW,Honda, Toyota came and went). What has been the “winning mentality” for Redbull and Mercedes in the past few years has been a bunch of seasoned campaigners who keep moving around within the teams.

Alternatively, and somewhat optimistically, Formula 1 is changing, and becoming much more global from it’s modest European roots(the fact that I am typing this from India). In such an environment, it will be critical for an organization like Ferrari to not only stay in the game, but drive it. And Montezemolo seems to think Mattiacci is the man. It is a gamble, and one of the biggest gambles ever to come out of Maranello (usually happy to throw obscene amounts at successful people), but it might just work in the long run, if not the next race.

4

Ferrari will be be winning again just about when Vettel will be joining them. Sorry Alonso !!!! You will work hard to develop a good car for Vettel.

Just like the case of Hamilton and Mercedes 🙂

5

The guy is a very sucessfull businessman, and you doubt that those type aren’t competitive? As James said ‘its much like conducting and orchestra” yet not many conductors can play the violin, or cello. I think good choice, he will be ruthless, a logical thinker and clever. Probably devious too.. This is a positive move from Stefano -and thats from me a lifelong Ferrari fan hungry for their rapid return to glory.

6
David in Sydney

Symbolic change unless Domenicali was directly or indirectly responsible for choosing gear ratios, designing the engine for homologation, setting suspension or running the wind tunnel…

…you know what they say; you’re only as good as the staff that work for you…

7

If they were to promote from within, why they didnt went for Massimo Rivola? He certainly knows how stuff works in the paddock, know the F1 branch of the team and so on. Would be easier, I suppose.

8

Maybe LdM feels he isn’t up for the job yet. With respect to Stefano, he knew a lot about Ferrari as well as F1, but we certainly don’t want another Stefano for the next couple of years where Ferrari’s records were all near-misses and mid-field struggle. I’d imagine Rivola might be able to act as an advisor to Marco.

9

Ferrari are in for a long and dismal season I feel. Shame really with all of their resources.

At least Kimi will get paid! I guess that is a plus for him as a driver still waiting for payment from Lotus.

10

A good point that will be some consolation to him through this miserable year, but here’s the question:

Would a real racing driver prefer –

A – To not get paid but have the opportunity to drive a good car or

B – To get paid but have to drive a **** car?

My money’s on B 🙂

11

Dammit I meant A 🙁

12

Interesting there is only one mentioning of Bell here… while such coincident resign of Domenicali and Bell is suspicious.

If Brawn decided to retire irreversibly, then may be it is Bell who could lead Ferrari?

13

James,

When you have a minute, could you compare the management structure at Ferrari with that of Mercedes and others? Is there a clear split of pure management, sporting, and technical roles.

Thanks.

14

Good idea will do

15

Domenicali was a puppet for LDM. How did that work out for Ferrari? They needed a strong personality who had the ability to manage up more than just down and around. Todt left as their was a power play between him and LDM. Go to the issues at Ferrari and they START at the door of LDM. With Brawn, Todt and Byrne you had a strong unit, LDM stayed out of it and did what he did best- commercial operation, revenue raising and cost controls. Ever since he touched day to day ops for the F1 team- disaster. Play your role and stay in your lane. This appointment looks thin.

16

James, you’re probably very busy but pls can you tell me which race that picture above is from??

17

I’d say Hockenheim 2006.

18

Top banner? China last year

19

@James : Do you think Bob Bell is headed to Ferrari? Or Brawn for that matter ?

20

We’ll know more after this weekend

21

The irony of this situation is Montezemolo single handedly saved Ferrari – both the road car division and its F1 operations. He built the “dream team” and brought the “horsemen” under one stable. In 2006 when Schumacher retired after 11 back to back titles ( 5 drivers and 6 constructors ), Ferrari had everything in place. Jean Todt should have allowed to run the entire Ferrari operations including the road cars, Ross Brawn the new team principal, Schumi as a consultant/PR/advertisement,Aldo Costa as the designer,Martinelli continuing as head of engines and James Allison as the tech director. Instead Montezemolo decided to go the “Italian way”. Schumacher was let go, Ross Brawn was sent off, Jean Todt decided to quit as the CEO, Martinelli sent off to the road car division and Aldo Costa being given confusing roles. In the end, Montezemolo made the Ferrari and Montezemolo broke Ferrari.

Its almost a Shakespearean tragedy that the guy who won them 11 titles is in coma, their greatest tech director is retired, the former team principal;s relationship with his former boss has turned acrimonious, and the 2 multi-million dollar drivers are usually found fighting for scraps in the mid-grid.

22

I found an interesting article by one of my fave f1 bloggers George McCabe about the brain of a racing driver.

Luca DiMontezemelo would be proud.

http://mccabism.blogspot.ca/2009/11/brain-of-racing-driver.html

23

I’m not at all sure that’s what my brain looks like, even after ten years driving of a taxi (but then again I’m not very good at it 🙂 ), but I think most newer model taxi driver brains these days actually look a little more like this:

Taxi Driver Brain

24

Hehe!

Who needs “The Knowledge” when you got the “The Garmin”!

*The Knowledge is a mythical/secretive test taken by prospective London Black Cabbies in the UK. So I’m told.

25

I’ve heard that, and I’ve also heard that in some places the driver has to know every street before they even start.

For myself my training was “here’s how the meter works, have fun” 🙂

26

Apologies to GORDON McCabe. I typed George, instead.

27

How will Marco Mattiacci succeed?

Answer

– He won’t

28

Time for Ferrari to make Adrian Newey an offer he cannot resist.

Ross has made to much money in F1 to start all over again.

29

Will he be able to manage the driver dynamics between Alonso and Kimi?

Has he got their respect? I mean, he is a complete novice to the sport … unlike Ross …

30

Just wondering why James Allison was not promoted to team principal

31

He’s a technical guy.

Also think FIAT will be pleased to have someone they know well at the helm

32

James, would you agree with the view that Bahrain as a circuit exaggerated Merc’s strengths and Ferrari’s weaknesses … and the gaps will not be so huge at some venues, eg China?

33

For S.Domenicalli not to see the season out or be part of a reasonable transition – it does seem that Ferrari have written off 2014.

Guess it’s probably the right decision – though it would make the 2014 ferrari team mate battle seem rather hollow.

But it does seem right for Ferrari to focus on next year’s car. Just as Mercedes did last year.

Seems like McLaren and Lotus should also do the same.

But how will Ferrari get around the engine freeze? A Honda powered Ferrari?

It seems pretty clear that Honda will have the benefit of the Mercedes split turbo idea; and possibly take that idea even further.

Will Raikonnen and/or Alonso be part of new management’s “vision”? A fresh view of the drivers looking at Ricciardo and Magnussen may lead to the view that it’s not a bad idea to bring young blood in for at least one of the seats.

34

I cant remember , is this the bloke that chestbutted zidane’s head in the worldcup?

35

I would very well see Ross Brawn going with the new american team. He would be the undisputed boss. No politics involved.

36

James, is Ferrari allowed to redesign or build a completely different engine for next year or are they stuck with this PU configuration until a new set of regs comes along?

It seems to be their main problem.

37

They have a list of areas they can do performance development in

A new engine? Not sure about that

38

Thanks James. I was just wondering if Ferrari or anybody could copy the Merc’s revolutionary PU layout for next year’s campaign.

39

Can I play devil’s advocate and ask any readers of this fine website – would YOU want to be TP of Ferrari F1?

“Wanted: Team Principal for Ferrari. Excellent salary (with bonuses), use of company car (Ferrari, Fiat, Alfa – drive any car from our catalogue), superb food, great wine, bespoke suit and the finest Italian clothing, good weather, a magnificent house to live in with private access and garage.

You will be managing an excellent factory with first class facilities. You will hire and fire accordingly (at the request of your chum Luca).

However, must be able to deal with Italian media who will metaphorically smash your face in every two odd weeks throughout the summer season.

Please apply, Ferrari SPA, Maranello, Modena, Northern Italy.

No time wasters and agencies please.”

40

You missed out on an important facet – Get to manage / cajole / motivate / assuage / deal with regular tantrums of a Prima Donna, ‘I am the best’ Spanish Samurai and a ‘blindingly quick’

‘Couldn’t Care less’, ‘leave me alone’ and ‘I need my Vodka Icecream’ pair of WDCs’ 🙂

41

So, to expand that orchestral analogy . . .

The successful instrument sales executive, with little technical knowledge of the violin, is expected to transition to a fully-fledged concert leader overnight – knowing full well that the conductor might walk off stage before the performance is over.

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