Over the weekend of the German Grand Prix, it was announced by Fiat that, following shoulder surgery, Fiat and Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne’s health had deteriorated and would not be able to return to work.
The situation is grave; the surgery was reportedly a routine operation and Marchionne’s suddenly worsened condition was unexpected.
A statement said: “Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. communicates with profound sorrow that during the course of this week unexpected complications arose while Mr. Marchionne was recovering from surgery and that these have worsened significantly in recent hours.
“As a consequence, Mr. Marchionne will be unable to return to work.”
In this unexpected scenario, Fiat have named Marchionne’s successors, with Mike Manley being named as CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The board has named Agnelli family member John Elkann as Chairman and will propose to shareholders that former Philip Morris executive Louis Camilleri be named as CEO.
The board has also given Camilleri the necessary powers to ensure continuity of the company’s operation.
The situation has left Ferrari reeling. Marchionne was the strong man who came in, floated Ferrari on the stock market and revived the flagging fortunes of the F1 team with a brutal realignment of the technical and management team.
Today the Ferrari is arguably the fastest car in the F1 field and has a strong chance of winning the world championship with Sebastian Vettel.
The F1 team is not directly affected thus far; team principal Maurizio Arrivabene leads the team and former engine man Mattia Binotto has been a revelation as technical director.
Discussions for F1 2021 and beyond
Where it will be immediately interesting is in the wrangles over the future rules and commercial picture of F1 after 2020.
Transforming the financial fortunes of both Fiat and Chrysler, Marchionne has been CEO of Fiat and Ferrari since 2004 and he has a wealth of experience in the tough negotiations that Formula One can demand.
But what would a change in CEO do for the current discussions regarding the regulations for after 2020? Can Camilleri give Ferrari exactly what they want from the debate on regulations?
Along with the frequently-discussed cost cap, the power units are a huge talking point in the discussions to finalise the regulations for 2021.
The main power unit change currently being proposed is the removal of the MGU-H (motor generator unit – heat, which is the exhaust energy recovery system), whilst all other aspects would remain the same, except for an increase in fuel limits.
The majority of the field – including Ferrari – have resisted Liberty Media’s desire to change the power unit specifications, possibly down to the MGU-H being one of the more complex areas of the power unit, and therefore one of the bigger areas for gains.
Earlier this year, Marchionne – never one to shy away from making public statements – issued a threat to quit the sport if the rule changes, especially around the power unit aren’t in Ferrari’s interests. He wanted there to be clear technical differentiation between brands, not a one size fits all dumbed down approach, as he saw it.
Whilst that particular threat had calmed in recent weeks, Ferrari will be one of the central figures to the discussions about the direction of Formula One.
For the first time in the turbo-hybrid era, it is widely accepted that Ferrari have the best power unit on the grid, especially after the introduction of their ‘spec 2’ unit at the Canadian Grand Prix, which resulted in a big jump in performance.
Marchionne’s are big shoes to fill at a critical time.
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
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