Will Luca Di Montezemolo Leave Ferrari?
Luca Di Montezemolo is set to quit Ferrari in order to become the new Prime Minister of Italy according to persistent rumours. The Italian has worked for the Fiat/Ferrari family for over forty years, but has done little to dampen rumours that he could oppose Silvio Berlusconi at the next election.
Berlusconi has been dogged by rumours regarding his sex life and general conduct. The Prime Minister survived a vote of no-confidence late last year but his reputation has been severely tainted in Italy.
Luca Di Montezemolo meanwhile is a revered figure in his homeland, with Ferrari almost like a religious institution to the devoted tifosi. This has led to Montezemolo being advocated by a number of Berlusconi’s opponents as the ideal candidate to run against him. Di Montezemolo did little to play this down when he was asked by the Financial Times whether he was the right man to replace Berlusconi: “We need important reform; we need also to have a country with clear rules, we need a country with ethical responsibilities, a lot of things. We will see.”
The prospect of this appears to have severely unnerved Berlusconi, with one of his aides called Roberto Calderoli attempting to use Ferrari’s unfortunate tactic blunder which cost Alonso the world championship in Abu Dhabi 2010 against Di Montezemolo, claiming that he should have immediately resigned in shame. This is alleged to have been an attempt to smear Di Montezemolo’s name which ultimately failed due to Di Montezemolo’s convincing response: “When the statesman Calderoli will achieve in his life one per cent of what Ferrari has done for this country in terms of industry and sports, then he’ll deserve an answer”.
Formula One Politics
Di Montezemolo has been at the forefront of Formula One politics for decades, and helped to maintain Ferrari’s position as one of the sports most important assets following the death of its founder Enzo Ferrari in 1988.
He has utilised the company’s reputation to ensure that Ferrari has always had a significant influence on decisions made, with the team having been a crucial component in the strength of FOTA (Formula One Team Association) which secured a higher percentage of the sports global revenue by threatening to set up its own rival championship in 2009.
However, new FIA President Jean Todt has recently announced that the current generation of 2.4 litre V8 engines will be replaced with small capacity 1.6 litre turbo’s. Todt claims that this will help improve the sports green credentials at a time when fuel economy is vital due to ever increasing cost of motoring with oil and car insurance costs spiralling out of control. Despite Di Montezemolo favouring a V6 turbo engine instead of the small capacity motor which he feels will be to the detriment of the spectacle, he appears to have done very little to prevent the introduction of these new technical regulations. Is it possible that this is evidence that Di Montezemolo is bored of the monotonous nature of F1 politics and wants to enter a much larger stage?
What will happen to Ferrari?
Jean Todt long tenure at Ferrari was believed to be a prelude to him eventually replacing Di Montezemolo at the head of the company. However, his position at the FIA and rumours of a conflict with Di Montezemolo means that this is now impossible.
An alternative is believed to be Lapo Elkann, a 34 year old American who is the grandson of former Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, who happened to be one of Di Montezemolo’s mentors. Elkann has made quite a name for himself in the business world, assisting Fiat successfully re-launch the Punto and 500 models. However, Elkann is believed to advocate a best practice approach to business where a company bases its strategy on what is conceived as being the best methods as used by other companies. It remains to be seen whether or not this method will be compatible with the innovative world of Formula One where forward thinking is required.
If Di Montezemolo does decide to call it a day in Formula One it will mark the end of a remarkable chapter in Ferrari’s history where they returned to the front of the grid and won multiple championships. Schumacher, Todt and Brawn may get all the plaudits in the history books, but it is Di Montezemolo who orchestrated it all.