Inside Line: Shame on you Sergio Marchionne

Ferrari celebrated their 70th year during a VIP packed event at Fiorano, this past weekend, but Luca di Montezemolo did not receive an invitation and in my book his absence is a shame because it smells of a personal vendetta by Sergio Marchionne to marginalise the man that did so much during his 40 or so years with Ferrari.

Among the special guests were the likes of: Jean Todt, Chase Carey, John Elkann, Piero Lardi, Maurizio Arrivabene, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Niki Lauda.

Montezemolo’s career at Ferrari began with his transfer from FIAT to the Reds in 1973, first becoming personal assistant to Enzo Ferrari before being promoted to the director of the Scuderia in 1974.

His role in keeping Ferrari interested in Formula 1 during those lean years is an intrinsic part of the Scuderia’s history. In the early seventies Montezemolo kept Ferrari in Formula 1 at a time when Enzo was dithering and looking for a way out.

At the helm of the team he led them to titles in 1975 and 1977 during the Niki Lauda era. Thereafter he was moved to various positions at FIAT, under the close mentor-ship of chairman Gianni Agnelli, who in 1991 appointed Montezemolo to president of Ferrari, a position he held for 23 years.

During that time, he revitalised the commercial side of Ferrari and during his watch he assembled the most powerful team in the history of the sport as he brought together Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Michael Schumacher. What followed is etched in history and known today as the glory years of Ferrari in Formula 1. Shattering records, winning races as well as titles with monotonous regularity.

In 2014, tensions with Marchionne, then president of the group FIAT Chrysler, caused an uncomfortable environment within the organisation. In short, the bad chemistry between them led Montezemolo to resign. The rest is well documented…

This is now a clear case of the ‘victor’ rewriting the history books to fall in line with his own agenda. Marchionne’s snub of Montezemolo on the occasion of the 70th anniversary is not only shameful, it also fires a warning shot at anyone who dares to step out of line. Take note Sebastian Vettel…

By his own admission Marchionne arrived on the Formula 1 scene totally clueless of what the sport was about and his early statements were naive, while the expectations he fired-up led to unwarranted pressure on the team. Up until last year there were widespread reports of the toxic environment that prevailed at Maranello, a climate of fear that Marchionne did little ease up as he added his own primitive brand of heat.

Fortunately, Maurizio Arrivabene managed to stem the tide of dissatisfaction and turn the threats of his big boss into results on track. Sure things have improved but that is merely because the team rebounded impressively after a torrid 2016 season.

Marchionne had kept quiet as the team delivered early on in the season but a good old thrashing by Mercedes at Monza, while he looked on dumbfounded, triggered another bout of trash talking which no doubt did little for the morale of a team that is now going fist-to-fist with their rivals.

Relative to Montezemolo in Formula 1, Marchionne has achieved nothing. Since he took power the Reds have only won seven races and it is not a given that the team’s first title since 2009 (during the Montezemolo era) will be bagged come the end of the season.

Vettel has lost the lead in the championship standings after defeat at Monza, which according to Marchionne was “embarrassing” and accused the team of “screwing up.”

Montezemolo had his faults, but you could never accuse of him of being disrespectful to the team, it’s staff and drivers during his numerous years of leadership. He was driven by a passion for racing and Ferrari that Marchionne simply does not have or understand.

Like most of us that frequent this site racing is in Luca’s blood, but his successor is not of our tribe.

To eliminate Montezemolo from the celebration of such a massive milestone, a week after not being invited to the Italian Grand Prix by Ferrari, reveals the true colours of a man, despite his stature, very insecure.

Insulting Montezemolo and his legacy in such a blatant and overt manner also tarnishes the image of Ferrari, a team steeped and built with history in which the former boss played a large part in. To omit him is pure foul play by an arrogant individual who wields too much power, who puts himself above the organisation that pays his substantial salary.

To one so apparently omnipotent such as Marchionne all we can do is remind him that ‘karma is a bitch’ and although he may have a hollow victory with this sleazy action, he should brace himself for what may come back to haunt him.

Montezemolo’s absence on the VIP podium at Fiorano belittles and cheapens the objectives of an event staged to celebrate the glorious heritage of this great racing team and not highlight the personal vendetta of a wind packed despot.

Note: An email sent to Ferrari media requesting an explanation for Montezemolo’s absence has not been answered.

Big Question: Does Montezemolo deserve the treatment dished out to him by Marchionne?