Earlier this year we reported about the power struggle bubbling at Maranello, and while a big deal in Italy strangely the English media have remarkably ignored an explosive situation which is set to ignite and could have a massive negative impact on Ferrari ahead of the 2019 season.
In a nutshell, technical director Mattia Binotto had been primed to take over as team principal from next season by Marchionne, the calm 49-year-old Italian is highly-respected and extremely popular within the Scuderia and beyond.
But when the charismatic Ferrari president unexpectedly passed in July, Maurizio Arrivabene strengthened his hand and word is the civil unrest was stifled at the time.
At the time Arrivabene rubbished the reports of friction with Binotto, labelling reports “fake news” and insisted all was well in the team. Binotto kept quiet.
But, by insider accounts, this was the team principal’s “Peace for our time” moment because a showdown between the former Marlboro F1 chief and Binotto, or rather a power struggle for the role of team principal, is on the cards and the outcome expected during the course of this month.
Meanwhile, with 100-days to the start of next season, the Reds are in a state of flux as they wait on the low key intervention by the trio of Ferrari president John Elkann, vice-president Piero Ferrari and MD Louis Camilleri to decide whether to extend Arrivabene’s contract beyond this year.
Word is that with Marchionne gone and ally Camilleri at the helm, Arrivabene is likely to remain team boss, while he made no secret of his intent when he turned down a prestigious job offer to work at football giants Juventus. In other words, he has strapped himself into the big chair at Maranello and that’s where he wants to remain.
Binotto, on the other hand, is the brains behind Ferrari’s resurgence with his SF71H the team’s best effort of the current turbo era, providing Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen with a car that for the first time was a match for Mercedes and even better at times.
He has transformed the team’s technical department, while behind-the-scenes he infused tranquillity on an often volatile workplace. He also has the charisma, ambition and, importantly, internal support to lead the sport’s most famous team.
His stature is such that operations at Ferrari are divided into two entities, with Binotto boss of all technical decisions and Arrivabene in charge of the rest. Inevitably two camps have emerged, waiting on which of their respective ‘leaders’ will be confirmed, which makes for uncertain times in the hallways of Maranello.
Should the powers that be emerge from the shadows and ink a new deal for Arrivabene, then Binotto – who has many admirers in the Formula 1 paddock including Mercedes – is expected to leave, which obviously would be a major setback for the Italian team.
This week well connected Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed that the feud is intensifying, “The relationship between Maurizio Arrivabene and Mattia Binotto has reached an all-time low, the two hardly talk to one another.”
“An unsustainable situation, which risks collapsing the Ferrari environment before the 2019 World Championship even starts. There are many offers on the table for Binotto, among them could be Mercedes, who make no secret of wanting him at Brackley.”
“In coming days choices will have to be made between Arrivabene or the technical director, a dangerous tug of war that only John Elkann can resolve. He is now called upon to face the first big crisis since he was appointed to head Ferrari.”
Respected Italian journalist Nestor Morosini summed up, “Arrivabene will be able to reflect in the coming days on the Mattia Binotto problem. The technical director is being strongly courted by Mercedes.”
“If Binotto were to leave Ferrari (which, in truth, are doing everything to keep him) the blow would be immense and would undermine all the work done this year, with serious repercussions on the 2019 campaign,” warned Morosini.
Big Question: Arrivabene or Binotto to lead Ferrari?