Former Ferrari big boss Luca di Montezemolo is ready and willing to take charge at Ferrari in the wake of the unexpected resignation by CEO Louis Camilleri, but no one is asking him.
Camilleri leaves Maranello with the team in total disarray, reeling from one fo the worst season’s in their history, reputation tarnished by allegations of cheating last year – all under the watch of the increasingly incapable Mattia Binotto.
The engineer turned team principal is ridiculed in Italy as “Harry Potter without the magic wand”, the knives long ago stuck in by the Italian media suggesting it is only a matter of time until something drastic happens at the top.
Until then that leaves Tifosi waiting on invisible John Elkann to set things right.
Meanwhile, a strong lobby in the media and elsewhere are pushing for the return of Di Montezemolo – of not as the boss then in an advisory capacity. He twice took Ferrari from the brink of nowhere to world titles, including the mighty spell at the turn of this century with Michael Schumacher.
Since the sudden demise of Sergio Marchionne, the Italian team have been headless and rudderless; not many have believed Binotto was capable of running the Scuderia single-handedly as he is trying to do. He even writes the press releases some say wickedly.
Hence the Di Montezemolo solution has legs, and had the Tifosi on immediate high-alert when he spoke on RAI, “Is it possible for me to return to Ferrari? The question should not be asked of me; no one asked me anything.
“I think I know what the problems are and I can fix them, I know what needs to be tackled in time. But I see with great regret a weak Ferrari, out of the top positions makes me worried because it’s a very difficult time for the team.”
Indeed it is their worst season since 1980 by far. Winless and sadly no apparent light at the end of the tunnel with the current Binotto-led crew steering the lost ship in the darkness.
Di Montezemolo continued, “This is a very different Ferrari from mine, it pays great attention to the stock market, it has increased the production of the cars, but for the first time it has a leadership that does not know Formula 1.
“After Camilleri’s resignation, I hope they choose the new CEO well because there is a team to strengthen. I’m sorry to say, but there would have been a perfect person to lead Ferrari: I’m talking about Stefano Domenicali, who I am sure he will do very well in the new role.”
Domenicali departed the Reds in 2014 and forged a great reputation running Lamborghini, and will now step in to replace Chase Carey as Formula 1 chief.
Thus he is out of the equation, Di Montezemolo offered, “If they would like to hear any suggestions, I would be happy to share them. I love Ferrari very much. These are very difficult moments not only for the lack of victories and I want to avoid creating further elements of controversy.”
In the wake of a forgettable 2020 season, Di Montezemolo explained, “I try to be constructive but I’m worried because Ferrari never led a lap in the whole World Championship. There are problems that come from afar and create questions about the future.
“These are two-fold. First of all, a horizontal organization that does not hold up in Formula 1. It is typical of those who lack experience and knowledge and perhaps not even the humility to see how the best teams are organized or how Ferrari itself was organized.
“Secondly, to win you need to have some element in the team that makes a difference and brings new skills. I had a very strong team because I’ve always tried to choose experienced people,” added Di Montezemolo.
Fittingly, in 1973 when Ferrari also finished sixth in the championship and team patron Enzo Ferrari was almost on the verge of throwing in the towel, on F1 and focus on sportscar racing, it was Di Montezemolo who convinced him otherwise.
And the rest, as they say, is history as under Di Montezemolo – who brought Niki Lauda to the team at the behest of Clay Reggazoni. The team Luca built won threeF1 constructors championships in a row from 1975 to 1977, with Niki claiming two of the titles; 1976 went to McLaren’s James Hunt.
The Italian was in high-demand and departed the Suderia and went on to enjoy positions heading Rome’s Olympic project as well as the America’s Cup challenge of Team Azzurra.
When Ferrari came calling again in the early nineties, after a spell of near misses in the top flight and no road-map for the future, Di Montezemolo returned and after head-hunting Jean Todt proceeded to build a team that led to the legendary Michael Schumacher years at Ferrari, which remains their golden era to this day.
In 2014, when Sergio Marchionne orchestrated a coup d’etat at Maranello, he sent Di Montezemolo packing and the replacements have gone a long way to marginalise memory and achievements of the man who knew the formula to mega-success in F1, for the cauldron that is Ferrari.
It would be a bittersweet irony if he returned to the Big Boss desk at the team’s HQ to steady the ship. Truth be told, there seems to very few viable options for Ferrari’s salvation. And saving they do need, desperately.