Jean Todt’s availability to return to Ferrari in a figurehead role is unlikely to happen as chairman John Elkann is not interested in the former FIA President returning to aid Mattia Binotto.
Furthermore, MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi, who retired from two-wheels at the end of 2021, was keen to be part of the Ferrari GT programme which would provide him with racing options while the Reds would benefit from the massive PR of having Vale in the organisation.
But the powers that be at Maranello saw no value in having 42-year-old Rossi as part of the programme, and deemed him too inexperienced to be part of the Ferrari works effort.
Of course, Audi stepped up to the plate and the Italian great will be driving for them this season.
In F1, the Reds woke up last year to end the 2021 season third in the Constructors’ Championship, best of the rest, but far from the best, after going through one of their worst patches.
In December, the notion was bandied about that Todt could slot in at the Scuderia in a role similar to the highly successful partnership Niki Lauda had with Toto Wolff. The kind of right-hand man that Binotto has lacked.
John Elkann has decided not to pursue this precious but complex collaboration
Todt’s availability made such a move seem logical, but logic and Ferrari seldom apply these days as Corriere F1 correspondent Giorgio Terruzzi reported: “The proposed return of the former FIA President – who worked at Ferrari from 1993 to 2009 accompanying Michael Schumacher’s happy adventure – was actually presented by Todt himself to John Elkann.
“After a series of considerations, for now, Elkann has decided not to pursue this precious but complex collaboration, where Todt would have played a super-consultant role. Placing himself as a reference for both the Ferrari president and Mattia Binotto. A sort of mentor for the Scuderia, also on the sporting policy front.
“Evidently Elkann preferred to abandon a solution that perhaps seemed not completely defined to him, considering the personality of [Todt] and, in any case, apparently not crucial at this phase of Ferrari history, grappling with a new era,” the report added, with reference to the new rules package for F1 that kicks in this year.
2022 will be a year of reckoning for Ferrari, should they not produce a competitive car – capable of winning races again – it is hard to see how faith will continue in Binotto running the greatest team in F1 alone. For now the future of the team’s management structure remains unchanged, but a ‘2022 SF22-Shitbox’ won’t suffice.
Looking ahead, there will be added workload on the Scuderia’s racing fronts, including the all-important Ferrari F1 programme as well as their forthcoming WEC Hypercar/Le Mans project; with the idea of Todt supervising the two fronts, a position he would have cherished, even if those close to him speak of a certain disappointment by the lack of enthusiasm shown by his former employers.
Binotto: It was an honour to work with Jean Todt
Speculating whether the door to Maranello is shut on Todt senior, the report added: “Will this be forever? It’s not sure but Todt’s not the type to take himself on a vacation.”
The Todt return to Maranello makes sense, as Binotto could do with some extra muscle in his corner for blatantly obvious reasons, while the French motorsport veteran has built teams that won in WRC, WEC and F1. He is also arguably one of the most well-connected men in motorsport. His son Nicolas manages Charles Leclerc.
Last month, after insisting the Todt-Ferrari theory was pure speculation, Binotto seemed warm to the idea of his return: “I worked with Jean Todt, he was my boss. I think I learned a lot from him. It was an honour to work with him and I would say that, as well, whatever would be the future, it will still be an honour for me to work together with him, because I still believe that, as Mattia and as a team, there’s still much to learn.”
Rossi in Red revives an old dream not only for Valentino but of an endless audience of Tifosi
The Rossi story differs in that it involves a GT and Le Mans racing programme, not F1. However, snubbing the Italian sporting icon – adored universally – and a pretty handy tintop driver is equally incomprehensible as Terruzzi’s report explains.
“The lack of collaboration with Valentino Rossi is totally different. After retiring from MotoGP, exploring four-wheel options, he considered Ferrari as a fundamental reference.
“Rossi in Red is an image that revives an old dream, not only for Valentino but of an endless audience of Tifosi, which kept Rossi delaying for a long period eager proposals from Audi and BMW as he negotiated an agreement with Maranello.
“It did not happen. Contacts with Antonello Coletta, head of Ferrari’s covered-wheel programs, did not produce the desired outcome, they were lost between distinction and semi-bureaucratic complications.”
Rossi tested for the Ferrari F1 team as at one point in his career, a switch from two to four wheels was considered, but several years of flirtation yielded nothing. But a bond was formed between the rider and team.
Unlike Ferrari, Audi treated Valentino with respect
The report continued: “Valentino was trying to share a dream that he considers fundamental at this point in his life and career, with no obligatory goals but open to any possible development.
“Something that Vincent Vosse, head of the WRT Audi team understood the value all along, offering Rossi the opportunity he was looking for, immediately providing him with a car for a first test (in Valencia) with the idea of expanding projects and prospects in the near future.
“Unlike Ferrari, Audi treated Valentino with respect, not as a driver who can be pooled among other inexperienced wannabes but, one like no other; he is formidably talented, with a desire to push and test himself to the maximum, and of course Rossi’s infinite popularity. A smart very low-risk bet by Audi.”
Elkann has been Ferrari chairman since Sergio Marchionne passed away in 2018, with Enzo’s son Piero vice-chairman and Benedetto Vigna appointed CEO last June. The latter presented his vision for the marque earlier this month.