Luca di Montezemolo on the changes at Ferrari

FIAT chariman Luca di Montezemolo  hailing Schumacher and Brawn, and also speaking of the recent structural changes at Ferrari.

I’m very happy to be here today. Behind this table there is first of all a family. A group of people who have shared in 12 years difficult moments, extraordinary moments, and average moments, always with great respect, great unity, and always looking ahead. This is Ferrari’s strength.Since 1997, excluding last year, if Ferrari didn’t win the championship they lost it at the last race. Always. Since ’97, Ferrari have been the team and the car to beat, and Michael has always been the driver to beat. Drivers have changed, and so have the cars – Williams, McLaren and Renault – but Ferrari was always there. I’m happy to repeat this in front of him: Michael has not only been the most extraordinary driver in the history of Ferrari, and Ferrari have a long history in competitions, not just F1, so we have had some of the greatest drivers in the history of motor racing.

Michael has been for us most of all an extraordinary man who, in all these years, also at difficult times, has always been close to the team, he’s always helped them, and we’ve never had polemics, bickering: we’ve always felt united, strong, and on the same boat. We’ve shared, also outside racing, a beautiful and familiar relationship. Michael came to Ferrari and he had some kids, I had some kids, Todt’s son became a man, Ross[Brawn] had an extraordinary dog named Lucas and his daughters got married, so you see, life has carried on outside the track. Today we are here to say ‘thank you to Michael’. To say thanks for what he’s done and for the way he’s done it, and to bow out like a champion with a race that will remain in everyone’s memory at Interlagos was the best thing.

We will be left, myself and us at Ferrari, with the regret of not having been able to put him in the conditions – especially at Suzuka – of winning the race, because let’s not forget Michael retired in the lead with 16 laps to go at Suzuka, and you saw what happened in Brazil. I’m very happy with the (future) relationship with Michael, as Todt has told you about, who will keep on working with us, to share and contribute to our choices and this is an important fact. Even if he won’t be inside the cockpit, his experience and his professionalism will be very useful for the future of Ferrari. Because with Michael’s and Ross’s exit, and with Todt’s appointment with the number one operating role at Ferrari in its entirety, an important era ends.
It’s an era that started in ’96, and for me the one starting is the third era of my presidency at Ferrari. The first from ’92 to ’96, with the arrival of Todt in ’93, was the one or re-organizing and thinking of what the Ferrari of the future will be. In ’96 there was the big revolution with the arrival of Michael, Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, and with the positions taken by many youngsters within the team.

Now the third phase starts, with youngsters growing up. It’s not a revolution but an evolution: we will have capable people who know how to work together, who know each other, and who are up to it. I think under the supervision of Jean Todt – who remains the team’s number one – and with the contribution from Michael, we can look with optimism to the future with some top guys.

My thanks today also go to two more people, who have been fundamental these years. First of all Ross Brawn. Ross came to us in ’97, and brought method, order, organizational sense, and capabilities both inside and outside the track. If Ferrari have won what they have won in Formula One in the last few years, a lot of it is down to Ross’s capabilities, strategies, working method and quality control. So I’m sad but happy Ross is leaving. Happy because a sabbatical year would be a dream in my life, but I can’t afford it. I want to thank Ross in front of everyone for the extraordinary contribution and I convincingly hope that, after a time of rest, the paths of Ross and Ferrari will meet again.

The other isn’t here as he’s already at work in the Far East. That’s Paolo Martinelli. He took the responsibility of Ferrari’s engines in 1995 after a long experience in the GT cars area. Martinelli came at Ferrari when he was still in shorts and had just graduated in engineering at the university of Bologna. He’s been fundamental for our victories, for our technological innovation, for our extraordinary reliability, which allowed us to win many, many races. I wanted to carry on with the exchange between Ferrari and Fiat, because the experience, the know-how is useful for the Fiat Group. Martinelli has been awarded with an important role: he will be responsible for all petrol engines at Fiat Group: Lancia, Maserati, Fiat and Alfa Romeo. A great job of technological innovation, and as president of Fiat I put great faith in his capabilities.

I also want to tell you how happy I am with this season from Felipe Massa. He’s had a nice season, with a beautiful collaboration with Michael, because the closeness with Michael has been very useful for Felipe. He is a fast driver, he’s grown, he’s been very important in our recovery, so I wish him a long future. With him there will be a young driver who Michael signalled to me first – I remember at the Mugello autodrome Michael was testing for Ferrari, and it was Raikkonen’s first lap with Sauber, and Michael was impressed of that driver many years ago and was the first one speaking to Todt about him.

We have some young people I want to wish a good job: Costa, Almondo, Domenicali, Simon, Tombazis and many others. I want to thank Rory, who will keep on working with us and with Costa, and I want to wish a very short vacation for Ross.

The last is Todt. I have a lot of affection for Todt, because he’s a person who has worked hard and with lots of love for Ferrari.  He came to us in ’93, and since then he’s always been very, very busy – night and day – working for Ferrari, and we’ve seen the results. He’s had an intense relationship with Michael. Michael will be Todt’s de-facto super-assistant for certain things, so I’m happy about that. I think Todt deserved some recognition, and being CEO at Ferrari means being responsible of the entire company, not just the sporting arm. He deserved some recognition for what he’s done, for his capabilities, and for everything he’ll be able to do in this role.

I live a time of great intensity, and I couldn’t keep on carrying on the day-by-day problems of an extraordinary company with great development and complexity like Ferrari. With being used to working with Todt, I will carry on considering Ferrari of all things the most important thing of my working life. I know I can work with my eyes closed with Todt: we can speak on the phone ten times a day or not hear from each other for two days; I know he’ll do his job very well, so I wish him good luck, and I’m very happy with his position.

As Ferrari, we’ll have many new challenges with new models, new markets, new men, new organization, new activities – like the extraordinary theme park we’re building in Abu Dhabi, and the opening of many new Ferrari stores around the world. So Todt will take advantage of a person of great experience and capability, who has been the father of the last Ferraris, and that is Amedeo Felisa. I’m very happy of having with me Todt, Felisa, and all this group to work with in the future.

But today is Michael’s day. We are here, and I’m pleased to say my kids told me they wanted to be here because there is a special affection with Michael. Everyone is here for him, it’s his party. I’m happy to see so many tifosi, so it’s his day. I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank, in front of you, many people who contributed in an extraordinary way together with Michael for all these years.

When I told Piero [Ferrari] about the new organization, he told me: ‘Luca, you did right, I completely agree with the choices you’ve made,’ so we say thank you Michael and I’m happy not to say goodbye, but to keep having a lot to do with him. And a good luck to Massa for a job well done. Turning to Ross Brawn: Ross, it’s OK with the vacation, but not too long. I spoke with your, wife and we can find a compromise.

Responding to questions about Todt’s interim role: It’s clear that in any team, when a person takes a bigger responsibility as it’s the case with Todt, somebody could have thought that he’s not the racing boss anymore. We’ve put him in an interim role because, as he has a wider responsibility, it will clearly be a position he will leave, but this doesn’t mean it’s my intention to ask Todt to leave this role within four, five, six or eight months. It will be something that will last through time and logically, sooner or later, there will be someone taking on at 360 degrees the responsibility Todt has had since 1993. This, however, is not a matter for the short term.

The last thing I wanted to say is that Todt, Ross and everyone have been looking at the growth. We’ve always talked about dynamic stability. People have grown: at the beginning of the nineties we had some young technicians who we sent to England. Today we have, for the new team, people for whom Todt and the others have worked for their professional growth. Mario Almondo was the production director and Todt’s right arm, and two years ago we sent him to become the director of the entire organization and the human resources at Ferrari to let him improve on his leadership and organization capabilities.

Stefano Domenicali has had a big professional growth since the times he was race director at Mugello, with knowledge of the regulations, sponsors, drivers’ management, organization, logistics and what have you. So we have under Todt two pivots – allow me to use this term – very complementary and capable. Aldo Costa, who has worked with Byrne – don’t forget he is the one who has created this year’s car. Tombazis has came back after a year away from Ferrari with a further professional growth. Simon since 1998 has been the right hand man of Martinelli, responsible for design.

We are talking about people who have all grown inside the team for all these years, all of them with great growth potential, and especially all of them used to work together, without bringing people in from the outside. This is an important fact that awards the work done by Todt, Ross and Martinelli these years. So I think we have a beautiful group which, with the coordination of Todt and Michael, will be able to have a great season next year.

We’ll talk about this at the beginning of next year, but it’s clear that we are not that happy with not having won two world championships when with 15 laps before the end in Japan – the penultimate race – we were leading both. So, the will and the determination to win is enormous.


About Cyrus Poncha
I was born and lived in Bombay before moving to Chennai in 2001 to coach the Indian national squash team....what a journey its been!!

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