Ferrari heads to Monza this weekend without a Grand Prix victory in more than 15 months – but even with new man Marco Mattiacci at the helm it could be some time before the Prancing Horse finally recovers.
Mattiacci took the reins at Ferrari at the Chinese Grand Prix, almost six months ago, and has spent the time since gathering information and carrying out an immediate and thorough review of the team’s operations.
His career has been moulded on successful regeneration. He is a fixer, parachuted into difficult situations every two or three years and tasked with turning things around.
When he arrived, his F1 knowledge was limited but his experience in working for Ferrari for almost two decades and his in-depth knowledge of the company was deemed more critical. And in any case, he says, he has “breathed F1” ever since he could switch on a TV.
The important point is that his passion for motorsport is combined with business experience outside the paddock – and that will be crucial for Ferrari to succeed.
The ability to nurture any successful business is based on people skills, picking the right people for the right roles and then massaging them into place to gel as a team. It requires a calm demeanour and careful listening skills - but also an ability to be cutthroat when required.
But, as Mattiacci is well aware, it also requires patience.
Although F1 is the most fast-paced level of automotive engineering, it still has significant inertia. As opposed to a sport like football, where a managerial change and a few good signings that bed in well can immediately turn a team from mid-table strugglers into genuine contenders, it takes time to turn an F1 team around.
Ferrari has spent more than a decade losing their way, and they are not going to find a quick and easy way back.
Mattiacci’s buzzword is ‘discontinuity’ and he wants to make three key cultural changes to strengthen Ferrari’s core and expand its horizon.
Firstly, he wants to rid it of a ‘blame culture’ between departments that has created rifts inside the team.
This is something that Mercedes has worked hard on, uniting their engine and chassis departments to the point where it was actually the chassis team who suggested the radical engine design that the engine team then took onboard to make the team so dominant this season.
The second big change is to open Ferrari up to gathering expertise from outside of Maranello.
Having spent time problem solving for Ferrari in New York, Mattiacci’s eyes have been opened to industries and solutions outside of Italy and outside of the motorsport industry, and some of these could be embraced to step up Ferrari’s game in F1.
The third part of his grand plan is to demolish conservatism.
He wants to instil a business focus, putting more rigid processes and procedures in place, but within that he wants to open up the team more to the benefits of pushing the boundaries.
His predecessor Stefano Domenicali’s reign was very cautious, but Mattiacci wants every part of the company to create small but significant step changes and become more innovative as a whole.
Ultimately, though, Ferrari is still the biggest brand in a sport that has become a global industry - and looking at the big picture for the company will be key to Mattiacci’s success.
Because F1 is only part of the goal.
The business of building and selling supercars is a volatile one, and motorsport is Ferrari’s primary showcase. While F1 is currently seen as the pinnacle, as a businessman, Mattiacci is conscious of keeping the corridors open in case that ever changes.
He has openly stated that his task is not just to return Ferrari to the top of Formula One, it is “to build foundations that will ensure Ferrari remains the authority in motorsport” and that it should aim to be a “winning team in every aspect of motorsport”, not just F1.
F1, however, is still the big ticket and to keep his job it must remain his primary task.
And while, for the Tifosi, Monza will be too soon to deliver, the return on his long-term vision may just be worth the wait...
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- Marco Mattiacci