After more than two decades presiding over one of the biggest and most successful teams in Formula 1, Luca Di Montezemolo is stepping down as chairman of Ferrari.
The 67-year-old spent 23 years as president of the Italian car manufacturer, and watched as Michael Schumacher won five F1 drivers’ titles and Kimi Raikkonen another.
But a recent decline, culminating at Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix when Ferrari failed to make the podium in its home race for the first time since 2008, led to Di Montezemolo’s departure.
“We are coming out of an awful year because we underestimated the difficulty and the importance of the new motors,” Di Montezemolo said yesterday at Ferrari’s headquarters. “There are all the foundations for relaunching a new cycle in Formula 1. There are all the foundations to start winning again.
“We have had extraordinary and difficult moments. I thank the fans and I am convinced that there will be the maximum effort to take Ferrari back to where it belongs.”
Di Montezemolo will officially leave on 13 October, about the same time as the stock listing of merged parent company Fiat-Chrysler, and will be replaced by that company’s CEO, Sergio Marchionne. Fiat has a 90 per cent controlling stake in Ferrari.
Di Montezemolo joined Ferrari four decades ago, brought in by founding father Enzo Ferrari as his assistant. After a brief period away from the company, he returned as president in 1991 and the team won six drivers’ titles and eight constructors’ titles.
“It’s an important day because after 23 years (as president), which have passed very quickly, today I’m presenting my resignation from Ferrari,” Di Montezemolo said, struggling to hold back tears. “I’m resigning because I think a very important era for the company has ended. Thanks to the results, thanks to the strength of Ferrari itself, another cycle is opening and I hope it will be even more important, new and different.”
Di Montezemolo is the second high profile executive to leave the team this year following the departure of team principal Stefano Domenicali in April.
Rumours had been circulating for a while that Di Montezemolo was about to call time on his career with Ferrari, but he denied that was the case after Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
He insisted that he would see out the three-year contract he signed in March. But in the days since the miserable home race for Ferrari, which saw Fernando Alonso retire and Raikkonen finish ninth, there appears to have been a change of heart.
Marchionne, who was not present at Monza but was at an event 25 miles away, hinted at the weekend that Di Montezemolo should not have said he was guaranteed to stay.
The 62-year-old highlighted that winning Formula 1 titles was the “heart” of Ferrari and the six barren years since their last triumph was too long.
“The important thing for Ferrari is not just the financial results, but also it is winning, and we have been struggling for six years,” Marchionne said.
“On volume and economic results, Luca has done an outstanding job. We are good friends, but when I read his statements these are things I would not have said myself.”
He added: “When the company has a change of plan, or if there is no longer a convergence of ideas, things change.”