Formula 1: Ferrari boss Domenicali steps down

Stefano Domenicali's 23-year association with Ferrari is over. Picture: AP
Stefano Domenicali's 23-year association with Ferrari is over. Picture: AP
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Stefano Domenicali said it was time for a “significant change” as he announced his resignation as team principal of Ferrari.

The Italian has fallen on his sword after the team’s poor start to the Formula 1 season.

Ferrari have struggled to match their rivals under this year’s new regulations and, at the most recent grand prix in Bahrain, their cars finished ninth and tenth.

Marco Mattiacci, who has been working as president and chief executive of Ferrari’s North American operations, will take over responsibility for the F1 team. Domenicali said: “There are special moments that come along in everyone’s professional life when one needs courage to take difficult and very agonising decisions.

“It is time for a significant change. As the boss, I take responsibility, as I have always done, for our current situation.

“This decision has been taken with the aim of doing something to shake things up and for the good of this group of people that I feel very close to. With all my heart, I thank all the men and women in the team, the drivers and the partners for the wonderful relationship we have enjoyed over all these years. I hope that very soon Ferrari will be back where it deserves to be.

“My final words of thanks go to our president, for having always supported me, and to all our fans. I only regret that we have been unable to harvest what we worked so hard to sow in recent years.”

Domenicali, 48, first joined Ferrari in 1991, working in administration, before becoming team manager in 1996 and then sporting director six years later.

He succeeded Jean Todt at the head of the Formula 1 team in 2007 and was officially appointed team principal in 2008.

In his first year the team won the constructors’ championship but the drivers’ championship eluded him. Felipe Massa came agonisingly close to depriving Lewis Hamilton of the world title in 2008 and Fernando Alonso saw Sebastian Vettel pip him at the final race in both 2010 and 2012.

Alonso also finished second behind the German in 2013 but he was a long way adrift and the Spaniard was widely considered to be out-performing the car he had been given. In a statement, Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo said: “I thank Stefano Domenicali, not only for his constant dedication and effort, but also for the great sense of responsibility he has shown, even today, in always putting the interests of Ferrari above all else.

“I hold Domenicali in esteem and I have watched him grow professionally over the 23 years we have worked together. I also want to wish all the best to Marco Mattiacci, whom I know to be a highly regarded manager and who knows the company well. He has accepted this challenge with enthusiasm.”

Major changes to the sport for this season gave Ferrari a chance to close the gap, but neither driver has been on the podium in the first three races.

The nadir came in Bahrain, where Ferrari’s lack of power was obvious as Alonso came home in ninth and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in tenth. Alonso called for the team to work “day and night” to improve their performance ahead of the next race in China on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Red Bull are expected to find out today whether they have won their appeal against Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix. The FIA’s International Court of Appeal in Paris heard the case on Monday and is likely to announce its decision this morning. Ricciardo crossed the line in second place at the season’s opening race in front of his home fans in Melbourne on his debut for Red Bull. But the best result of Ricciardo’s near three-year career was stripped from him after the race stewards found the team guilty of a fuel irregularity.

Ricciardo’s car was found to have consistently exceeded the maximum allowed fuel flow rate of 100 kilograms per hour, but Red Bull cited persistent issues with the sensors over the course of the weekend that forced them to take their own readings. The FIA claims no other instrument, other than the permitted sensor, is allowed to measure the fuel flow, with Red Bull warned both after qualifying and five laps into the race with regard to the matter.

Red Bull also argued that the technical directive issued over the course of the weekend with regard to the fuel flow was not regulatory and therefore they should not be punished for disregarding it.

The team’s chief technical officer, Adrian Newey, and chief engineer of car engineering, Paul Monaghan, were questioned at the hearing while Mercedes, McLaren, Lotus, Williams and Force India all had representatives present.

Mercedes, who have won all three races so far, are calling for a further sanction, to be suspended until the end of the season, to dissuade Red Bull from doing the same thing again.

Should Red Bull win the appeal, Ricciardo will have 18 points reinstated, lifting him from tenth to third in the driver standings and taking the team from fourth to second in the constructors’ table.