‘Well-respected leader’ leaves Ferrari, so what now?

Ferrari confirmed Monday evening Maurizio Arrivabene will leave the team with immediate effect after four seasons of failing to deliver a World Championship.

Most people within the F1 fraternity have always spoken highly of the normally quiet and reserved Team Principal. His departure should not be considered a major surprise, given he’s always claimed responsibility for the team’s performance. But, whether his firing – just over a month before testing begins – will have major implications for Ferrari’s 2019 campaign remains to be seen.

Sebastian Vettel, the lead driver at Ferrari in their fight against Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, maintained that Arrivabene was a “very strong leader” and “well-respected” at Ferrari.

Maurizio Arrivabene (left) and Sebastian Vettel during 2018 pre-season testing (Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari).

Those comments came during the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix weekend – which followed Vettel’s two DNFs at the Singapore and Japanese Grands Prix, highly regarded as the two races where the German fell out of contention for the 2017 drivers title.

[Read all of Sebastian Vettel’s comments during the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix press conference].

Ferrari has not a won a World Championship since 2007.

“I think he has a very innovative and creative way of thinking,” Vettel said, adding that he is the “right man” for the job.

Ferrari hired Arrivabene in 2015 after a turbulent 2014 season that saw high tension between long-time driver Fernando Alonso and then-Team Principal, Marco Mattiaci. The season was winless, Ferrari’s first since 1993.

In Mexico, Vettel described the atmosphere in 2014 as miserable, adding that “spirits were down.”

Vettel felt Arrivabene was the “key person” for bringing the team back to winning ways in 2015. Ferrari won just their second race with Arrivabene in charge.

Ferrari said in a statement that Monday’s decision was taken after
“lengthy discussions related to Maurizio’s long term personal interests as well as those of the team itself.”

But, the fact can’t be ignored that Arrivabene’s axing comes months after Ferrari conceded another World Championship to Mercedes, a strong grip on both the Drivers and Constructors at earlier points in the season.

Arrivabene always remained adamant he was responsible for the team’s performance; both failures and successes. “The only mistake you see in front of you is me,” Arrivabene said in Singapore 2018 when reporters questioned recent strategy decisions that cost the team valuable points.

“If you want somebody to blame, he’s in front of you,” Arrivabene quipped. “I’m responsible for the team,” he added.

This video breaks down the numbers of Maurizio Arrivabene’s stint at Ferrari.

Monday’s news did not surprise experts. Former F1 driver turned pundit Martin Brundle tweeted his thoughts and said Arrivabene had a “job from hell.” Respected F1 blogger Joe Saward said Arrivabene had been easy to criticise, but added he’d “done a better job than many thought he would.”

F1 Digital Presenter Will Buxton said in a scathing opinion piece that the late Sergio Marchionne had prepared a “path to the door” for Arrivabene.

Rumours of Arrivabene’s departure at the season’s end starting swirling in October 2018, when an Italian newspaper named him as a contender for the general director role with the Juventus football club. Milan newspaper Il Giornale published an article that described a move from Ferrari as “difficile“, which means “difficult” in English. 

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2018 Drivers World Championship for Mercedes-AMG Petronas (Image courtesy of Daimler AG).

But Monday morning’s annoucement had no such difficulty, as Ferrari’s short-and-swift press release confirmed the news in just three paragraphs. Ferrari dedicated just one paragraph to the ‘other’ news from the announcement, that Mattia Binotto, the current Technical Director, will fill Arrivabene’s shoes.

[Read the full Ferrari press release confirming Arrivabene’s departure here.]

Binotto has been with Ferrari since 1997 and was made Technical Director in 2016, when James Allison departed the team.

What Binotto’s reign will bring in 2019 remains to be fully understood. Joe Saward described him as an “easy-going” guy and said he’s interested to see if this personality trait can help Binotto achieve things Arrivabene didn’t.

However, the general consensus from experts was that, at least in the short-term, firing yet another Team Principal won’t be the merriest way to welcome the team to 2019.

Ferrari’s new Team Principal, Mattia Binotto (Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari).

Martin Brundle noted how F1 fans crave “a strong and year-long resilient Ferrari.” Joe Saward shared those thoughts, and described stability as one of the “keys to success” in Formula 1.

[Read Sebastian Vettel’s review of the 2018 season following Lewis Hamilton’s Drivers World Championship win].

Binotto is the fourth Ferrari Team Principal in the last five years.

Will Buxton seemed optimistic of Binotto’s potential and described the Italian as the “shining light” of the team’s recent successes. He also pointed out the unrivaled driver line-up present at the Scuderia in 2019: “one of the greatest drivers of his generation behind the wheel of one car and one of the most exciting youngsters in a generation in the other.”

He said Ferrari will now enter 2019 “under no illusions of the enormity of the job that stands before them.”

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Steven Walton is an 18-year-old Journalism Student at the Ara Institute of Canterbury. He previously attended St Andrew's College in Christchurch, where he excelled at History and Classical Studies. Steven is the Editor-in-Chief at Green Flag F1 and spends most of his days living, breathing, and immersing in the Formula 1 world.

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