Scuderia Ferrari descended into a devastating power struggle following the death of FIAT-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in July last year, experienced British and German journalists say.
With Marchionne’s death, journalists from Autosport and Auto Bild say Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene began extending a tighter grasp over Ferrari, thus creating a devastating rift between himself and Chief Technical Officer, Mattia Binotto.
The declining nature of the team, with the newfound rivalry between the Scuderia’s two most prominent leaders, led to last week’s news that Arrivabene would leave the team after four seasons of failing to deliver a World Championship.
British journalist Scott Mitchell, who works for Autosport, said in a video posted to the publication’s Youtube channel, that Arrivabene became much more vocal and central after Marchionne’s untimely passing. He tried to “establish himself”, Mitchell said.
German paper Auto Bild shared a similar narrative, saying Arrivabene used the “power vacuum” of Marchionne’s passing to strengthen himself and weaken Mattia Binotto’s standing. According to Auto Bild, Arrivabene froze Binotto’s technology budget in 2018, which eventually led to the latter threatening to leave the team.
Mitchell corroborated the claim, saying that Ferrari “acted swiftly” because they risked losing Binotto after his rift with Arrivabene. “Ultimately Binotto is the man that you want around longer term, not Arrivabene,” Mitchell said.
Ferrari President John Elkann denied this claim in an open letter published in Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this week. He said Binotto’s appointment to Team Principal “does not arise from alleged disagreements within the team.”
He described the change in management as “a line of continuity that aims at evolution, certainly not a ‘rupture’ compared to the past” – an allusion to the fact that Binotto is the fourth Team Principal in five years.
However, both sources point to these leadership disputes to explain the team’s rapid descent in form toward the end of 2018.
Auto Bild said Arrivabene and Binotto’s ongoing disputes were “one reason for the declining competitiveness”, whilst Autosport’s Scott Mitchell said Arrivabene’s lust for power was “largely responsible” for the form downturn.
Motorsport.com F1 Editor, Jonathan Noble, also said in the Autosport video that “Arrivabene was trying to crush things down and become a leader quite harshly.”
Noble described Arrivabene’s style as “very aggressive”.
Auto Bild said Arrivabene’s “egocentric” leadership demotivated the Scuderia staff, “especially their leader Binotto.” The paper said Arrivabene no longer had the team’s support. “The mood at Ferrari was, after the summer break, on the ground,” Auto Bild’s Ralf Bach wrote.
“Everything also had to do with the leadership weakness that prevailed through Arrivabene,” Bach said.
Auto Bild’s article officially confirming Binotto’s promotion to Team Principal said Sebastian Vettel – the Scuderia’s lead driver who briefly led 2018’s championship – lacked “emotional support and the backing of his team boss.”
Mitchell said Ferrari decided to remove Arrivabene because “they’ve realized that they’ve got someone in charge who’s not right for it.”
Mitchell further explained that Arrivabene “didn’t really have anything to do” with the technical overhaul at the end of the winless 2016 season, he attributed those successes to Sergio Marchionne and Mattia Binotto. “So he [Arrivabene] was neither sort of planner or executor of that grand vision.”
All sources agree that Arrivabene’s departure was needed. Ralf Bach wrote his piece in Auto Bild as a comment, which said “the team boss change change at Ferrari was the right decision.”
His article also featured comments from former Ferrari driver Gerhard Berger, who agreed with the appointment of Binotto because he “is the man who technically has everything under control and knows the team behind him.”
Mitchell authored a piece for Autosport Plus explaining “Why Ferrari became desperate to ditch Arrivabene.”
Mitchell thinks Arrivabene’s departure will help Ferrari in 2019. “I don’t see Ferrari losing an awful lot by getting rid of him,” he said. In his mind, Ferrari gain a lot by having someone as good as Binotto in charge.
Arrivabene’s future plans remain unclear. However, alongside his role at Ferrari, he is a non-executive director for Italian football team, Juventus.
Auto Bild’s Ralf Bach suggested that Arrivabene could play a pivotal coordinating role at the Sauber F1 Team if Alfa Romeo, owned by FIAT-Chrysler, took over the Swiss outfit.
*All quotes in this story from Auto Bild have been translated into English. Translation was done with assistance from Google Translate.