According to unconfirmed reports at German website SPEEDWEEK, Luca Di Montezemolo, Chairman of Ferrari, will announce shortly that he is leaving the world renowned company to become CEO of Alitalia Airlines. Di Montezemolo, 66, has been with Ferrari since coming on board as assistant to Enzo Ferrari in 1973. He became manager of the Marenello based Formula One racing team in 1974.
Ferrari’s racing fortunes have been dismal since the departure of Michael Schumacher at the end of the 2006. For 2014, Formula One changed to a new engine formula that puts a premium on efficiency rather than outright horsepower. The old V8 engines were discarded in favor of turbocharged 1.6 liter V6 engines and hybrid power trains.
Arch-rival Mercedes has produced an engine package that is clearly superior to those from Ferrari and Renault, allowing Mercedes powered cars to dominate the series so far this year. Despite having two World Champion drivers on the team, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari is currently struggling to stay in third place in the Constructors Championship.
The team’s lack of success has been a huge embarrassment to Ferrari and has placed enormous pressure on Di Montezemolo and his subordinates. Already this year, Di Montezemolo has fired team principle Stefano Domenicali and chief engine designer Marco Mattiacci . Other important members of the engineering team, including Luca Marmorini and Pat Fry, are also out the door or expected to leave shortly.
In short, Ferrari’s Formula One program is in complete disarray. Fernando Alonso has just let it be known that he wants a contract for next year that pays him $50,000,000. In an era where most of the drivers on the grid pay for their seat or bring substantial sponsorship money with them, one wonders what team Alonso will be driving for next year. Teammate Rakkonen has had a lackluster season, and rumors suggest he will not be at Ferrari next year despite having a contract to drive for the team in 2015.
Di Montezemolo is a trained attorney who holds a Masters degree in international commerce from Columbia. He has held several high level positions within the FIAT corporate empire, including director of Cinzano and publisher Itedi, In 1982 he managed the Italian America’s Cup challenge syndicate and he was the head of the 1990 Italian World Cup program.
After 40 years with Ferrari, is Di Montezemolo really going to walk away? One could say that being the head of an airline would be a step backward in his illustrious career, but it could be more like a peaceful vacation after many long years inside the pressure cooker that is Scuderia Ferrari.
Word has it that he will be gone from Maranello by this time next week.