Angelo Sticchi Damiani, a civil engineer, is the President of the Automobile Club of Italy. He is also the National Advisor to the Italian National Olympic Committee (which in 2010 awarded him the Golden Star), member of the FIA senate, part of the World Council of FIA Sport and Euroboards FIA. We sit down with Angelo to focus on the three-year agreement for the Italian GP at Monza, which saw him involved in a match between business, money, history, and, above all, new ideas.
First of all, congratulations on your confirmation as President of the Automobile Club of Italy. We’re sure you’ll bring stability to the whole system, particularly in the relationships with organisers and partners of the major national and international motorsport events.
Thank you. Stability is always an important factor. Even so, a change in the presidency, of course, can generate a change in the visions and, often, in the whole organisation. Then, let’s face it, what we’re doing now is just starting.
After long and complex negotiations, which at times took on a very harsh tone, the agreement between ACI and FOM about the Italian GP at Monza was signed. There are still many obstacles to overcome, and first among them are economic ones.
It was a very complex negotiation process, very delicate, but I am convinced that we were right not to give up, especially keeping in mind the new ownership and management changes in Formula 1. Bernie Ecclestone has done a great job over the years, it led the sport to the level that was unthinkable when he picked up this extraordinary show. However, times have changed and change was necessary. Now there is an important group at the helm of Formula 1, and they have proven to be familiar with the major events management mechanisms, with extraordinary and spectacular content. Mr Carey speaks of something that I have always been a firm believer in. He speaks of creating big events. And it is exactly what our team intends to do.
The Grand Prix is a great opportunity, which has so far been exploited to maybe a half of its potential, but there is so much else to do. I believe the new owners realise that Formula 1 is a great and powerful “toy” that can be much greater and more powerful in the future.
The history of the Monza circuit has a strong impact on the drivers, the teams, and mostly for the fans. Did this emotional element have any importance in the negotiations?
Absolutely, yes. It’s also great that Mr Carey has stated that he thinks there’s a need to strengthen the positions of Formula 1 in Western Europe. That’s exactly what I have always believed and supported. There is probably not much sense in exporting this sport to countries where, for historical reasons, there is almost no car culture, no traditions of motorsport. We should be focusing on territories where fast cars and car racing feel at home: Europe, the United States, Latin America. When we start to lose the “grip” in these areas, the whole system risks a crisis. Asia will probably never be able to compensate for any decline of Formula 1 in its natural habitat. Mr Carey has recently said: “But how can you think about a Formula 1 World Championship without the German Grand Prix? Something does not work”. This was music to my ears.
Let me be clear about something: we will be aiming to transform the Italian GP into an event that could last an entire week, during which we would give our guests the very best of what the region is able to offer – fashion, gastronomy, tourism and so forth.
Personally, I think the three years are a “minimum” period in which Monza will have to concentrate and work hard to create the right conditions for a possible further renewal. The Imola circuit will certainly not stay at the window and just watch, the team there will definitely prepare for the next challenge.
Correct. The Automobile Club of Italy does not intend to manage the GP of Italy for another three years in the same way in which it was handled in the past. We’re convinced that we can turn these critical issues into great opportunities. Three years is not that long of a time, and I am sure that as soon as the situation with the new owners and managers stabilises, one of the first objectives will be to review the dates and methods of our agreement. But we will surely not ask for discounts or monetary reductions.
We will be aiming to transform the Italian GP into an event that could last an entire week.
What will now be the ACI’s commitment to the development of racing activities at the circuit of Imola?
I understand the problems of Imola, and, far as I can, I also intend to make them my own. After this tense moment, we all finally returned to a phase in which we reason together. Clearly, if one is faced with an either-or choice of Imola or Monza, the pick will be Monza. Right after, though, there’s Imola. Therefore, we must look for ways to find an important role for Imola in Italy and abroad.
What are your personal goals as President of ACI at the moment?
There are many objectives on my mind. One of them, obviously, was and still is Monza. And we can consider it an important achievement, even though as I’ve said before, we’re just starting now.
Another important issue is linked to the future of the management of the Italian Car Public Registry, without losing sight of the key issue here – road safety, which the ACI has been already working on for years and years.
The Italian Grand Prix will also bring new agreements that I can’t really talk about yet, I can just say that these concepts are related to the involvement of all those who work with Formula 1 and sports cars, ACI members or not. That’s why we will hold our Annual General Meeting in Monza on the 25th of April.
Photo by Maurizio Rigato