The right spirit?

Motor Racing – Formula One World Championship – Japanese Grand Prix – Practice Day – Suzuka, Japan

Marco Mattiacci was the brain of Ferrari’s business in America when he was suddenly called home to save the Scuderia from more disaster in Formula 1. After seven months, on November 24th, he was replaced by Maurizio Arrivabene, so PADDOCK magazine examines his time as the captain of the team.

Click here to subscribe to our print edition!

Following another bad start into the season, Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo had to act. And he did. The long-time president of the Scuderia fired team principal Stefano Domenicali and replaced him by Marco Mattiacci. The move was bold, because if petrol-head Domenicali had already failed to make the Reds perform, how could manager-type Mattiacci do the trick? Mattiacci was born in Rome in 1970 and took an Economics degree at the Eternal City’s University. In 1989, he left his homeland for a job at Jaguar in London. Following his rather brief spell at the British car makers, he was in strategic consulting before returning to Ferrari in 1999. Mattiacci worked in the Middle East, Russia and Finland, before heading the product launch for Maserati in the United States. Aged 29, he joined Ferrari as Area Sales Manager North and South America and the Middle East. Doing well across the pond, he was promoted to Director of Marketing for Ferrari and Maserati North America, before swapping oceans to become Managing Director of Ferrari Asia Pacific in 2007, located in Shanghai. Three years later, he returned to the States to take the helm as President and Managing Director of Ferrari North America, where he took some time out to attend a course at the Columbia University Business School.

His drive and management skills helped Ferrari increase its sales by 20 per cent in the United States, with it becoming the Prancing Horse’s biggest market. “We have about 40,000 customers in that country, plus the challenge of developing Latin America (Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina).” Mattiacci is a passionate sportsperson himself, enjoying a game of tennis, skiing and paddleboarding in his spare time. But there was no sign, he could ever move into the sporting side of the luxury car brand until in April 2014 his mobile phone rang and Montezemolo urged him to fly to Maranello. Days later, the father of three was Ferrari’s new head of the Gestione Sportiva. Having taken on what is arguably the most high-pressured job in F1, Mattiacci kept his cool saying: “I’ve been following Formula 1 since I was a kid and working for Ferrari for 15 years; you wake up and think about Formula 1, all our cars are inspired by Formula 1. Having said that, there was actually nothing that surprised me that much.”

We have about 40,000 customers in that country, plus the challenge of developing Latin America.

While big name figures from inside the sport would have grabbed headlines replacing Domenicali, Ferrari felt it was more important to have someone who understood the organisation rather than F1. Moreover, Mattiacci arrives highly trusted by senior management, which will make life easier for him to make changes that he feels are necessary. He also comes with no F1 baggage, which means he can approach matters with a fresh perspective to help the team become more reactive to the sport’s current needs. Di Montezemolo believes his skill set will help Ferrari’s F1 team recover from its disappointing 2014 campaign and beyond improve how Ferrari works. It is hoped that Mattiacci will be able to help the F1 team maximise the commercial and structural resources of its road car division – just as Mercedes has done – to help push its team on to success.


The Italian made it clear that he was not looking for quick fixes, but a plan to bring Ferrari closer to the front in 2015 and challenging for the title again from 2016 onwards, and that he had what it takes to reach that goal. “I’m quintessentially a Ferrari man. I grew up in this company. But I think I have a strong sense of strategy and am someone that gives people the opportunity to express at their best their talent. At the same time I fight until the end for my ideas, I don’t settle. In all the businesses that I’ve run, whatever is between me and success – if you want to call it success, but I would call it the result – I don’t stop.”

Before beginning to implement a recovery plan to turn Ferrari’s fortunes around, the 2012 Automotive Executive of the Year – an award that he dedicated to “our employees in the US, who have been contributing to this success story for the past 60 years. It was tough for me to receive it at this age because you can end up slipping into a comfort zone when there’s still so much left to do, and to achieve.” – made a personal close analysis of the status quo. “You first need to understand where you are. I think I understand better and better the people of the team because every business is first about people. I try to go back in time to learn how we arrived here and to see the assets and the good things that this team has because I think Ferrari still would be the authority in motorsport. We have it in our DNA – our core business is about racing cars.” Mattiacci is a big admirer of Enzo Ferrari and his achievements. Time and again, he watches videos or reads books on him to recall the value of what this man did. “It’s an impressive, unique company that is worldwide patronage, something that everybody aspires to have, to aspire to work for. At the same time, for me it’s extremely inspirational because what a man like Enzo Ferrari achieved – never give up, entrepreneurship, toughness first with himself and then with all the other people working with him, and seriousness and fairness in doing the business. When I think about Ferrari I think about something to excel, passion, impressive engineering and something to be extremely proud of.”

New masterplan needed

Mattiacci and his staff were setting up a strategy that was going to be for the next three years and that was going to see Ferrari go back to the top in Formula 1. However, he admitted that a lot of change was needed. “We have to organise the team operation-wise in a way that is quite different from what it is today. You have seen how long it took Mercedes to arrive here. You have seen how long it took Red Bull to achieve what they have achieved. I guess, we are starting from quite a strong baseline, but this is not football. You don’t just change the coach, buy two new players and you are going to win next year’s championship.” The new team principal was certain that he needed to “culturally” turn the page: “We need to have a different culture because we need to modernise the way we work, we need to make sure that we create a positive pressure that is going to make us make the kind of leap forward every race. A culture where people work together where communication is open to everybody, information is open to everybody. Outworking the others because we are behind, working in a quality way and in an efficient and strategic way. So it’s an extremely interesting but huge task to achieve.”

Following the management strategies he acquired in the US, Mattiacci wanted to bring in new talent, ambitious, hard-working youngsters – not big names – hungry for success. “But I’m not looking for stars. I have always believed in team players. You can see, who are the stars in the market today. If you go back two years ago, you didn’t know these people. As a manager you need to have a combination: you must pick up the best, but at the same time, you need to find people that are the second in line, but who have the potential.” And Mattiacci was already starting to acquire these prospects: Sebastian Vettel’s former engineer at Toro Rosso Riccardo Adami, Red Bull chief mechanic Kenny Handkammer, Mercedes engine boffin Wolf Zimmerman and Lotus simulator chief Daniele Casanova were all in the final stages of contract negotiations with the Reds.

All these plans were resting on Mattiacci’s key move to bring Sebastian Vettel to Maranello. And while the Italian was busy finding excuses for Kimi Raikkonen’s disappointing displays, he made it clear that his liking for number one driver Fernando Alonso is not on a high. “I see this like when you hire a great striker in football and for the first six, seven matches they are not striking and you are waiting and then suddenly they will do an amazing season. I think the Kimi we have seen in Hungary and have seen in Spa, proves he is an extremely talented driver. I strongly believe in Kimi. As for Fernando, he is an excellent driver with great passion and talent. But I don’t have to keep Fernando happy. We are not here to look for happiness; we are here to look for the fastest cars. I’m here to make him competitive, not happy.”

The engine matter

The Italian is well aware that Ferrari’s major disadvantage is their engine, respectively its lack of power compared to dominating Mercedes. Hence, he was desperately looking for arguments in favour of lifting or at least softening FIA’s engine freeze. Mercedes have enjoyed a big performance advantage over fellow engine makers Renault and Ferrari in F1’s first year of hybrid turbo regulations and there are fears that the German manufacturer’s works team will again dominate in 2015. Most recently Mattiacci has argued that F1’s struggling smaller teams would also benefit from a relaxation of the sport’s in-season engine development rules. These regulations could be altered allowing some in-season performance upgrades to the V6 turbo power units, however, only by a unanimous vote, which is less than likely. While a majority agreed to the changes at a first meeting of the sport’s Strategy Group at the Russian GP, Mercedes, Williams and Lotus voted against it. Mattiacci has seemingly been struggling for arguments in favour and has recently claimed that the current restrictive regulations are hindering the attempts of F1’s cash-strapped smaller teams to score points.

“I think that honestly, from our point of view, there is not a cost increase. If I had the possibility to upgrade my engines maybe the teams I supply (Sauber and Marussia) would have scored points and have extra revenues. For a small team not to have the possibility to catch up is much more dramatic than for a big team.” To reach a unanimous vote, a change of heart from Mercedes and its customer teams is needed but seems rather unlikely. Regardless, Mattiacci said that Ferrari will keep up the pressure. “We are trying to do our best because we have a strong belief that innovation is at the base of the success of Formula 1. That’s what we’re asking for. We’re a company that produces engines, so I think it’s important that innovation is at the centre of this Formula 1. I cannot go back to my fans and say I need to wait one year to perform better. After all, we absolutely stick to the principles of these new regulations, we are asking for fine-tuning applying the same principles.”

There are no comments

Add yours