It may be a hackneyed phrase, but this time it really is ‘no surprise’ at all that Ferrari has revised its Formula 1 team organisational structure. Indeed, about the only surprise is that took Ferrari all of two years to realise that its flat operating structure was not working for a major team set on fighting for world titles rather than battling away in the midfield amongst teams with less than half its budget.
That the Scuderia’s structure was not fit for purpose was first suggested here almost a year ago. Following their dismal start to 2020 it was inescapably clear change was needed.
Earlier this week former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who oversaw Ferrari’s return to championship-winning form during the mid-seventies and again as CEO during the late nineties, urged Ferrari to recruit the best talents regardless of nationality. Much the same case was made in a column here last week.
Montezemolo may, of course, have been rather crudely angling for a return to Ferrari after being unceremoniously ousted in 2014 by then-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne (pictured top). But few have a better feel for the Maranello psyche than Montezemolo.
At the time Ferrari formed part of FCA, but was subsequently spun off via listings in New York and Milan. The team’s previous structure, changes to which were announced yesterday, was originally devised by Marchionne. He planned to retire from FCA in March 2019, but assume the dual roles of Ferrari president and CEO, with his particular focus being the crucial commercial and political elements of Gestione Sportiva, the sporting division. As part of the restructure then-team principal Maurizio Arrivabene would be retired.
The plan was for the operational activities of the sporting division to be delegated to Mattia Binotto, adding the role of sporting director to his existing function as technical director. In other words, Gestione Sportiva would have a flat reporting structure similar to those installed by Marchionne, a hard-nosed cost-cutter at all FCA companies, as opposed to the pyramid structures found in most F1 teams.
(It bears pointing out that McLaren is only now emerging from over a decade in the wilderness after reverting from the ‘matrix’ structure preferred by the previous administration to a pyramid system installed when Zak Brown took the helm of the team. This indicates that a pyramid, which delegates authorities and responsibilities via defined, unambiguous reporting hierarchies, is crucial to success in F1, if not necessarily in the wider auto industry.)
However Marchionne died unexpectedly in July 2018, replaced by Louis Camilleri, former head of long-time Ferrari sponsor Philip Morris International (producer of Marlboro cigarettes) and thus with no direct motor industry experience. He dumped Arrivabene and implemented Marchionne’s structure although, crucially, without Marchionne.
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Thus, in one hasty swoop, Binotto became responsible for all Ferrari’s sporting and technical activities, but F1’s arcane politics as well. And, crucially, lacking the guidance of the man who had devised the structure.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, in a ‘normal’ team during a ‘normal’ year even that would be a big ask. But this is Ferrari of all teams we are concerned with, and 2020 had been flagged as a contracts negotiation year and transition period ahead of F1’s much-trumpeted ‘new era’ has been. Then everything was turned topsy-turvy by the unpredictability of Covid-19. Any wonder Binotto has come under enormous pressure of late?
The restructure is aimed at both reducing Binotto’s work by creating a new technical performance teams and clearly delegating authorities and responsibilities to a core team of individuals, empowering him to concentrate on bigger picture aspects of running the by far the most political team in F1 history.
In the process the formerly flat structure has been ‘pyramidised’ and existing staff have been retained, which is an unequivocal expression of confidence in the team. That said, a further restructure is on the cards as and when the budget cap bites.
Whether this restructure alone will prove sufficient to reverse Ferrari’s regression remains to be seen, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Taken with the March return to Ferrari of Luca Colajanni – a battle-hardened F1 politician if ever there was one – this time as head of Scuderia Ferrari brand strategy, this restructure could prove to be a turning point both performance-wise and politically.
Although success in F1 is far from guaranteed, at least the Scuderia now has half a fighting chance of returning to the top.
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2020 F1 season