Domenicali steps down after Ferrari’s poor start

2014 F1 season

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2014Ferrari confirmed Stefano Domenicali has resigned his position team principal following their uncompetitive performance in the first three races of 2014.

Ferrari has promoted Marco Mattiacci in his place in charge of the team’s racing activities.

Domenicali said: “There are special moments that come along in everyone’s professional life, when one needs courage to take difficult and very agonising decisions.”

“It is time for a significant change. As the boss, I take responsibility, as I have always done, for our current situation. This decision has been taken with the aim of doing something to shake things up and for the good of this group of people that I feel very close to.

“With all my heart, I thank all the men and women in the team, the drivers and the partners for the wonderful relationship we have enjoyed over all these years. I hope that very soon, Ferrari will be back where it deserves to be. My final words of thanks go to our president, for having always supported me and to all our fans. I only regret that we have been unable to harvest what we worked so hard to sow in recent years.”

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said he thanks Domenicali “for his constant dedication and effort, but also for the great sense of responsibility he has shown, even today, in always putting the interests of Ferrari above all else”.

“I hold Domenicali in esteem and I have watched him grow professionally over the twenty three years we have worked together, I now wish him every success for the future.

“I also want to wish all the best to Marco Mattiacci, whom I know to be a highly regarded manager and who knows the company well. He has accepted this challenge with enthusiasm.”

Domenicali joined Ferrari in 1991 after graduating from the University of Bologna. He succeeded Jean Todt as the team principal in 2008.

The team scored its most recent constructors’ championship victory that year and Felipe Massa narrowly lost the drivers’ title to McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

Since then Fernando Alonso has come close to the drivers’ championship on two occasions. Domenicali is the most high-profile victim of Ferrari’s inability to regain championship-winning form in that time.

Felipe Massa, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2014Alonso arrived at the final race of 2010 leading the points standings but lost the crown to Sebastian Vettel after a tactical error. Strategist Chris Dyer, who helped engineer the team’s success during the Michael Schumacher years, was moved aside over the winter.

A disappointing start to the 2011 season saw Aldo Costa replaced as technical director. The team ended the year with a single victory.

Ferrari bounced back from a poor start to 2012 and Alonso again arrived at the season finale with a chance of claiming the title, only to lose out to Vettel once more. The following year Domenicali invested their resources in upgrading and improving the technical facilities at Maranello, during which time they offered little resistance to Red Bull’s continued dominance.

The arrival of new power unit regulations gave the team hope that it would be able to play to its traditional strength of engine development in 2014. But it has started the season well off the pace of Mercedes.

President Luca di Montezemolo visited his first race of the season in Bahrain during which his team’s cars were repeatedly overtaken. He left before Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line at the foot of the points positions.

Ferrari have fallen to fifth in the championship behind Mercedes, Force India, McLaren and Red Bull.

Montezemolo had voiced support for Domenicali as recently as September last year, when he told media it was not Domenicali’s fault the team had failed to win championships in 2010 and 2012.

This article will be updated.

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119 comments on Domenicali steps down after Ferrari’s poor start

  1. David Tyrrell (@davidtyrrell) said on 14th April 2014, 12:21

    Sad to see him go but sacking him can’t change the team that much. If I were Haas I’d be looking at snapping him up, the experience he has wouldn’t be a bad thing in a new team.

  2. wsrgo (@wsrgo) said on 14th April 2014, 12:23

    I’ll stick my neck out (stay away, Adrian) and say that Ferrari have taken a good decision. Better late than never. Firing Dyer and Costa and replacing them with Fry and Martin didn’t help, Tombazis as designer isn’t helping, their wind tunnels are failing, their new motor has power and electrical issues. Hamashima can’t understand tyres, Marmorini can’t build good engines, Alonso can’t qualify well….that’s just too many people to blame.

    Fact is, Domenicali’s reign has coincided with a dry period for Ferrari. With the car they had in 2008, they should have won the WDC. They fought for the championship in 2012 largely because of Alonso and mistakes for other teams. Fact is, Ferrari have been rather reactive as a whole in their overall policy towards everything. Bringing Kimi back to Ferrari instead of appointing Hulkenberg was Domenicali’s brainchild, and not something which I personally feel, was the right decision. Fact is, they can fire all the people they want, but the problem has been at the very top. And no, di Montezemolo can’t step aside because he owns Ferrari, he can’t simply sell it to someone or hand the reins to someone else, who is unproven. So the team boss had to go.

    As for people speaking out against Mattiacci’s appointment, I believe that this is a temporary replacement. We might see larger roles for Allison and Resta, until Ferrari get a full-time replacement.

    Bottomline is, I believe this was the step Ferrari needed to take. Chucking out mid-rung engineers and replacing them with supposedly better ones wasn’t working. It was time for a change in the way the team was being run, and the overall mindset.

    • James (@iamjamm) said on 14th April 2014, 12:27

      Luca di Montezemolo doesn’t own Ferrari. He is the chairman. Fiat and the Ferrari family own Ferrari.

      • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 14th April 2014, 12:58

        As I understand it FIAT own Ferrari 100% but they just act as a “parent company” and leave the company to manage its own affairs. Hence why the family is still involved.

      • Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 15th April 2014, 0:37

        Exactly the Agnelli family the family that owns Juventus club and FIAT group owns Ferrari, they own 95% of the shares the other 5% are owned by Pierro Ferrari

    • Sharon H (@sharoncom) said on 15th April 2014, 9:45

      I’m pretty sure it was Luca di Montezemolo who chose Raikkonen over Hulkenberg – being only his signature that was said to be missing on the contract. It’s not too surprising Ferrari would choose a former World Champion to be the “2nd rooster”.

  3. Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 14th April 2014, 12:24

    Good guy who presented a likeable public face for Ferrari – on British TV he came across as much less desperate for attention than his rivals at McLaren and Red Bull. He should go and get an Ferrari LMP1 sportscar team started, he’d fit in well there…

    But in F1 I’d worry that they seem to be regressing towards the Prost-firing chaos of the early 90s.

  4. Jay Menon (@jaymenon10) said on 14th April 2014, 12:33

    About time. Most of us having been saying that this day will come for a number of years now, so there is no surprises. Glad that Luca finally found it in him to move Stefano aside.

    Bringing this new chap from Car Sales is probably a good thing. A fresh pair of eyes might just be the thing required. As qualified as Ross Brawn maybe, I dont think bringing him in is the best way forward. The likes of James Allison and Pat Fry need to be given their space to work and allow their recent technical reshuffling to take shape and mature. By bringing in a seasoned campaigner like Brawn, the team runs a risk of another reshuffle to suit his proven methods.

    Being a non F1 person Marco Mattiaci could allow the team’s technical side to run itself, while he manages the politics of F1 and Ferrari. We could see James Allison’s position and stock in Ferrari rise with this. This could be the start of the Ferrari buying into the Mclaren model of 21st century F1 management.

    Lets hope this marks the beginning of a new ear at Maranello…hopefully a positive one.

  5. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 14th April 2014, 12:40

    This is shocking, and yet at the same time I’m not that surprised. Since 2009 Ferrari has struggled to create a truly competitive car despite their massive resources and what looks like having intelligent people in the right positions (eg Pat Fry, James Allison). I liked Domenicali’s way of doing business. He seemed to be a calm, reasonable man and a good counterpoint to the pantomime ridiculousness of Luca Di Montezemolo. Hopefully the new man can keep the reason and calmness Domenicali brought while also helping to lift Ferrari’s competitiveness.

    I fear that I’m wrong and Ferrari will slowly descend into political in-fighting, headless behaviour and dropping standards that characterised the team before the Schumacher-Todt-Brawn era. Something needed to be done at Ferrari, I just hope firing Domenicali was that something.

  6. MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 14th April 2014, 12:41

    I think it’s a necessary step but certainly I don’t see it being that major a step in terms of bringing Ferrari back to being a frontrunning team.

    The fact is, it’s now a decade since Ferrari were dominant. The world, technology, politics, all have moved on, and Ferrari have failed to keep up. They have relied too much on the arrogant assumption that they are the best, and will continue to be the best simply because they are Ferrari. But they are now far from the best, and they have squandered the resources and opportunities available to them, and gradually slipped down the order. Their second place last year frankly flattered a dire season, and on the current strength of their effort this year, will be very lucky to even have a sniff of being the fastest losers. They have, for years, made excuses about F1 being too aero dependent and needing to get back to a focus on engines, and yet when they finally get their wish, they are comprehensively shown up by Mercedes.

    So yes, they are probably right to get rid of Domenicali, but he alone is not going to be the single point of failure. There is something systemically wrong with Ferrari which has become a major obstacle to their success. The best thing they can do now is look to other teams, like RBR, Mercedes, etc, see if there are key technical personnel they can poach (yes they are fond of putting Italians into senior jobs, but there is no place in F1 for groundless nationalism at the cost of performance), and gradually set about changing pretty much everything about the team. It’ll be a very long way back from where they are now.

  7. Yoshisune (@yobo01) said on 14th April 2014, 12:45

    Ferrari is a team with virtually infinite resources, with great engineers, great drivers, a very long and succesful heritage in motorsport. Clearly something is not working right now, but I’m not sure that Domenicali is the only one to blame here.

    Still, I don’t know, it’s a very big change after only three races in 2014.. it feels like they’re already thinking about 2015.

    The Tifosi will be happy, though. Domenicali wasn’t exactly loved. He was probably a bit too calm, he always said “we have to work hard”, but in the end the results were the same.

  8. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 14th April 2014, 12:48

    I liked Domenicali. He seems like a genuinely nice person. Sad to see him go, however it’s justified as Ferrari have been severely underperforming for 4 or 5 years now. 4-5 years too many.

    F1 is a tough gig, especially if you’re team principal of the biggest team in the sport. I wish him nothing but the best in the future.

  9. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 14th April 2014, 12:48

    Not entirely unexpected, but I had thought he would at least have until the mid-season break to try turn things around. Perhaps the team was allowing him to leave to avoid having him than suffer the shame of being fired. He seems like a lovely chap, but at the end of the day his record isn’t exactly stellar as team principal. 1 title since 2008 just isn’t good enough for Ferrari.

  10. Abba said on 14th April 2014, 12:57

    For two years Ferrari diverted attention and blame to Massa. In a new team he is out performing Ferrari. Domenicali is one guy, supported by many experts who he must have listened to in making what ever decisions he is being blamed for today. Ferrari are you not diverting attention again. If the Aero guys come up with a design to beat redbull and the engineers an engine to beat Mercedes, would that not be the solution? Wake up Ferrari.

  11. Lewis McMurray (@celicadion23) said on 14th April 2014, 12:59

    There were rumours but I’d be lying if I said I thought this would actually happen

  12. Corrado (@corrado-dub) said on 14th April 2014, 13:05

    I hope this will have a positive effect indeed, as intended and expected. But I’m kinda skeptical about this move as I see the problem evolving around those who designed the car and not around the team manager.

  13. TMF (@tmf42) said on 14th April 2014, 13:06

    Ferrari needs someone who can keep LDM in check. Todt handled it great – promoting SD from within Ferrari and now the new guy was/is imo the problem.
    If you let LDM breathe down their necks the whole time the team will be stuck where it is.

  14. Hairs (@hairs) said on 14th April 2014, 13:12

    Ferrari lost their dream team of Todt, Brawn and Byrne, then decided to go back to “All Italian or nothing”, reverting the language of the team back to Italian from the English which was normal under Byrne’s rule. When todt stepped down and Ross contacted then to express an interest, they chose to go with his less experienced understudy instead. They lucked into one championship thanks to McLaren’s mistakes, and since then have succeeded basically because of Alonso.

    In the same time, Ross turned the sport’s worst team into winners, showed them how to build a championship winning car, dealt with the complete collapse of all its backers in the middle of a huge recession, turned Mercedes into a constructor again, rebuilt the team again, guided them to another championship winning car, and despite attempts to publicly undermine him by some very high profile politicians, left on his own terms.

    Now Ferrari have a vacancy again, and despite Brawn being on sabbatical again, they’ve gone with an internal promotion of an Italian with no relevant experience and no engineering chops. Good luck with that, guys….

    • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 14th April 2014, 13:53

      I think it’s a bit unfair to describe Honda as ‘F1’s worst team’. They had, under the guise of BAR, come second in the constructors’ championship, and as Honda they won a race the year before Brawn joined them. It’s true their 2008 season was miserable, but that’s because they pretty much abandoned any development in favour of working on the 2009 car. They were never quite genuine frontrunners, but I would say they were more consistently successful than, say, Force India, or Torro Rosso.

    • mark p said on 14th April 2014, 19:02

      Not just you but a few on this and other sites are making out getting an Italian is an issue based on a negative national stereotype. Italy has millions of people and there are huge differences within this as in any country. As someone with Italian heritage I find this a little ignorant but I appreciate people do not necessarily realise. For example if a member of an f1 team were to be judged on a negative stereotype based on colour it would be a disgrace and is not far removed from this. Please judge the new man on what he does, transferable skills or lack of, from his current role but please do not make out he will not be good or Ferrari will fail just because they employee someone who is Italian.

      • Hairs (@hairs) said on 14th April 2014, 19:43

        My point wasn’t that Italians can’t do the job, it’s that if any organisation decided, out of a list of 10 candidate for a job, to pick one person based on nationality, sex, race or some other arbitrary metric instead of ability, that company is stupid.

        Hence, Ferrari made a conscious decision to “italianise” the team once the three big men left. That was a mistake, as has proven.

    • Mark in Florida said on 15th April 2014, 2:45

      Great post I couldn’t agree more. I’ve said it before LDM has taken the team back to the pre Brawn era. Ferrari is now just a bunch of screaming Italians going nowhere and doing nothing right.

  15. Riccardo (@donuts) said on 14th April 2014, 13:14

    I have a feeling that there may be more changes at the team. Montezemolo has led the team for many years, and who knows, there may be a change in leadership in a year’s time or something.
    I hope they can keep their star drivers for next year!

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