Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari, Albert Park, 2014

Domenicali steps down after Ferrari’s poor start

2014 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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Images © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Williams/LAT

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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. For two years Ferrari diverted attention and blame to Massa

      The same Massa they kept supporting when everyone else would have got rid of him?

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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….

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

    3. Mark in Florida
      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.

  10. 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!

  11. Domenicali should leave it, that’s ok. But it will not fix the issuee. Anyway, not so fast.

  12. After all these bitter years I have wanted him to leave, but now I realise I’m sorry for him, and I especially liked his way of speaking which is also clear in this article. He always expressed union in Ferrari, and it’s not his fault if the cars haven’t been up to the challenge. But witht he narrow misses in 2008, 2010 and 2012 I think he probably wasn’t at the right place.

  13. Sad news, always liked him, but in the end I suppose he had to go, Brawn would be the obvious choice, but maybe the next generation will win over.

  14. This decision should have been made back in 2010.

    Now give us flavio briatore , we know he’ll do WHATEVER it takes to win. I this point , Ferrari needs to get back into business of winning. In words of Bill belichick ” if you’re not trying to cheat you’re not trying to win”

  15. While the news itself is not a big surprise given the tough situation Ferrari is in, I believe that the problems run much deeper than Domenicalli. I believe the biggest problem Ferrari is facing is the Talent attraction. Some of my thoughts.

    1) Italian economy : Italy is going through a very tough phase economically. While the people and the country has a very deep and sincere passion for motor racing , other issues are taking over the region. In this kind of a scenario it is very very difficult for Ferrari to attract good talent. It is a general impression that a Knight in a Shining armor is enough to uplift a team. I don’t fully buy into that. While Newey, Brawn, Allison et all have made a huge difference they needs a good level of engineering talent to implement their vision. Unfortunately I believe that such a talent is depleting in Italy due to the economic situation. Also because of the situation less and less people from outside are willing to take offers in Italy.

    2) England – The silicon valley of Racing : Needless to say when a region’s economy hits rough patch, people move to areas with higher & Safer employability. All said and done today England is the Silicon valley equivalent for F1 racing. All the talent is concentrated there. There is nothing wrong about it. When the recession hit hard in americas in 2009 the IT folks who had spread out to other regions started getting back to Bay Area to reduce the risk. In the same manner when the general European economy is going through tough times it is natural for the best of the best engineers to move closer to London to ensure that they have better Job opportunities.
    I strongly believe that Red Bull would not have dominated last 4 years if they were based out of Austria instead of Milton Keynes even if Adrian Newey was holding the same position there. Same case with Mercedes, It is not a surprise that they are based out of England instead of their hometown in Germany. Lets just say Force India was based out of India instead of Silverstone would they be where they are in the champ standings today ? No offence to people form India, Germany or Austria , it is just a matter of talent availability in a 360 format.

    It might sound ridiculous to people when i say this. I believe that Ferrari can make a lot of inroads by strategically setting up an operation in the UK along with Maranello. While it could be a matter of national pride but then Ferrari struggling to finish 9 and 10 is also not a pretty sight either.

    I could be proven wrong, A knight in a shining Armor might arrive and bring all the right talent with him/her to make a strong team like Ron Dennis, Frank Williams, Jean Todt or Christian Horner did but until then this could be a radically out of the box thinking that might save the Prancing Horses !!!!!!

    1. +
      V.interesting isights. I’ll add only this – pay careful attention to upcoming McLaren transformation this year. Hopefully we’ll see ‘Mika vs Michael’ repeat from 2015.

    2. there’s 50 years of experience in the uk with specialized manufacturing industry, no wonder why they dominate. basing a team in the uk is just common sense
      the germans were capable of building many great engines – current merc powertrain excluded, obviously
      but, let’s just take wrc, with the exception of subaru, no uk-based was dominant over the years
      wec: playground of german based teams
      wtcc: rml was great but nobody else took it seriously then

      i think if the german meant it, they could be successful even in f1

      1. didn’t the mercedes engines (at least in the hakkinen era) were made by illmor, on the UK? and the Subaru, on the wrc were made by prodrive uk, again… aaaand if i’m not wrong, the engines weren’t from the subarus

  16. Firing Aldo Costa was childish so was removal of Chris Dyer, but replacing of Stefano is perfectly reasonable. It’s been so long that Ferrari has looked like a team which has lost the edge… the team needs fresh minds, someone who can motivate the team to perform at the top level consistently. They have two fantastic drivers & they just need to get the power unit sorted… they can challenge Merc… don’t rule them out just yet.

  17. This season is going to hurt more than most for Ferrari, because it is all about engines. This story of this year is going to be that Mercedes did a far better job than Ferrari at making complicated, high-performance engines under the new technical regulations. And that is sure to hurt Ferrari’s image in the high-performance road car market.

    Clearly, replacing the team principal is not a solution in itself. I imagine the only real solution for Ferrari, barring a change in the technical regulations, is to lure a bunch of engineers over from Brixworth with the promise of enormous paycheques.

    1. lure a bunch of engineers over from Brixworth with the promise of enormous paycheques

      That’s assuming their aero is sorted.
      For which, they’ll need Newey.

  18. NOOOOOO. Stefano seems like such a nice guy in interviews, I’ll be sad to see him go. However, I’m also shocked at how long Montezemolo kept him in charge of the team after so many years of producing average cars

  19. The big problem that should be sacked is Luca di Montezemolo for his pathetic complaining all the time. ”Oh we hate the new rules because we can’t win!” and ”Oh this has turned into taxi driving!” Why can’t Montezemolo take action instead of complaining all the time because his tantrums won’t get him anywhere. I’d love to see him sacked but I don’t think it will happen.

  20. This is Formula 1, not football.

    Is Paulo Di Canio now going to be taking take over at Marinello ??

    Last time I checked he didn’t design the car or build the engine !!

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