Sergio Marchionne, Ferrari, 2016

The painful absence Ferrari’s latest reorganisation aims to address

2020 F1 season

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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.

Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, 2020
The new structure should ease the pressure on Binotto
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.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Ferrari’s start to 2020 has been dismal
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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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 14 comments on “The painful absence Ferrari’s latest reorganisation aims to address”

    1. Good for them, I did not know they were running a flat structure, it does make sense in retrospect.

      Saddly flat structure is not suitable for going to ‘war’.

    2. playstation361
      23rd July 2020, 16:07

      We cant talk about old things in an competitive atmosphere.

    3. still I struggle to see how this translates on practical tangible differences on the cars which would not have been otherwise

      1. People will actually know what their jobs and deliverables are, in simple terms.

    4. The new structure is not a pyramid but a flat plain with a spike the middle of it. Ferrari need a root and branch reorganisation with new people. Mark Webber’s tongue in cheek suggestion that Ferrari move to England may have been an impossible treatment for the Ferrari disease but it did demonstrate accurately what the problem is.

      It is partly the Italian media culture of shouting disaster or success and hysterically demanding heads or sainthood for those providing them, but mostly it is Ferrari itself which responds to such hysteria like rabbits seeing a stoat. They have not got a solid enough cooperative and interdependent team culture to wade through it.

      In the days of Schumacher, Montezemelo, Todt and Brawn that is what happened and it generated success. The current team leader is being briefed against by his corporate bosses and paranoid and narrow self interest is the order of the day which iis based on distrust and that distrust generates even more distrust.

    5. Does anyone remembers when Marchionne was told that Ferrari had managed to gain more than one second during winter break? He repeated that in one of his interviews, with so much confidence that I think he actually believed in it. Just to find out it wasn’t the case.
      After that he interviewed the floor staff, just to find out they were afraid to speak out. Specially when talking to top management. He reshuffled the cards, giving more power to the engineers, and took one step back to prepare for the jump. I imagine how much non-sense, make-believe, pretending, do-as-I-say behaviors he was trying to change.
      After he passed away, it seems the old ways started crawling back into the organization.

    6. From the outside, Marchionne seemed like a bull in a chinashop at Ferrari.
      A crude dictator that brought the team into further stress, especially with his whirlwind appearances, and he left it in a bigger mess than it originally was.

      1. Yes, especially if it was him that introduced the ‘flat structure’ to begin with, and also assigned Binotto with dual roles.

        He even roasted their drivers, calling Raikkonen a laggard which is quite something if you think about it. Talk about blame culture.

        Seems he fashioned himself a kind of tough guy ‘Enzo’.

        1. Oh yeah, in comparison with gentleman Di Montezemolo, Marchionne was a rude uneducated unfinnessed streetfighter only interested in money.
          Il conte vs il tamarro.

    7. I have tried stating to countless people with my comments on this site and on YouTube that the death of Sir.Marchionne is the single biggest factor why what started in 2017 fell apart in 2018 when development took a step back.
      But people either ignored my comments or assumed they knew better or both.
      I’ll say it again.
      The death of the late Sir.Marchionne (may he rest in peace) was a huge blow.
      He was to handle all the political stuff and be the headline maker for the media while the rest of the team was left to focus on being the best F1 team of all time.
      This is not more so apparent when Sebastian’s spark plug failed in Japan 2017 and he made some comments
      Or more importantly when he called out Raikkonen for his pace relative to Vettel in 2017 and do you know who wanted Leclerc promoted when everyone else said he needed one more year in the midfield? The top man himself, last year was testament more than anything that he was right and the doubters were wrong.
      Hopefully Sir.Elkann will take up the mantle now and leave Sir.Binotto to do what he does best, technical operations.

      1. You’re right, I’ve said the same thing. Since the death of SM, the team has been rudderless. Ferrari is an organisation that has had strong dictatorial leadership for its entire history. Thats simply how it worked. The current model would have worked with SM at the helm.

        With the demise of SM, there was a power vacuum which they have never quite recovered from.

        I like MB, but he isn’t the man to lead the team. He is a boffin, he needs to go back to being the technical director.

        1. Exactly, Binotto is an Engineer.
          Out of all the current team principals Horner, Wolff, Claire Williams, Cryil etc Binotto is probably one of the smartest if not the smartest by a long shot when it comes to knowledge about an F1 car.
          It’s as if Newey took Horner’s place or James Allison at Mercedes.
          We need a new dictatorial leader, to get things back in order. Wolff has been running his mouth a lot and crying wolf a bit much and so has the rest of the grid. It used to be them on the defensive answering questions in response to comments from Ferrari and them responding with the usual “Ferrari is a great team, Everyone respects Ferrari, We acknowledge the achievements of Ferrari in F1 etc”

    8. Ferrari should stop making internal promotion and try to hire a Todt or a Wolff.

    9. Binnoto is an engineer, he should do that.

      There is nothing worse for engineering mind, than endless political meetings.

      This is the headline failure.

      The political guy would thrive in those meetings, but Saddly he passed away.

      Engineering wise, it seems like the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

      Engine situation, is a painful failure on a political level.

    Comments are closed.