Wed, Dec 24, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Christmas provides Ferrari with food for thought

Reuters, MARANELLO, Italy

Formula One Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, right, and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene host a meeting with the press for Christmas greetings in Fiorano, Italy, on Monday.

Photo: EPA

The winds of change have swept through Ferrari and even Christmas has a different feel now.

Media invited to the team’s Fiorano test track to attend the traditional seasonal lunch in a building next to Enzo Ferrari’s old house knew what to expect when former chairman Luca di Montezemolo was in charge.

Like a Medici prince of old, sitting in the middle of a long table, the elegant Italian would hold court and pronounce on anything and everything that vexed or pleased him.

At last year’s gathering, his last such occasion, the impeccably dressed 67-year-old merely toyed with a salad as the steaming tortellini in brodo and sliced cotechino con lenticchie (pork sausage with lentils) were served.

Over the course of the meal, Montezemolo would lay into the sport’s over-complex rules, with particular scorn for any that he considered disadvantageous for Ferrari, and emphasize the need to improve the show.

There was much to displease him at the end of last year, with a new V6 turbo hybrid engine formula in the offing, and he did not hold back.

The menu was unchanged when the media returned to Fiorano on Monday, and new Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne also had plenty to get his teeth into after a dismal season for Formula One’s oldest, most glamorous and successful team.

However, the style, two months after Montezemolo’s departure and with double world champion Fernando Alonso also gone along with a host of others, was different.

His helicopter’s arrival delayed by fog in Turin, the Fiat Chrysler chief executive showed he meant business — even if he prefers a wool sweater to a business suit — by addressing the media at a formal news conference with new principal Maurizio Arrivabene alongside.

Questions about the auto industry, flotations and the wider world of finance were declared off limits as Marchionne focused on Formula One.

In a rhetorical flourish that Montezemolo would have approved of, he said the rules appeared to have been written by a bunch of barroom drunkards, but otherwise his message avoided hyperbole.

Whereas Montezemolo liked to invoke the spirit of Ferrari and spoke passionately about the magic of Maranello, Marchionne was more matter of fact.

This year was best forgotten, and next season will be still hard, but the right people are now in place for future success, he said.

With that, he and Arrivabene retired to lunch. At their own table. The time for speeches was over.

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