Marco Mattiacci says the opportunity to take over as head of the Ferrari F1 team came out of the blue in a phone call from Luca di Montezemolo last week, some 72 hours before the news of his appointment and the departure of Stefano Domenicali was officially confirmed.
The erstwhile CEO of Ferrari North America, who met the F1 media for the first time in China today, was in New York when his boss rang.
“I received a call at 5.58am on Friday morning,” said Mattiacci. “It was the chairman Montezemolo on the phone, and he told me this is my idea. And I thought that April Fools was already far away, it was 15 days later! Then after the second or third minute of discussion I understood that it was serious. I understood because there was already a ticket ready to go from New York, to Milan, after three hours. I arrived Saturday morning at Maranello, at the Fiorano track.”
Mattiacci said he spent some time talking with Domenicali.
“Stefano is a great person, he’s a friend of mine. We spent Saturday, a few hours, Monday, we spent the entire day together. He is a person that I have the utmost respect [for], first as a human being, second as a professional. So it was natural for us to discuss the role.”
He insisted that running the F1 team had not been on his horizons: “I never had an agenda about what I want to be. I always worked extremely hard to be prepared for whatever chance was offered to me in any environment. That’s the beauty of life. I don’t think you can control or plan too much. I think you need to be prepared.”
Mattiacci said it was premature to say if there would any restructuring.
“It’s too early for me to make such statements. What I know is that I worked in Ferrari since 14 years, I’ve been the last four days in Maranello, in the Gestione Sportiva. We have an amazing group of talented people. I think we have a history, a pedigree that is unique, a pride that is impressive.
“To talk about restructuring is too early. Definitely we are here, I’m here. Mr. Montezemolo is extremely focussed on giving any kind of support to the team, and if needed, to go on the market, but clearly to go in the market if you really believe there’s going to be another value, an impact, to this team. That’s at the moment what I know.”
He also made it clear that he feels his business background is beneficial.
“In the last 20 years I have assembled a lot of teams, I’ve benchmarked a lot of business structures, and as I told you this is a different perspective. Probably not in terms of a sporting team, but definitely assembling teams, working with people, managing people from different nationalities, with diversity, diversity in the industry, diversity in nationalities. I will try to bring, if I have [them], some best practices from there. But definitely this is a very specific culture, I’m aware of that. Time of reaction is completely different, you need to do things that happened yesterday, not in two months, like in corporate.
“I come with a lot humility, to understand and work very hard, this is what I can commit to the team, to the drivers, that are the best drivers in the world. I’m an extremely humble person that will listen and will fight 150 percent to be be a facilitator to utilize the best talent that is within Ferrari.”
Asked about his role in improving Ferrari’s form he said: “I’m not an engineer but we have 800 people that are working to make the car faster, and as I said the best talented engineers. For me it’s to get the highest motivation possible, and to define a certain project management. It’s not me that’s going to give one extra second to the car, it’s the engineers who work for us.”