Formula 1

Marco Mattiacci can lead Ferrari back to top in F1

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Mattiacci can revive an ailing Prancing Horse (©GettyImages)
Mattiacci can revive an ailing Prancing Horse (©GettyImages).

2014 will be remembered as the year Ferrari finally accepted changes were needed to the way they operate in F1.

After several lacklustre years struggling to match the dominant Red Bull's and currently on a streak of 26 races without a victory, their longest in nearly two decades, Ferrari sacked former team boss Stefano Domenicali and replaced him with Marco Mattiacci.

Unknown and uneducated

The announcement just prior to the Chinese Grand Prix in April caught the whole F1 paddock by surprise and particularly the appointment of Mattiacci, an unknown by all in the sport and a man who himself knew very little about Formula 1.

Most believed, and still do, that Mattiacci was just a short term caretaker as the team look to find a higher profile replacement, however, at the time President Luca di Montezemolo said Marco was the man for the job and so it has proven.

During his first weekend in charge the lack of F1 knowledge and experience showed as a clearly wiry Mattiacci introduced himself to the media before watching on behind a pair of sunglasses in the garage on all three days.

Now though, just over 4 months into his job, Mattiacci is starting to implement the changes he was brought in to make and has set out his vision to have the famous Prancing Horse back winning the championship within three years.

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Revelations

Since his arrival in April, some of the early changes introduced has been the slim down the operations with several key personnel shown the door.

Aldo Costa was replaced by James Allison in the design department last year and after the disappointment with its new V6 power unit, engine chief Luca Marmorini was also sacked.

Since then various revelations have come out about the culture inside the factory at Maranello, Marmorini looked to defend himself by claiming he was told to deliberately keep development of the new power unit to a minimum as any performance gap would be made up aerodynamically and more generally there is a picture of great disjointedness in the whole operation.

Communication, communication, communication

During last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, Mattiacci sat down with Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle to discuss what changes are being considered and, according to the Italian, there is one key area he is focussing on.

“Culturally I want to turn the page,” he said. “We need to have a different culture because we need to modernise the way we work, we need to make sure that we create a positive pressure that is going to make us make the kind of leap forward every race. A culture where people work together where communication is open to everybody, information is open to everybody.

“In all the organisations that I ran before it’s not that much important the hierarchy, but it’s important the ideas and it’s important that everybody knows what the other is doing because you can always give a better suggestion and you need to know what your colleague is doing in the other area. So communication is key.”

His way

Also during the interview, which I believe is a must-read for all F1 fans, Mattiacci was asked if he would use Ferrari's last successful era in the early 2000's as a blueprint to try and bring success back to the fabled team.

While he admitted there are aspects from the Jean Todt and Ross Brawn led era with Michael Schumacher behind the wheel, Mattiacci insisted he would do things his way believing the same methods that led the team to such success a decade ago may not work today

“You know, I listen a lot, I read a lot and I look at a lot of people that failed," he explained, "and people that succeed and for me to look at that period of Ferrari is fundamental because it’s been one of the most successful. But I don’t want to replicate, I want if it’s possible to take the best out of it and to do our way with the people that I have today.

“Sometimes you have temptation to do exactly what who has been successful has done, but I think Formula 1 has changed so much in the last five, six years I don’t know even if the same formula would work or if the same approach to the business would work today.”

Modern approach

In Mattiacci I also see a man who was brought in because of his lack of F1 knowledge, he was a man who would make decisions based on performance rather than reputation, indeed he has said that he would rather bring in new "talent" based on their potential rather than their name and that is an approach that Ferrari have needed for quite some time.

This applies to all aspects of the team, including the drivers. While Mattiacci revealed Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are set to be retained for 2015, speculation suggests that next year could be Raikkonen's last in F1.

Then, there is McLaren's pursuit of Alonso to be the spearhead of the new Honda partnership which begins next year.

While Mattiacci claims he doesn't have to keep the Spaniard "happy" surely if there are signs Ferrari will not achieve what their new boss is aiming for then the option of looking elsewhere would have to be on the table.

Accepting risk

This brings me on then to who Ferrari would look to if one of their two drivers decided to head for the exit.

Under the old management, the thought of taking a risk was seen as a dangerous one, but Mattiacci has been keen to stress the team must started pushing the envelope if it wants to compete with those at the very top.

This change of approach would surely benefit Jules Bianchi who has impressed at minnows Marussia and now seems to be the first in line to jump behind the wheel when Alonso or Raikkonen call time on their Ferrari career's.

The previous conservative appraoch was the main reason why Sergio Perez made the move to McLaren for 2013, the Mexican was in Bianchi's current place as the cream of the young driver academy and as Felipe Massa underperformed appeared set to be the man to oust the Brazilian.

But Ferrari's lack of trust in its young talent meant it never happened and as a result when Perez was given the opportunity to join McLaren he immediately accepted.

There is also a call for greater creativity in aerodynamic design and see greater risks being taken in improving the car. In recent years the prowess of Red Bull with blown diffusers and other aerodynamic innovations have been key to their superiority over their rivals and particularly Ferrari who have found themselves being reactive as opposed to proactive.

With James Allison, the team now have a designer who can come up with the chassis and the car that can lead Ferrari back to the front.

Opening the box

And in Marco Mattiacci, Ferrari have a man who is opening the box to what is possible at Maranello. His modern take on how a Formula 1 team should be run is almost in a new universe compared to the ways the great Italian team have operated in recent times and should his changes be implemented correctly could see the limping horse begin prancing once again.

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