Maranello, 30 April – Twenty years on from the death of Ayrton Senna, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo reflects on his memories of the Brazilian driver. “I always appreciated Ayrton’s style of racing. As with all great champions, he had an incredible will to win and never tired of seeking perfection, trying to improve all the time. He was extraordinary in qualifying, but also a great battler in the races, when he always fought tooth and nail”.
He wanted to come to Ferrari and I wanted him in the team. When he was in Italy for the San Marino Grand Prix, we met at my home in Bologna on Wednesday 27 April. He told me he really appreciated the stand we had taken against the excessive use of electronic aids for driving, which didn’t allow a driver’s skill to shine through.
We spoke for a long time and he made it clear to me that he wanted to end his career at Ferrari, having come close to joining us a few years earlier. We agreed to meet again soon, so as to look at how we could overcome his contractual obligations at the time.
We were both in agreement that Ferrari would be the ideal place for him to further his career, which to date had been brilliant, even unique.
Unfortunately, fate robbed all of us of Ayrton and Roland Ratzenberger over one of the saddest weekends in Formula 1 history. Of Senna, I remember his kindness and his simple almost shy nature, which was in complete contrast to Senna the driver, a fighter always aiming for the best.”
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has already begun a restructuring of his Formula 1 team in a bid to get it back to the front of the grid.
While he and new team boss Marco Mattiacci continue a review of the operation following Stefano Domenicali's surprise resignation, di Montezemolo has wasted little time in making more immediate changes.
He has made a push to cut out bureaucracy at the outfit, streamlining decision-making processes and simplifying the staffing structure to ensure that it is more reactive to making the necessary improvements.
To help achieve this, Ferrari has cut back on the number of consultants it uses, while also focusing on ramping up the areas where it knows more performance can be found.
Di Montezemolo has also demanded that the schedule of its update programme be accelerated - which has meant external suppliers being asked to reduce the time it takes for new parts to be delivered to the team.
A statement issued on Ferrari's website outlining the tweaks said: "The aim of all these changes is for Ferrari to be able to react more quickly, ready to gather and make the most of information both drivers provide during race simulations, but above all, whenever they take to the track."
Mattiacci had his first race in charge of the team in China last weekend, and said that it was ready to do whatever it takes to return to the top.
"I will discuss things with the chairman [di Montezemolo], and clearly what is needed we will do," he said. "Even going to the market [to hire people] - but with a clear idea that it is not just for the sake of shopping.
"It is only if we find someone that will bring extremely added value to a team that according to all of us is one of the highest level teams in F1. That is the philosophy. What is needed will be done."
Jonathan Noble - Group F1 Editor
Ferrari may have been put on the backfoot by Stefano Domenicali's decision to resign after the Bahrain Grand Prix, but it is clear his departure has opened up an opportunity to make more sweeping changes.
New team principal Marco Mattiacci has been thrown in at the deep end, but his lack of F1 experience gives the outfit a great chance to benefit from the insight of a highly-ambitious manager with no previous baggage.
The talk has been of no holding back in making the changes needed. His comment about 'going to market' is significant because it shows that Ferrari may be ready for a pretty major overhaul.
Yet one of the biggest issues for Ferrari has always been closer to home - in dealing with the machinations that take place within the corridors of Maranello.
So in the short term, streamlining those processes, getting rid of over-complicated management structures and speeding up the through-put of new parts is a sign that Ferrari understands where things have gone wrong.
It knows that change is essential.
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is set to appear before a Munich court on Thursday, accused of giving a £27.5m ($45m, €33m) bribe to a German banker.
Ecclestone allegedly made the payment in order to secure the sale of a stake in the F1 business for a company he favoured.
Here, we look at some of the main issues surrounding the case.
What is Ecclestone's alleged motive?
The prosecution will argue that he feared losing control of a sport he had developed and built up from a niche activity pursued only by enthusiastic amateurs to the global multi-billion pound industry it is today.
Gerhard Gribkowsky, the German banker who worked as the chief risk officer for the sellers, Bayern LB, was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison in 2012 after admitting taking payments from the 83-year-old and his family trust, an entity called Bambino.
The money was allegedly paid to ensure that Ecclestone's preferred choice of buyer, a company called CVC Partners, prevailed in their pursuit of Bayern LB's 47% stake.
Ecclestone denies the charge and has consistently maintained his innocence. His lawyers are expected to argue, as they have in previous cases relating to the sale, that Gribkowsky was effectively blackmailing him, or "shaking him down", as Ecclestone has termed it.
Why? The F1 chief alleges Gribkowsky was threatening to cause a major financial headache for him by informing British tax authorities that he controlled the Bambino trust.
Ecclestone denies he controlled Bambino but says he feared Gribkowsky's claim would have triggered a lengthy investigation by the Inland Revenue into whether he did have control. If proven, and as a resident of the United Kingdom, he would be liable to pay tax on the estimated £2.4bn of cash in the family trust accounts.
Ecclestone has said previously that he essentially paid Gribkowsky to make the problem go away and so the German would "keep calm".
The new Head of the Gestione Sportiva, Marco Mattiacci met the Formula 1 media for the first time today in the Shanghai International Circuit paddock. Here is what he was asked and what he had to say.
You come here relatively unknown to Formula 1 people. I think even Fernando and Kimi say they knew very little about you. Do you feel you have got a big mission to prove yourself to win the sceptics over?
MM: It is very motivating for me. I accept it because I think sometimes, you can bring a new perspective looking at issues and opportunities, and the fact that I need to prove that I am at the level of Ferrari first and the level of Formula 1, so you have in front of you an extremely motivated person.
There’s a tendency amongst Formula 1 teams now to have a CEO and then a racing director or sporting director below that. Do you intend restructuring the Gestione Sportiva or how do you want to do that?
MM: It’s too early to make such statements. What I know is that I’ve worked in Ferrari for 14 years. I’ve been, for the last four days, in Maranello in the Gestione Sportiva. I think we have an amazing group of talented people. I think we have a history of pedigree that is unique, a pride that is impressive, so to talk about restructuring is too early. Definitely, we are here, I’m here. Mr Montezemolo is extremely focused on giving any kind of support to the team and if needed, to go in the market, but – but – clearly, to go in the market if he really believes that it’s going to be an added value and impact to this team. That’s at the moment what I know.
Can you tell us about motorsport experience? Do you have any at all when you were with Ferrari North America or out here?
MM: If you want, I can tell you that I love racing. I race in my spare time. I spent probably 20, 22 weeks in the track last year. I attended three 24 Hour Daytonas, sleeping at the track, tried to learn as much as I could. It’s not Formula 1 but I love racing. I love continuous improvement. I love challenging the team, challenging ourselves to give a better car and to get as much as we can from the track.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says he will be more involved in the running of the Formula 1 team in order to help new team boss Marco Mattiacci.
The Italian squad announced on Monday that Stefano Domenicali was stepping down from the role he has held since 2008 with immediate effect.
Domenicali has been replaced by the president and CEO of Ferrari North America Mattiacci.
Di Montezemolo is convinced the Italian is the right person for the job despite his apparent lack of experience in racing, and the Ferrari head said he will personally assist him.
"I will help him, I will do like I did in the past: I will stay closer to Formula 1, I'll spend more time on it," di Montezemolo was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.
"The first person at being not satisfied at the moment is me, but don't worry, I'm putting myself on the line: Mattiacci is the right choice, we'll get back to winning ways very soon.
"I've decided to go for a young manager I strongly believe in, and on a person from the Ferrari family, thus avoiding me going around the world looking for some mercenary.
"Let's look ahead: we all must roll up our sleeves in order to be competitive again."
Di Montezemolo believes Mattiacci's lack of technical knowledge is irrelevant in his new position.
"Underlining that Mattiacci is not a technician is useless and unfair," he said. "Moreover, I chose him in full accord with (Fiat CEO Sergio) Marchionne.
"We are full of talented people with qualities and capabilities and we are full of technicians, from whom I now expect an immediate reaction."
Ferrari's president also praised Domenicali for having the courage to step down when he had the support of the team.
"After 23 years with us, Stefano has had the courage of resigning, a rare occurrence in our country. He pays for the lack of results, it's a rule in sports," he added.
"But let me remind you that since 2007 we have won three world titles and we have nearly won as many more, a couple of them at the season's finale.
"It's no small achievement and that must not be forgotten, also because it didn't happen a century ago."