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.
In any way, is your lack of race team experience or lack of experience here an asset to you? Can you look objectively at the team, not stand on reputations? And is that part of the reason you think you’ve been brought in?
MM: I think that in the last 20 years, I have assembled a lot of teams. I am benchmarking a lot of business structure and as I told you, this is a different perspective, not in terms of sporting team but definitely assembled team, working with people, managing people from different nationalities with diversity, diversity in the industry, diversity in nationalities. So I will try to bring, if I have some best practice from that but definitely, this is a very specific culture, I’m aware. Time or reaction is completely different. You need to do things that have to happen yesterday, not in two months like in corporate. So I come with a lot of humility to understand and to work very hard. This is what I can commit to the team, to the drivers that are the best drivers in the world. They will have an extremely humble person that will listen and will fight 150% to be a facilitator and to best utilise the talent that is within Ferrari.
What is your strategy? How long before we see your influence on the team?
MM: I am not a great believer in the word ‘strategy.’ I believe that, every day you need to set a target for improvement. As I said, when you first arrive, you look for what is good and I think that in this team, there is a lot a lot of talent. So I am working with the Chairman, with Mr. Montezemolo, in making an assessment and to see what will be needed. At this moment in time, I really cannot make a call on that.
Is it possible for you to ascertain whether you still have a chance (to win) this year’s championship? Or do you feel your work is to start establishing the campaign for next year? And during the race, are you going to be on the pit wall talking to the guys, making decisions in the middle of races?
MM: “I don’t think we are going to give up. Our goal is to close as much as possible the gap to the leader, which at the moment is Mercedes. You all know racing better than me, there are many variables that can influence a lap, a race or a championship. So, as this is the fourth race it is still very early to take a decision. But our objective is to close the gap to Mercedes as soon as possible, which is not an easy task. Will I be on the pit wall? For sure.
What’s the reason you were wearing sunglasses this morning?
MM: It’s a very good question. If you do in four days almost forty hours of flying and you don’t sleep in the last four days, probably you need sunglasses!
You’re not an engineer but how do you plan to make the car go faster, because this is what you are here for? What can be changed compared to your predecessor?
MM: I am not an engineer, but we have 800 people working to make the car faster. I want to get as much motivation as possible to define a certain project to management. I am not the one who will find an extra second on the car. That will be the engineers who work for us.
We were told the news on Monday morning. Can you tell us anymore about the timing?
MM: I received a call at 5.58 on Friday morning from chairman Montezemolo. He told me this was his idea and I told him that April Fools Day had already happened fifteen days earlier. Then, after the first two or three minutes of discussion I realised it was serious and there was already a ticket ready for me to go from New York to Milan in three hours time. So I arrived in Maranello, at the Fiorano track on Saturday morning.
Was this always on your agenda as an ambition for you to come into it or was this as much a surprise to you maybe as to others?
MM: I never had an agenda about what I wanted to be. I always work extremely hard to be prepared for whatever chance would be offered to me in any environment and that’s the beauty of life. I don’t think you can control or plan too much. I think you need to be prepared.
A great team is about great people. Will this be the beginning of an aggressive recruitment drive now for Ferrari?
MM: You raise a great point. A team is made first of people, people, people, people. As I said, the chairman, we discuss and discuss with the first report and clearly, whatever is needed, we will do, even going to the market but with the clear idea that not just for the sake of going shopping but if we will find someone that will bring extreme added value to a team that, according to all of us, is one of the highest level teams that there is Formula 1. So that’s the philosophy at the moment. But whatever is needed will be done.
You mentioned that there was quite a tight timeframe for you getting the job. Have you had any contact with Stefano at all? Has he spoken to you about what to prepare for and given you any advice for it?
MM: Sure, Stefano is a great person. He’s a friend of mine and we spent a few hours on Saturday, Monday we spent the entire day together so yes. As I said, Stefano is a person I have the utmost respect for, first as a human being, second as a professional so it was natural for us to discuss the roles.