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Exit King Luca - with a R383-million handshake

2014-09-11 14:34

END OF AN ERA: Outgoing Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo (left) poses with Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne following a press conference in Maranello, Italy on September 10 2014. Image: AP/Antonio Calanni

MARENELLO, Italy - Despite securing R383-million as he walked away Luca di Montezemolo had a tear in his eye on September 10 2014 as he said farewell to Ferrari after several decades with the team.

Although he was president the now 67-year-old is the latest head to roll amid Ferrari's spiralling crisis.

Fiat chairman Sergio Marchionne, Montezemolo's successor, admitted: "Our common desire to see Ferrari express its true potential on the track led us to some misunderstandings."

SET TO RUN ITALIAN ARILINE?

Charismatic and controversial, Montezemolo secured a parting fee equivalent to R383-million, including a pledge he will not work for a Fiat rival until 2017.

He admitted on September 10 that it is possible he will run the Italian airline Alitalia.

In his wake, he leaves the Ferrari team run by a F1 newcomer, Marco Mattiacci, and a lead driver in Fernando Alonso who in the space of a single day lost not only Montezemolo but also another crucial ally, the late Emilio Botin.

ENGINE TO BLAME

Montezemolo and Marchionne singled out Ferrari's turbo V6 engine as the biggest problem to solve.

Marchionne said: "It is absolutely clear that we have an engine problem."

Montezemolo concurred: "We underestimated the importance of the new engine system."

With McLaren calling loudly, might this week's alarming news be the final straw for an increasingly frustrated Alonso?

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo told Austrian Servus TV: "He has been very loyal to Ferrari, staying through the difficult times. This is obviously a decision that Fernando has to make himself, but he has been very patient with them."

Toni Vilander, however, a close friend of Alonso's current team mate Kimi Raikkonen, thinks Wednesday's news would not have been a shock to the red-clad pair.

Raikkonen told Finnish broadcaster MTV3: "I believe they were aware of the issue for some time. I don't think it's going to affect their situation an awful lot."

But others see Ferrari's spiralling situation as endemic of the current regime at Maranello.

'HE HAS BECOME FERRARI'

Caterham team advisor Colin Kolles said: "I believe that the structure that they had in the past with Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Nigel Stepney and the rest of them is very, very different to what we see now."

Montezemolo's exit is another big blow, F1 chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, admitted: "His leaving is for me the same as Mr Enzo (Ferrari) dying.  He has become Ferrari.  You see him, you see Ferrari."

Former FIA president Max Mosley, however, never quite saw eye-to-eye with Montezemolo, and he thinks might now be a turning point for the fabled team.

Mosley said: "In truth, Ferrari have never been quite the same since Jean left. If they want to win races again they need to find another outstanding manager."

FERRARI TO STAY IN F1

One thing, however, was left undoubtedly clear on - Ferrari is going nowhere.

Marchionne said: "Montezemolo explained to me that we are bound by contracts with Ecclestone to stay in F1 at least until 2020 but for me it should be much longer.

"If it was up to me it would be 120 years."

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