MARANELLO, Italy - A wind of change has swept through Ferrari and even Christmas 2014 had a different feel.
TIME FOR CHANGE: New Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne has shaken things up at Maranello. There are new rules to help see the team change its dismal year. Image: AFP / Spencer Platt
News media representatives invited to the annual Christmas lunch provided by the brand’s Formula 1 team at its Fiorano test track in a building next to Enzo Ferrari's old house knew what to expect when former chairman Luca di Montezemolo was in charge.
Like a Medici prince of old, sitting in the middle of a long table, the elegant Italian would hold court and pronounce on anything and everything that vexed or pleased him.
Ferrari : '2015? Two wins success!'
Ferrari changes gear on track-testing
Ferrari 666: Will it be a devil of a car?
Ferrari to Kimi: Perform - or else!
At 2013’s gathering, which turned out to be his last such Christmastide occasion, the impeccably dressed then 67-year-old merely toyed with a salad as the steaming tortellini in brodo and sliced cotechino con lenticchie (pork sausage with lentils) was served.
Through the meal Montezemolo would lay into the sport's over-complex rules, with particular scorn for any that he considered disadvantageous for Ferrari, and emphasise the need to improve the show.
There was much to displease him at the end of 2013, with a new V6 turbo hybrid engine in the offing and he did not hold back.
The menu was unchanged when the media men and women returned to Fiorano on Monday (Dec 22 2014) and new Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne also had plenty into which to get his teeth after a dismal season for F1's oldest, most glamorous and (generally) most successful team.
But the style, two months after Montezemolo's departure and with double F1 champion Fernando Alonso also gone - along with a host of others - was different.
His helicopter arrival was delayed by fog in Turin but the man who is also Fiat Chrysler’s chief executive showed he meant business - even if he preferred a wool sweater to a Montezemolo-style business suit - by addressing the media at a formal news conference with new principal Maurizio Arrivabene alongside.
RIGHT PEOPLE IN CHARGE
Questions about the auto industry, flotations and the wider world of finance were declared off limits as Marchionne focused on F1.
In a rhetorical flourish of which Montezemolo would have approved he said the rules appeared to have been written by a bunch of bar-room drunkards.
Apart from that, his message avoided hyperbole.
Whereas Montezemolo liked to invoke the spirit of Ferrari, and spoke passionately about the magic of Maranello, Marchionne was more matter-of-fact: this year was best forgotten, he said, the next would still be hard. “But the right people are now in place for future success.”
With that he and Arrivabene - who has joined from sponsor Philip Morris and bears a passing resemblance to the Marlboro man with cigarette in hand - retired to lunch.
At their own table, the speeches over.