New Ferrari team boss Marco Mattiacci says he is 'extremely motivated' to succeed
Scuderia's mystery man finally removes sunglasses and states that "a new perspective" can help them
By James Galloway in Shanghai. Last Updated: 18/04/14 4:56pm
Ferrari's little-known new Team Principal Marco Mattiacci has revealed he initially thought the offer to take over was a belated April Fools' joke - but despite his lack of F1 experience, he has declared he is "extremely motivated" to prove he is the right man for the job.
Four days on from being announced as the Scuderia's new team boss after their disappointing start to the season brought the sudden resignation of Stefano Domenicali, Mattiacci - who is hardly known in F1 circles having previously headed up Ferrari's road car operation in North America - appeared for the first time in the paddock to much fascination on the opening day of the Chinese GP weekend. Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted on Thursday: "I'd never heard of him before."
Widespread intrigue surrounded the Italian's donning of sunglasses throughout Practice One despite Shanghai being covered in dense cloud. But Mattiacci had taken them off by the time he appeared in front of the F1 press to be quizzed about some of the unknowns surrounding his motorsport experience and vision for Ferrari.
Asked to detail how the approach from Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo had come about, Mattiacci, who was in New York at the time, said the offer had come completely out of the blue - but he swiftly realised how serious it was.
"I received a call at 5.58 on [last] Friday morning," he said. "The chairman Montezemolo was on the phone and told me, 'This is my idea' and I thought that April Fool was already far away, 15 days late.
"But then after the second, third minute of discussion I understand that it was not [a joke], it was serious. I understood that because there was already a ticket ready to go from New York to Milan after three hours! I arrived Saturday morning at Maranello at the Fiorano track."
With a background in car sales, Mattiacci made it clear that "I love racing. I race myself in my spare time" even if he acknowledged he has no direct F1 experience.
However, he insisted he was relishing the chance to prove himself capable of heading up the Scuderia.
"It is very motivating for me," Mattiacci said.
"I accept it because I think sometime you can bring a new perspective looking at issues and opportunities.
"The fact [is] that I need to prove that I am of the level of Ferrari, first, and the level of Formula 1. So it's here in front of you - an extremely motivated person."
While expressing confidence that some of the experience gained from his previous career could transfer across to motorsport, Mattiacci acknowledged that F1 has different demands altogether and he has a lot to learn.
"I think that in the last 20 years I have assembled a lot of teams. I have benchmarked a lot of business structure," he explained.
"As I told you, this is a different perspective, not in terms of sporting team, but definitely assembling a team. Working with people, managing people from different nationality with diversity, diversity in the industry and nationality, so I will try to bring some best practice but definitely this is a very specific culture, I am aware of it.
"Time of reaction is completely different. You need to do things that had to happen yesterday not in two months like in corporate. 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, who are the best drivers in the world. I am a person that will listen and will fight 150 per cent to utilise the best of the talent that is within Ferrari."
Despite Ferrari's historical status as F1's most famous and successful team, Mattiacci arrives at Maranello with the marque yearning a return to success having not won a world title for six years and having made a poor start to the sport's new turbo era.
He made clear his early weeks at the team would be about taking stock and observing but admitted Montezemolo had already promised to support him in bolstering the team if and when he saw fit.
"It's too early for me to make such statements," he said when asked about whether he would make changes.
"What I know is I worked in Ferrari since 14 years, I've been in the last four days in Maranello in the Gestione Sportiva. I think we have an amazing group of talented people, we have a history and pedigree that is unique, a pride that is impressive so to talk about restructuring is too early.
"Definitely Mr Montezemolo is extremely focused on giving any kind of support to the team and, if needed, to go on the market. But clearly to [only] go in the market if you really believe there is going to be an added value and impact to this team."
The final word, however, had to go to the sunglasses. Asked directly why he had been wearing them, the genial Mattiacci replied: "It's a very good question. In particular, if you do in less than four days almost 40 hours of flights and you don't sleep in the last four days probably you need sunglasses!"