Ferrari just finished its worst Formula One season in decades, and if you're thinking heads are going to roll, you're right. In fact they already have, as team principal Stefano Domenicali was dismissed earlier this year and longtime chairman Luca di Montezemolo was axed just two months ago. Now Maranello has announced a new team principal, yet again.
Instead of promoting from within, however, this time Ferrari has called in an outside executive – albeit one with whom it is intimately familiar. His name is Maurizio Arrivabene, and he's served as a senior executive at tobacco giant Philip Morris International, managing (among other areas) the Marlboro brand's sponsorship of the Scuderia. In that capacity he's been sitting on the FIA's Formula One Commission as the sponsors' representative since 2010, giving him a familiarity with how the series is run.
In his new capacity as Managing Director of the Gestione Sportiva and Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari, Arrivabene replaces Marco Mattiacci, who was called up to the post from his previous position as head of the North American office just eight months ago. Back then Mattiacci replaced a similarly under-performing Domenicali. The change may very well have come at the behest (if not insistence) of Philip Morris, which remains the team's main sponsor and is undoubtedly displeased with Ferrari's performance lately. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, Marlboro similarly brokered the deal that put Ron Dennis in charge of McLaren in the early 1980s.
Mattiacci's swift replacement comes at the end of a disastrous season for the Scuderia. Following yesterday's season finale in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari finished fourth in the constructors' standings behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams. The last time it finished the championship in such poor shape was in 2010 when Felipe Massa was injured and the team scrambled to find a replacement. But even then it managed to win at least one race and land on the podium another five times. Fernando Alonso finished on the podium only twice this season while Kimi Raikkonen struggled further back. This year marked the first time Ferrari failed to win a grand prix since 1993, and even then Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger managed more podiums than the team scored this season.