MILAN • Ferrari appointed chief technical officer Mattia Binotto as their fourth Formula One principal in less than five years on Monday, with Maurizio Arrivabene paying the price for their continuing lack of titles in his four years in charge.
Arrivabene's contract has not been renewed following a particularly disappointing season. Despite having the quicker car for considerable periods, a series of errors by Sebastian Vettel were compounded by team mistakes that saw their challenge falter and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton taking the title with two races remaining.
The upheaval, a little more than two months before the start of the season in Australia on March 17, had been flagged up by the La Gazzeta dello Sport newspaper before the official announcement.
Ferrari president John Elkann, who replaced the late Sergio Marchionne last year, sees Binotto, 49, as the right man to lead the Italian stable this year.
"After four years of untiring commitment and dedication, Maurizio Arrivabene is leaving the team," Ferrari said in a statement.
"The decision was taken together with the company's top management after lengthy discussions... All technical areas will continue to report directly to Mattia."
Arrivabene, 61, a former marketing chief with tobacco giant and long-term sponsor Philip Morris, replaced Marco Mattiacci in 2014. During his stint, Ferrari failed to break Mercedes' stranglehold on the F1 title.
Swiss-born Binotto is understood to have been favoured by Marchionne and has extensive pedigree. He joined Ferrari as test race engineer in 1995 and has since been race engine engineer, race engineer and head of engines before being made chief technical officer in 2016, a role in which he has been credited with returning Ferrari to the front of the grid.
How well equipped he is to fight Ferrari's corner in delicate talks about F1's future post-2021, with the sport's owners Liberty Media keen to see a more level playing field, remains an open question.
Ferrari won six of the 21 races last season, but that was not enough to stop Mercedes winning both the drivers' and constructors' crowns for the fifth year in a row.
Vettel was responsible for some of their failings, but the team notably let him down operationally, failing to institute clear orders on some occasions and making the wrong tyre choice in qualifying in Japan, an error for which Arrivabene turned on his team.
The Italian outfit have won a record 16 constructors' titles, with their last coming in 2008, and are unique in having competed in every season since the first in 1950.
Finland's Kimi Raikkonen was their last champion in 2007 on his first debut season for the stable.
His second stint has come to an end with his move to Sauber and he will be replaced by 21-year-old Charles Leclerc of Monaco.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN