F1 pit lane tales: New Ferrari boss thought job offer was April Fool
Ferrari's new team principal Marco Mattiacci was taken by surprise when Luca di Montezemolo offered him the top job at Formula One's glamour team, the Italian initially believing the chairman's approach to be a joke.
Mattiacci, formerly head of the Italian carmaker's North American operations, was named chief of Ferrari's competition division, including the Formula One team, on Monday after Stefano Domenicali took responsibility for the poor start to the season and resigned as team principal.
Mattiacci revealed on Friday ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix how fast things had moved between him being offered the job and accepting it.
"I received a call at 5.58 on Friday morning and chairman Montezemolo on the phone told me, ‘this is my idea.'
"And I told (him) that April Fool's (day) was already far away, 15 days earlier," said Mattiacci, who lives in New York.
"But then after the second, third minutes of discussion, I understood it was serious and I understood that there was already a ticket ready to go from New York to Milan after three hours.
"And I arrived Saturday morning in Maranello at the Fiorano track."
Ferrari's decision to appoint Mattiacci to lead the sport's oldest and most successful team has been met with widespread scepticism.
Many have questioned whether the Italian, an outsider to the cut and thrust world of Formula One with practically no racing experience, will be able to turn the team's fortunes around.
"It is very motivating for me. And the fact that I need to prove that I am at the level of Ferrari, first, and the level of Formula One, so you have in front of you an extremely motivated person," Mattiacci said.
"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 that are the best drivers in the world.
"They will have an extremely humble person that will listen and will fight 150 percent to be a facilitator and to utilise the best the talent that is within Ferrari."
Mattiacci also said that as part of getting up to speed with his new role, he had sat down with Domenicali to discuss what the job involves.
"Stefano is a person that I have the utmost respect for, first as a human being, second as a professional so it was natural for us to discuss the role," he said.
Image: New Ferrari team boss Marco Mattiacci
Photographs: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
F1 pit lane tales: Formula One drivers in talks to resolve pay disputes
Formula One drivers are in talks collectively to try and resolve the issue of unpaid wages but they have ruled out going on strike, some of those affected said.
Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who was at financially-troubled Sauber last season and had problems with his salary, said the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA), effectively their union, had become involved.
"Yes, (in) the GPDA it is a theme at the moment," the German told reporters on a damp afternoon at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
"We are talking, discussing that issue regarding the unpaid drivers, something which is not good for the sport and the pinnacle of motor-racing.
"But we've never discussed doing a strike."
Several drivers, including such high profile names as Kimi Raikkonen when he was at Lotus, went without pay last season as Formula One teams up and down the grid found themselves in a precarious financial position.
McLaren's Jenson Button, who is chairman of the GPDA, also rejected talk of a possible strike and said drivers would put the interests of the sport first.
"That's way too much talk," said the 2009 world champion. "We all love the sport and we won't do anything to hurt the sport."
The dispute was thrust into the spotlight last season when Raikkonen told reporters he was leaving Lotus for Ferrari because the former team had not paid him his wages.
Later in the year at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Raikkonen said he had not been paid a single euro all season by a team that ranked among the front runners in 2013 despite suffering cash problems.
On Thursday, the Finn - who is not a member of the GPDA - declined to be drawn on the subject.
"Obviously there was some letter signed but it's hard to really know what's going to happen, if it's going to help or not," Raikkonen said. "I'm not interested to talk about this."
However, his former team mate Romain Grosjean, who is still at Lotus, said all issues regarding his pay had been sorted.
"It was certainly not the way I wanted things to go," the Frenchman said. "I never opened my mouth in front of the media. That was my own business, my personal thing.
"Kimi kind of launched the whole thing, that drivers' hadn't been paid and so on. It wasn't easy for the guys, but things have now been made right."
Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images