HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Sergio Marchionne’s replacement at Ferrari removes from Formula One a combative key player who had threatened to lead the oldest and most glamorous team out of the sport unless he got what he wanted.
Ferrari announced on Saturday that 66-year-old Marchionne, who is seriously ill, had been replaced as chairman by John Elkann, a scion of Italy’s Agnelli family.
Board member Louis Camilleri is set meanwhile to take over as chief executive at the sportscar maker.
“It will probably make (F1 chairman) Chase (Carey)’s life a little bit easier in negotiations,” McLaren team boss Zak Brown told reporters at the German Grand Prix when asked about the implications.
“Sergio did an unbelievable job in the whole FIAT business, he is a very outspoken character, fighting his corner hard for Ferrari.
“Hopefully the individual that comes in sees the value that Formula One delivers to Ferrari... the net impact could be a quicker commitment from Ferrari to Formula One,” he added.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, whose title-winning team battle Ferrari on the track but are seen as close allies off it when it comes to negotiations about the sport’s future direction, was more guarded.
“He’s a character and an important personality for Formula One. I’ve always appreciated sparring with him,” said the Austrian.
There was no immediate reaction from Formula One’s commercial rights holders Liberty Media, who ousted former supremo Bernie Ecclestone last year and are seeking to overhaul the sport.
They want to implement a cost cap, improve racing and have a fairer distribution of revenues so that all 10 teams can be competitive.
They also want to keep engines hybrid and road relevant.
The current agreement between teams, governing body and commercial rights holder expires at the end of 2020 and negotiations have been ongoing for some time.
Ferrari, also the most successful team, receive significant sums in special payments to reflect their status and are reluctant to see that eroded.
“We need to find a balanced solution for the future that satisfies everyone and I think we will do it in time,” Marchionne had said last December.
“Otherwise Ferrari will leave. If they (sceptics) think we are bluffing, they are playing with fire.”
Camilleri is a former chairman of Philip Morris International, the tobacco company that has been a Ferrari F1 team sponsor for more than 40 years.
Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene also worked for them previously.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar