“What’s behind you doesn’t matter” was Enzo Ferrari’s famous quote. The Italian marque founded out of the Alfa Romeo racing division in 1939 is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading superbrands and with a high-tech manufacturing division and wind tunnel at Maranello in the commune of Modena, it is set to join the America’s Cup party with an exclusive tie-up with the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli Team. Getting the Prancing Horse involved in yachting is a major coup for the Italians – the branding alone puts it even further ahead in the looks department – but it’s the technical firepower and testing capabilities that could well be the extra few percentage points that rockets Patrizio Bertelli’s team to Cup glory.
When Michael Schumacher was at Ferrari, they were untouchable in Formula 1 from 1996 to 2006 and the supercar sales flourished. That was the glory decade but in recent times they’ve struggled in the sport under different management structures and superstar drivers that haven’t lived up to the billing. But they’re back in business right now on the track and the Tifosi are eyeing a season of much promise. And supercar sales, quite unbelievably, are rocketing.
However upstairs at Ferrari it has been tricky, and highly political, tinged with tragedy. First came the untimely passing of the beloved CEO Sergio Marchionne in 2018 followed by the briefest of executive stints from Louis Camilleri who left in December 2020 citing ‘personal reasons.’ Ferrari looked internally and appointed John Elkann, the Chairman, as CEO. Elkann is the grandson of the late Gianni Agnelli, the richest Italian of modern times, and that’s where the yachting connection arose.
Elkann is best buddies with Giovanni Soldini and has competed with him onboard a succession of Soldini’s boats, emblazoned, funnily enough, with ‘Maserati’ – the brand that Fiat, the Agnelli’s marque, spun off from Ferrari and partnered with Alfa Romeo – since 2012 (If you ever wondered how sponsorship in sailing happens, then this is a good blueprint).
Most recently in 2020 he won the Rolex Middle Sea Race with Soldini and completed the Cape2Rio race so let’s say he’s ‘one of us,’ has got saltwater in his veins, gets sailing and it’s always a short leap from the grand prix circuit to the America’s Cup for those with a trust fund to die for and youth on their side. Elkann’s path to the America’s Cup is a well-trodden one but rather than just throwing money in the style of Bertarelli or Ratcliffe, Elkann is eyeing a technology tie-up with Ferrari where he is temporary CEO and tackling the Great Game from that angle. It could be a potent mix.
But the big issue for Elkann is the shareholders in Ferrari and the transitional governance in place at the moment. Listed on the Milan and New York Stock Exchanges, the stock has enjoyed a stellar run over the past four years as the appetite for supercars and one-offs hasn’t abated in line with the global economy.
But it’s nervous times. A new CEO could scupper any AC tie-up to concentrate solely on motor-related activities. Global shareholders in Ferrari demand performance across both its manufacturing and sporting divisions and any deviation from the core high octane focus will be eyed with suspicion.
An AC project will have to be done on the side. Ferrari may well be able to make the incredible wind tunnel at Maranello available for short periods but the F1 focus is relentless in aero so time will be limited. Composites and technical computing of aerodynamics, similar to the Ineos tie-up with Mercedes Petronas AMG – the racing team which Ratcliffe owns a third of with Toto Wolff and the manufacturer – are more likely areas where the Ferrari designers could get involved but again, time will be short without a commercial arrangement from Bertelli.
But the news that Ferrari are in the picture is a big boost for Luna Rossa and for the Cup itself. It’s an indication of just how competitive the next event is shaping up to be and for any team members, either current or prospective, wavering over signing, getting the might of Ferrari onboard is a sure-fire contractual lever. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a team that has massive resources both in terms of pure cash from Patrizio’s Prada, a deal with Pirelli and now the world’s most prestigious motor racing brand in Ferrari. What’s not to love?
From a Cup perspective, it’s gold-dust. The bigger the marques, the more prestige, the better the parties, the more glamour it engenders. It’s just fantastic for everyone involved as is having an Italian team that is deeply committed to winning. The eyeballs and profile that it brings in from Italy is not to be under-estimated – remember most of the Italian national papers employ a dedicated Ferrari team of journalists just to cover the racing team and the business of the Scuderia Racing Team. This is massive news in Italy primarily but also globally and it could trigger a whole host of sponsorship deals for other teams with brands wanting a slice of the prestige.
The America’s Cup never fails to excite. Ferrari is perfect for the Cup. Welcome aboard.