Stefano Domenicali, former team principal at Scuderia Ferrari F1 (2008-2014) never tried to hide his love of the sport anytime we had the chance to discuss all things Lamborghini with him at various launch events around the world.
While his switch from Ferrari to Lamborghini in 2016 was met with a few raised eyebrows among the supercar elite, his return to F1 – in the top job no less – will raise few eyebrows.
Australian journalists always spent plenty of time with Domenicali at the launch of vehicles like Urus, Aventador S and SVJ and Huracan Evo – given how much he loves Australia, that comes as no surprise.
Despite his passion for the Lamborghini brand, he could never escape the endless torrent of F1 questions.
What’s Michael Schumacher really like? What about Kimi? How close did you come to signing Daniel Ricciardo? Who’s the best driver you’ve ever seen?
He’d oblige too, such is his lifelong love of the sport, despite a role that required a different focus.
Now, in a move that might also signal serious ripples at Lamborghini, he takes up the position of CEO and President of Formula 1.
There have been rumours surrounding what the VW Group will do with more focused, boutique brands like Lamborghini and we’ve already seen strong rumours of an early move with Bugatti. That being the VW Group selling the hypercar brand to Croatian electric vehicle manufacturer Rimac Automobili.
Maybe Domenicali read the signs? Maybe he knew something was coming at Lamborghini? Maybe he simply wanted to return to the global F1 circus, and really, who could blame him.
Liberty Media, the company that owns F1, announced that Domenicali would replace Chase Carey as CEO and President of the sport. Carey, who probably doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves because he’s not a died in the wool F1 man, led the sport through one of the most challenging times in its history due to COVID-19.
Carey will step down but stay on as a non-executive chairman.
“I’m confident that we’ve built the strong foundation for the business to grow over the long term,” Carey said. “It’s been an adventure and I’ve enjoyed working with the teams, the FIA and all of our partners. I look forward to staying involved and supporting Stefano as he takes the wheel.”
Conspiracy theorists point to a conflict of interest in the top job, given his history with the prancing horse, but both Red Bull Racing and McLaren have been glowing in their endorsement of the Italian. His resume is impressive too – he was a race director for DTM, and has business experience at companies like Lamborghini.
Domenicali’s time at Lamborghini has been incredibly successful, too. Since he joined in 2016, the company has been through a period of exceptional transformation, with the introduction of the Urus, more than 700 new hirings a doubling of global sales and significant growth of brand awareness on the world stage.
2021 is set to be an intriguing year for F1, but it’s also going to be an interesting one for VW Group’s sub brands like Lamborghini.