Honda website
Honda website

MAY 15, 2001

Berlusconi wins Italy - will Montezemolo join the new Italian government?

ITALIAN media magnate Silvio Berlusconi has taken absolute majorities in both houses of the Italian parliament and is now expected to form the country's 59th government since 1945. Berlusconi's House of Freedom alliance - a grouping of center and right wing parties including his own Forza Italia party, the Northern League and the more extreme National Alliance - won 368 of the 630 seats (58%) in the Chamber of Deputies and 177 of the 315 seats (56%) in the Senate. The should give Berlusconi one of the strongest governments in modern history and one which may be able to last its entire five-year term, something which has yet to happen. The longest surviving government in the history of the Italian Republic was that of Amintore Fanfani which survived for four years and eight months between November 1958 and June 1963. In recent times things have been rather more volatile and no government has bettered Guilio Andreotti's record of two years and 11 months between July 1989 and June 1992.

The big question for Formula 1 is whether Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo will now decide to accept Berlusconi's offer of a ministerial post in the new government. It is the best political opportunity which is ever likely to be offered to the 52-year-old aristocrat and he may decide that at 64 Berlusconi is not going to make it beyond one term of office and there may be opportunities for him to one day get Italy's top job.

Berlusconi is still facing two trials for bribery and false accounting and knows that political life in Italy can be brutally short. He headed a seven-month government in 1994 before being ousted when his allies in the Northern League turned against him.

Montezemolo has achieved a great deal in his nine and a half years with Ferrari. He has rebuilt the car company and took Ferrari back to the top in Formula 1. He is now in the process of rebuilding Maserati, which has been controlled by Ferrari since 1997. There is little else for him to do with Ferrari.

The problem for the team is that if Montezemolo goes a new leader will be needed for Ferrari and he will have to have the same skills (and support) that Montezemolo has enjoyed. That is not going to be easy. The men who ran the company before Luca took control all failed in that task and there is no reason why others will get it right.