Jean Todt makes Juventus quip in addressing Ferrari return rumours

Jean Todt stands with a Ferrari staff member and Andrea Pirlo. Qatar, November 2021.

Jean Todt has played down reports linking him with a move back to Ferrari after rumours suggested he was being lined up as a ‘super-consultant’.

Todt spent 13 years as general manager of Ferrari either side of the turn of the century and under his leadership, the team enjoyed one of the most successful periods in their history.

They won a combined 14 World Championships, comprising both Drivers’ and Constructors’, and Todt was the boss during Michael Schumacher’s ascent to greatness.

Todt helped Schumacher to win five consecutive World Championships and was with him during 72 of his then record-breaking 91 race victories.

After Ferrari, Todt moved on to the FIA, where he served as president from 2009 until last year when he was succeeded by Mohammed ben Sulayem after the maximum three four-year terms.

Now out of motorsport, it has not taken long for rumours to circulate linking the 76-year-old back to the sport.

With Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto under increasing pressure, some have suggested Todt may be in line for an advisory role alongside him.

Todt is not convinced though and said any meetings with Ferrari president John Elkann should not be misconstrued as business dealings.

“I would have a doubt it was true news,” he told reporters at the Trento Sports Festival of the Ferrari rumours. “There is a lot of news underneath that is not true.

“I had a breakfast in Turin with [Juventus FC chairman and Stellantis board member] Andrea Agnelli. So many saw me and many thought I should work with Juve,” joked Todt.

“It’s obvious when I was president of the FIA I often spoke with John Elkann. And we spoke often about Ferrari’s ambitions. But there’s a difference between talking, sharing hopes and working together. I think the chapters are meant to go from one to the other.”

Jean Todt on the podium with Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. Hungary 2001

Ferrari have insisted Binotto’s job remains safe for now and Todt said his own time at the team was “the most beautiful chapter of my career”.

“Ferrari was the most beautiful chapter of my career but today I live things differently,” the Frenchman said. “I have a lot of respect for the work of excellence other teams do.

“It was difficult but it was beautiful. And for me, difficult and beautiful are concepts that go together because the beautiful depends a lot on the difficulty of what you have done. And that’s how satisfaction is generated.”

Todt was also hesitant to give advice to his successor and said the only thing he would suggest is to “resist” outside pressure.

“Each era is different, I don’t want to give advice. It is easy to give advice. The only one I can give him is to resist,” said Todt.

“And then now Ferrari are doing very well. It seems to me people are not fully aware of this. Ferrari are back to winning.

“I think everyone – well, almost everyone – we would like to see Ferrari win championships, not just a few races.

“We can hope so for next year, because this year I don’t think it’s possible anymore. But to win, you need excellence at all levels. It is difficult to reach it and even more difficult to maintain it.

“It starts with excellence in detail. From the one who answers the phone in the company [all the way to the top].”

Another season of disappointment and Mattia Binotto may find himself living on borrowed time

Todt makes a good point that Ferrari’s start to the season had many forgetting just where they had come from. Binotto took over in 2019 and has overseen one of the most difficult periods in the team’s history.

In 2020 they tumbled to P6 in the Constructors’ Championship, their lowest finish in 40 years, and in 2021 they were again battling the likes of McLaren and Renault instead of Red Bull and Mercedes.

But 2022 has been a massive improvement and the four wins they have managed so far is their most since the 2018 campaign.

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. Australia April 2022.

But Ferrari are a team like no other. Expectation is high and relentless. It is perhaps not just the results that have disappointed the Tifosi but the manner of them. Ferrari have been their own biggest enemies but have a stubbornness when it comes to making changes.

You can almost guarantee that if these same mistakes had occurred at Red Bull or Mercedes, heads would have rolled by now. Perhaps that is what separates this generation of Ferrari to the ones that came before it.

Binotto has said he does not want to return to the “old path” of Ferrari, but he will need to find a happy medium and soon – or else he will find it is his head on the chopping block.

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