Just as McLaren was confirming an expanded role for F1 team principal Martin Whitmarsh, Ferrari was reporting that its chairman, Luca di Montezemolo, was to step down from a similar position with Fiat.

The 62-year old is rumoured to be looking to move into Italian politics, but insists that his latest decision has nothing to do with any future ambition. Instead, he claims that he has achieved all he can within the brief given to him by shareholders six years ago, when he was appointed in succession to the late Umberto Agnelli, and promised further details when he addresses the media.

According to the Wall Street Journal, controlling shareholder John Elkann, grandson of Fiat patriarch Gianni Agnelli and vice-chairman to Montezemolo, will take over the reins, although the car giant did not officially confirm his appointment until this morning [Wednesday]. Fiat was also due to unveil a plan for its future business strategy, which could include the 'spin off' of the company's auto division from other business interests, including Iveco trucks and CNH agricultural equipment, which could help raise the capital needed for investment in current and new factories and equipment around the globe.

di Montezemolo's tenure helped Fiat survive the recent economic downturn, and even take a 20 per cent stake in struggling US rival Chrysler last year. The brand's future could be tied in to that of its acquisition, as the spin-off It would also free it up to go into partnership with another in a bid to consolidate in tough economic times.

di Montezemolo, meanwhile, has denied that he has political ambitions - despite being touted as a potential successor to controversial prime minister Silvio Berlusconi - and insists that his focus will remain on Fiat, where he will remain as a member of the board, and Ferrari, where he will continue as chairman. Aside from those roles, however, he owns a venture called Charm and has plans to take on the Italian national railway system with a privately-owned high-speed alternative.

Sergio Marchionne remains as chief executive at Fiat under 34-year old Italo-American Elkann.


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