Former Ferrari CEO Louis Camilleri’s sudden retirement from his position came as a shock to the entire Formula 1 team, says sporting director Laurent Mekies.

Late on Thursday evening the Italian company confirmed Camilleri had retired from his role as CEO with immediate effect, citing “personal reasons” being behind his decision.

Camilleri, who took over the role in 2018 following the death of former boss Sergio Marchionne, was recently hospitalised after contracting COVID-19. While the 65-year-old’s condition was understood to have been serious, it was not life-threatening and he has now returned home to continue his recovery.

He stepped down as boss of Ferrari, and from his role as chairman of Philip Morris, on the eve of this weekend’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Mekies said Camilleri's battle with coronavirus was not the only reason for his shock departure. 

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“It was a surprise for all of us when we received the note from our chairman,” said Mekies.

“None of us were aware, but it’s the way it goes for this kind of situation. I’ve seen what our chairman communicated in terms of the reasoning, it’s understandable.

“Louis has been very hit badly with COVID and even though it was not life-threatening, it’s been very tough and I’m sure it’s not the only reason but certainly it’s something that I guess at the stage where he is and [with his] achievements it is probably something that makes you think your priorities differently."

In his time as head of Ferrari, Camilleri has strongly supported the F1 team operations as well as overseeing a successful period for the road car side of the business. He also navigated the Maranello squad through uncertain financial times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic this year.

Ferrari executive chairman John Elkann will take over the position on an interim basis until a successor is found and Mekies believes that stability will be important for the success of the F1 team.

“It’s a shame because the level of support we got from Louis, from our chairman, through to Mattia, has been incredible in these two years," he explained. 

“Especially this year, in crisis time and you always say it’s in crisis times that you find out how this thing goes. So the level of support we got was incredible, he was certainly one of the strong drivers of this.

“The good news for us is that our chairman is stepping in for the interim role and therefore it could not be better to give us stability and the right continuity in terms of support. 

“We will try to finish the year on a good note and all regroup at the factory with Mattia and the management team.”