When Maurizio Arrivabene was named the team principal of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team last November, many wondered who the Italian was. His relative anonymity then belied the fact that Arrivabene – tattooed, ruggedly good-looking, and surprisingly soft-spoken in person – had been closely involved with the team for the past two decades as a senior marketing executive of its key sponsor, Philip Morris. Over the past year, however, Arrivabene has been at the forefront of the Scuderia’s convincing resurgence, following a dismal 2014, when it netted only two podium finishes.

As of press time, Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen had earned 13 podium finishes between them, second to pack leader Mercedes AMG Petronas. Now, Arrivabene has become not just a charismatic face of the racing team, but also that of a new campaign celebrating the (nearly four-year-old) partnership between Ferrari and luxury watch brand Hublot. We sat down with him during the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix in September, just two days before Vettel and Raikkonen went on to take first and third place at the race.

How would you rate Ferrari’s performance since you joined?
Everything has been going in the right direction. We have a precise development programme, and we were able to improve the cars, especially on the engine side – we were able to gain a lot of horsepower. In Monza, we were two seconds faster than last year. But we have to be realistic. (Smiles.) The goal is to be near (Mercedes) as much as possible, and to use any opportunity to win, recognising that it is going to be tough to win the championship this year.

What is your key role as team principal?
To be, first of all, a team-maker. Being a team leader while being part of the team. I don’t believe in a one-man show. You have to work with the team to create a good atmosphere and have (strong) commitment from everybody, and to have a clear objective and direction.

What are your thoughts on the Singapore Grand Prix?
Singapore is one of my favourite Grands Prix. Everybody thinks it should be Monza because I am Italian. (Smiles.) Yes, I like Monza but there is a lot of pressure. The whole of Italy is watching that race. For Singapore, I like being here, and I like the track and the overall atmosphere. Singapore defines the luxurious Grand Prix, along with Monaco and Abu Dhabi.

Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Ceramic Carbon (photo credit: Hublot)

You’re wearing a Hublot Big Bang Ferrari Ceramic Carbon. Were you always a Hublot fan?
I visited Hublot a few years ago with (LVMH watch chief) Jean-Claude Biver and (Hublot CEO) Ricardo Guadalupe. I was most impressed by two departments: where they assemble the grand complications, and the department that creates new materials like Magic Gold (Hublot’s proprietary gold-ceramic alloy). I have a special-edition watch that Hublot did for Juventus (Arrivabene is a board member of the Italian football club), and another one for the evening.

What’s your most memorable experience with watches?
Sometimes, when I talk, I move my arms a lot, which is normal for Italians. I didn’t realise that Hublot watches have this mechanism (where a user can release a catch to remove the strap). I like this feature because you can change the bracelet easily. But in Hungary this year, where we won, I was talking and moving my arms a lot while wearing this watch – and it went flying. But luckily, I was able to catch it, like a baseball catcher! (Laughs.) I still move my arms when I talk, but I’m more careful now.

(Related: The Peak interview’s with Hublot’s CEO, Ricardo Guadalupe)