Ferrari have replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto as their team principal.

The major move just days into the New Year has been taken little over a month before pre-season testing begins and comes in the wake of the team's title defeats to Mercedes last year.

A Ferrari statement read: "The decision was taken together with the company's top management after lengthy discussions related to Maurizio's long-term personal interests as well as those of the team itself.

"Ferrari would like to thank Maurizio for his valuable contribution to the team's increasing competitiveness over the past few years, and wish him the best for his future endeavours. With immediate effect, Mattia Binotto will take over as Scuderia Ferrari's team principal. All technical areas will continue to report directly to Mattia."

F1 2019: Schedule and driver line-ups

Why the change at the top now?

Binotto has served as Ferrari's technical director since 2016 but rumours of tension between himself and Arrivabene were rife last year as the team's title challenge faded for the second consecutive season.

But while Arrivabene's future had been at the centre of on-off speculation for several years, the exact timing of his eventual departure comes as a surprise with Sky Sports in Italy reporting that a contract renewal had appeared a 'formality' before the Christmas break.

"Between the panettone and the lentils something has happened, or definitely broken, and the renewal has not been made," said Carlo Vanzini, Sky in Italy's F1 commentator.

Arrivabene had served as team boss for four seasons and overseen a revival in the team's fortunes since a dismal and turbulent 2014 campaign when Stefano Domenicali and Marco Mattiacci each had spells in charge.

However, Ferrari have been unable to end Mercedes' stranglehold on F1's world titles despite having been thought to have had quicker cars at certain points of the last two seasons.

The Scuderia's title drought has now stretched beyond 10 years.

Binotto was considered a close associate of late Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne, who died suddenly in July, and three years ago was promoted to the role of chief technical officer after the departure of James Allison.

Rival teams had been linked with approaches for the 49-year-old in recent months.

Arrivabene's departure comes ahead of a season when they have already made a significant change to their driver line-up.

The long-serving Kimi Raikkonen has been replaced with the 21-year-old Charles Leclerc, with the star graduate of Ferrari's young driver programme promoted to partner four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari will launch their 2019 car in Italy on February 15.

"Evidently personal and business situations, as the statement reads, and the fear of disagreements during the season, have weighed on the decision to trigger the revolution just over a month from the presentation of the car that Vettel and Leclerc will fight to try and win the 2019 world title," Vanzini added.

Who is Mattia Binotto?

Binotto is a stalwart of Maranello and his promotion to the head of the F1 team completes his progression through the ranks over the past two-and-a-half decades.

The Swiss-born engineer, 49, joined the team from university in 1995 and was originally an engine engineer during the Schumacher glory era, before becoming chief engineer in 2007.

After a spell focusing on KERS, he became a deputy director of engine and electronics in 2013 before taking on ultimate responsibility for the power unit division where he was credited with improving their turbo engine.

His promotion to the head of the team's technical programme in July 2016 was still considered a surprise at the time, although Ferrari's on-track fortunes have improved in the last two seasons with runner-up positions to Mercedes.

Binotto's challenge now is to take Ferrari to the next level and become the first team principal since Jean Todt in 2007 to bring the drivers' world championship back to Maranello.

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