Ferrari's new focus: 'Straightforward honesty' is paying off

    (CNN)Ferrari is synonymous with some of the biggest names -- and arguably biggest egos -- in Formula One.

    Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Fernando Alonso ... they all stamped their mark on "the Prancing Horse" as dominant drivers around whom the team's strategies revolved.
    But is the cult of personality being replaced by a more egalitarian ethic?
      Another high-profile champion may have arrived this year in the form of Sebastian Vettel, but perhaps the biggest factor in the Italian marque's revival is a simple change in mindset brought by a 58-year-old man little known outside the industry.
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      "Straightforward and honest" -- that's the secret to success according to Maurizio Arrivabene, the team principal who has quietly set about restoring morale after Ferrari's worst season in 21 years.
      "I don't believe in a one-man show, it's teamwork," he told CNN's The Circuit ahead of this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix.
      "Last year I have to say it was a disaster, so on my first day I saw many, many faces, they were demotivated and everybody was a bit defensive, so the first job was to put them together again."
      The results have so far been encouraging -- last year's miserable showing of two podium placings has already been bettered by three after just five races, with Vettel triumphing in Malaysia.
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      Teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's last world champion during his first stint at Maranello in 2007, has also contributed with a second-placing in Bahrain.
      "Sebastian is one employee, one employee of the company as I am, as Kimi is," says Arrivabene, perhaps pointedly reinforcing the new culture at the team's Maranello headquarters.
      "So he is part of this big family, that is working, that is progressing under the name of Ferrari. Without all the rest of the guys he can do nothing."
      Vettel, back in title contention after a poor final season at Red Bull, is quick to give Arrivabene credit for Ferrari's improvement.
      "Since the first day he has been very straight, very honest, which I think is a quality that unfortunately you don't see that often in Formula One," Germany's four-time world champion told CNN.
      "He is the boss and he has a lot of responsibility -- he has to look after a lot of things, but he's showing to everyone that he's willing to do it for them. That's something that helps boosts morale.
      "Equally I am trying to do my part, so I think it's important that everyone in the team feels they're part of it, which ultimately allows him or her to do the best job."
      So how do you restore the fortunes of a team that is so used to success, but one which has so little to show in recent years for the wealth and resources behind it?
      "All around Maranello, there is a lot of passion, pride to work for this company," Arrivabene says.
      "I am proud to work for this company too and I simply said to them, 'Guys, it's not simply a question of me, you, him, it's a question of we -- so WE together can do a good job but we need to believe in that.'
      "In the end I did a piece of the job -- the rest was done by all of the guys that are working here."
      Arrivabene had previously worked in marketing, moving up the ranks at tobacco giant Philip Morris and representing sponsors on the F1 Commission.
      He is passionate about football, and sits on the board of Serie A champion Juventus, but says he has been a fan of motorsport since he was young.
      "My father probably transferred to me the passion for Ferrari. I was going to see the races in Imola, with the ground tickets, with my face up against the fence."
      Though Ferrari is second behind Mercedes in the constructor standings, with Vettel and Raikkonen third and fourth in the drivers' championship, Arrivabene is wary of letting expectations get too high.
      "We have to be realistic, keep our feet on the ground, because I think humility is very, very important," he says.
      "We need to recognize our strengths and especially our weaknesses."
      One of Ferrari's biggest gains has been in engine performance, with most rivals surprised the team has transferred its preseason pace into race results.
      "The engine, especially for Ferrari, is the heart of the car," says Arrivabene, who sounds almost like a conductor as he talks about the mechanics of the team's latest model.
      "When the engine is on, it is the music. It is the most important part of the car, so this year I think the percentages are a bit reversed in respect to the past.
      "We need to find the right balance with the chassis and the aero. The chassis is the one of last year, we were not able to modify a lot, so we are struggling a bit but it's not really a disaster like last year."
      Like Vettel, Raikkonen has also been revitalized this season -- he is already only three points behind his 2014 total.
      "I think Kimi was more galvanized by the new car in the way that the feeling that he has this year is fantastic, and then he got the opportunity to demonstrate his talent because I think Kimi is a talented guy," says Arrivabene, who has told the Finn what he needs to do to secure a contract extension.
      "We have known each other for many years. I was always open, honest and transparent, and him too with me. So I said, 'Kimi, we need two drivers for the constructors' championship, you have to demonstrate that you are a strong first or second driver.
      "I think sometimes to be straightforward and honest is going to pay off."
      "Vettel is very, very precise. He's taking notes about everything, sometimes even too much, but he's very committed," he says.
      "Kimi is more straightforward. For example, he is not taking any notes, he is focusing on the main topics, on the main issues of the car. But Seb is really, really precise."
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