Roberto Nosetto, a former Sporting Director of Ferrari, has died at his home in Gallipoli, in the very south of Italy.
Born in Turin, he was always a Ferrari fan and in his teenage years wrote to Enzo Ferrari saying that he would one day like to work for the company. He studied mechanical engineering at the Politecnico di Torino and then spent a year as an academic before joining the Commissione Sportiva Automobilistica Italiana (CSAI), the Italian national sporting authority, to write its regulations and oversee the safety of cars and circuits.
At the end of 1976 he was asked to join Ferrari as the replacement for its Sporting Director Daniele Audetto and he spent the 1977 season dealing with Niki Lauda and his new team-mate Carlos Reutemann. The two did not get on and Lauda was, in any case, in Enzo Ferrari’s bad books as the Old Man considered that the Austrian had given away the 1976 World Championship when he stopped in the Japanese GP because conditions were too bad to continue racing. Lauda had even been offered the Sporting Director role before it was offered to Nosetto, but he had a valid contract for 1977 and Ferrari was forced to honour that, although the team told the Austrian that Carlos Reutemann was going to be the number one driver. Reutemann was ahead after the first two races but Lauda fought back and by the midseason his speed and consistency had given him a healthy lead in the World Championship. he wrapped up the title in Italy and the same weekend announced he was leaving to join Brabham in 1978. In the end he quit the team before the Canadian GP, where the plan had been to run a third car for Gilles Villeneuve. The Canadian thus became Lauda’s replacement at Mosport Park and in Japan (where his car cartwheeled off the track, killing a marshal and a photographer).
Although Marco Piccinini was appointed Sporting Director of the team for 1978, Nosetto remained as one of Ferrari’s closest advisors and looked after the team’s relationships with FISA and FOCA. That role was also taken by Piccinini and Nosetto was then appointed manager of the Fiorano test track and in 1980 decided it was a good moment to move on to become the director of the Autodromo Dino Ferrari, which hosted its first Grand Prix that year and went on to run the San Marino GP from 1981 onwards. Nosetto remained at Imola until the spring of 1989 when he began to work with Bernie Ecclestone.
After a couple of years he moved to the FIA and became the head of the federation’s Formula 1 department, but after Max Mosley took over the federation he departed and went to work for Dorna, the Spanish marketing agency that had just acquired the commercial and television rights of the MotoGP World Championship. He became MotoGP race director, but remained close to F1. In the mid-1990s he was one of the experts appointed to investigate the death of Ayrton Senna at Imola, on behalf of the Italian prosecution services.
He remained at MotoGP until 2003 and then, after a brief period with Maurizio Flammini, helping in the creation of the as Trofeo Nazionale Superstars, Italy’s touring national touring car championship, he retired to Gallipoli, with his wife Renata, who had worked alongside him at the FIA and with Dorna.