Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Montezemolo on Alonso: Drivers come and go, while Ferrari remains

Ferrari and its fans: the priorities are very clear for Luca di Montezemolo, points he stressed in an interview published today in the Italian daily paper, Corriere della Sera and here we reprint several sections. Montezemolo didn’t just focus on Ferrari, because in his interview with sports editor Daniele Dallera, he also made some points on the current state of Formula 1 in general.

“Our fans should never be forgotten, they deserve respect and therefore they are entitled to get satisfaction. We must work for Ferrari and for them,” said the President. “Let me make it clear that it’s Ferrari I’m interested in. Drivers, we’ve had a lot, some very good, some great, but drivers come and go, while Ferrari remains.”

Montezemolo didn’t mince his word when speaking of the current state of the team, on the back of a disappointing performance at the Hungaroring and of Alonso’s frustration that is getting ever more complicated: “Fernando is a great driver and I understand him, he is a bit like me: he wants to win. He must just remember that one wins and loses together and for its part, Ferrari must give him a car capable of starting from the front two rows…It doesn’t sit well with me seeing our car is not competitive. That’s why I intervened, even if I didn’t want to abuse my authority over my men. However, it had to be done. But how? We started so well, we had begun the world championship with a very competitive car, maybe even considered the best. But something happened and instead of moving forward we went backwards. Therefore the right attitude, the one I am taking from now on is as follows: understand the mistakes, fix them and after this careful analysis develop the car in the right direction. We must put our heads down in this return match, as I describe this second part of the season after the break, a break I don’t like, but we have to adhere to it.”

These difficult times do not however rule out the hope of a comeback, which according to Montezemolo are based on two facts: “Firstly, our DNA, Ferrari’s and mine, has a characteristic that we never give up. We must get back on the path we were on up until Barcelona. We can do it. Secondly, Spa and Monza are two circuits that could suit the characteristics of our car. Yes, the conditions are in place to give a strong signal of a recovery and, on top of that, I expect results from our engineers who must demonstrate their worth. Then, please, let’s not forget that last year, at the last race, for a few laps, Alonso was the virtual world champion, at the wheel of a Ferrari and definitely no other car, which confirms this team knows how to be competitive.”

Montezemolo returned to the subject of Alonso and also talked about Massa. “Fernando has given a lot in these last years and I repeat, his disappointment, which came about mainly after Silverstone, where all of us expected to be more competitive, is understandable. But I didn’t like some attitudes, a few words, some outbursts. And I said so…I reminded everyone, including the drivers, that Ferrari comes before everything, the priority is the team. Rather like a family father pointing out the need to respect some family rules: I wish to underline the concept of family values…Felipe is a quick driver and a great guy. But in the past days, we were very clear with him: both he and us need results and points. Then, at some point, we will look one another in the eye and decide what to do.”

There was also time for some words about the team boss, Stefano Domenicali. “Stefano was born and raised with us from all managerial points of view. But as a sportsman, he knows he needs results. However, when one talks about Domenicali, one truth is king: under his management we have one one Constructors’ title and come very close to three Drivers’ titles. Two of those we could easily have won and then people’s opinion of Domenicali would be very different. There’s one thing I remind him of very often: he has to get the most out of every individual in his organisation, never be satisfied and if necessary, take some drastic and painful decisions.”

Having dealt with Ferrari, Montezemolo moved on to other topics, starting with a look at the strongest rival of recent years, Red Bull. “I’ve been around in F1 for quite a while, since the Seventies, so I don’t envy anyone anything. With the current regulations favouring aerodynamics, Red Bull was clever in getting a great designer, Adrian Newey, to get the most out of all aspects of the regulations. I will digress: this aspect of the rules is, in my opinion, a mistake and therefore needs changing. Luckily, the hoped for changes are coming. We don’t make drinks and I say that with all possible respect for those who make drinks, we are not a sponsor, but we design and build cars of the very highest order. We will stay in F1 as long as it can be considered a test bed for advanced research, the highest technology and worthwhile for a great company like Ferrari, which is known and appreciated around the world. Formula 1 also has to be a clean sport without any of the monkey business we have had to put up with in recent years. From next season, we will have a completely different F1, finally less dependent on aerodynamics. I build cars not planes. We will finally have testing again and not a farce like what we saw this year with one team doing illegal testing without even paying the right penalty for it. In this case, I would have expected more clarity and courage from the FIA. On the other hand, the benefits gained by the team that carried out the secret banned testing are watched by everyone: before then, it had not won a single grand prix, then after the test it won three out of five races. These are the sort of serious incidents that affect F1’s credibility and alter the championship.”

As to the future of the highest category of motorsport, Montezemolo repeated well known stances: “Sooner or later a generational change always occurs. It’s not too long until we reach the post-Ecclestone era for reasons of statistics. As for the rest, I don’t want to talk about it. We will have to prepare for a new cycle, capable of tackling the urgent matters and the need for a new F1. I believe the management of this sport, which let’s not forget is not just a show, should be entrusted to a group of men open to new ideas, who know about racing but also about marketing and communications and are sensitive to the demands of the fans, those who come to the circuits and therefore pay for the tickets and those who watch on TV, while being able to involve the sponsors and not alienate them. But be careful, I don’t want to have discussions with Ecclestone, I have had some in the recent past, because he was too talkative on the subject of Ferrari, but surprisingly silent on the subject of the illegal tests carried out by Mercedes. I know Bernie’s strengths and weaknesses, but let’s be very clear on one point, no one else will ever do for Formula 1 what Ecclestone has done.”

Part of the interview was given over to someone well known in Maranello, the current FIA President, Jean Todt. “When he was in charge of the race team here, he didn’t just do a good job, he did a great one. At the Federation, he has a different job. It’s not easy, he inherited a divided institution full of tension, from Max Mosley. He has a political mandate, he needs the consensus that will allow him to develop transparency, also when it comes to the rules, in a world as complex as F1.”

Inevitably, the subject of tyre cropped up and their ever more important role. “It’s true, we are a bit too dependent on the tyres, however at the same time, one must recognise that Pirelli has shown great courage and ability and, as Italians we must feel proud of the efforts of one of our great companies in F1. No polemics, but I have only pointed out that I don’t feel it’s right to change the type of tyre at the midpoint of the season, for cars designed and developed with different tyres, which is another element that contributes to organising the hierarchy. And who knows if for next season, for which studies and preparation are already underway, there could not be further changes. We need clarity.”

The interview ended with a look at the reigning world champion, Sebastian Vettel and the possibility of one day seeing him at Ferrari. Sooner or later, every driver sends messages to Ferrari, a dream to be made reality for every champion. Even Ayrton Senna did it. However, even if I have lots of problems, finding drivers for the future is not one of them. Fernando Alonso is a true great, as I’ve said before. He has proved it and will prove it again, very soon.” (Scuderia Ferrari)

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