Montezemolo speaks to Gazzetta dello Sport
Maranello, 17 September – The whys and wherefores of a choice, a review of the current situation and a look ahead to the near future, the Scuderia’s top man covered all these points in an interview with the doyen of Italian journalists, Pino Allievi. The story was published in today’s edition of Italian daily sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport, as Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo took an overall look at the current state of the Maranello team and its prospects for 2014.
The President began with another appreciation of Felipe Massa. “He’s an exceptional guy and a wonderful person,” he said when explaining the reasons that led to the decision to end the relationship with the Brazilian and start another one with Kimi Raikkonen. “The relationship (with Felipe, Editor’s note) was clear. “He needed results and so did we. He did get some, but he was inconsistent, having some good races but not on a regular basis. In 2012, we felt the lack of his points in the Constructors’. It will be good for him to have a change of scenery. We are not masochistic enough to take on a driver without informing Alonso. Fernando was always in the picture regarding the choice of Raikkonen, taken partly because the alternative, that of employing a youngster, in what will be a complex 2014 season, did not inspire confidence. Today, Raikkonen is one of the best, along with Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton and Alonso is the first to be happy that he is coming here. Raikkonen’s situation is identical to the one we had with Lauda. At one point, even Niki had had enough. I spoke about having his twin brother because the guy racing for us was not the one we had employed. The break did him good and he returned in great form, he won and finished a lot of races. In a nutshell, I wanted a driver who would not make me regret Massa. What I ask of Raikkonen is wins, a consistent performance level and podiums and Alonso will be the first to benefit. I am pleased he is back with us and the Ferrari staff greeted the news enthusiastically, as they had good memories of him. Going back to Lauda, when he returned with a different energy level, he won the title, beating Prost…”
Montezemolo strenuously reiterated that the 2013 game was absolutely not over yet. “I am expecting updates that will bring improvements. We should bear in mind that there’s only one Red Bull getting the results…The team will support Alonso until the very last metre and on top of that, I am also expecting Massa to have a great end to the season. Felipe is an exceptional guy and a wonderful person. They say he won’t help Fernando? Please! He will definitely do so, giving us a hand for the Constructors’ and Alonso for the Drivers’.
The President didn’t shirk from the question regarding what percentage chance he would give Ferrari of taking the title in 2013: “I would not talk about percentages, but I would bet on Ferrari in order to win a lot of money, given that we are apparently outsiders. Looking to 2014, I would say however that we can no longer afford to be the contender beaten in a photo-finish. I can’t wait to be winning again. The time is now, believe me…”
Time for two potentially delicate topics, the suggestion that Alonso is dissatisfied and Raikkonen’s PR skills, which Montezemolo dismissed with these words. “I am the first to understand his (Alonso’s, Editor’s note) discontent. Let’s say his dissatisfaction is like the anger of a footballer who is called to the bench and tells the manager to get stuffed. But I’d rather deal with someone like that than a wuss! The PR business is ever more mediatised. I hope that his (Raikkonen’s, Editor’s note) public relations will consist of wins, as well as a contribution to the team and a diligent presence in Maranello. Alonso cannot take all the work on his shoulders alone.”
The interview was also an opportunity to talk about the man who heads up the Scuderia and the team’s new technical organisation. Asked if Domenicali’s position was ever in doubt, Montezemolo had a clear response: “Never, he would be missed. He was the first to advocate the choice of Kimi. He has worked well, preparing for the future and now I expect to see results in the present. But, over the past three years, we have lost two World titles at the last race and it was not his fault. I’ve been around a long time, from the point eleven years on from Surtees’ title. Then as President, with Schumacher and the Todt-Brawn-Byrne triumvirate, we created a golden era and now the team is ready to start winning again. The void since the Schumacher era was caused by delays on the simulation front and with the aerodynamics. However, in all but three years, Ferrari has always been in the title fight right to the last race. I am counting a lot on James Allison. With him came the head of aerodynamics from Lotus and other new faces. Finally, we will have the creativity we were lacking. Allison knows the team and the men and he speaks Italian. Others wanted him, but he preferred us and his arrival will also bring a change in working methods in many areas. Pat Fry will concentrate on improving our on-track operations, our methodology and the simulator.”
Finally, Montezemolo also spoke about two topics that always get plenty of attention, the costs of Formula 1 and an eventual future without Ecclestone. The President had this to say when asked if costs had effectively been reduced over the past five years. “No, they’ve not been reduced. The rate of increase has reduced, but the level is still too high. We would have to return to the less sophisticated F1 of the mid-Nineties, resuming testing to give youngsters a run, because today, GP2 is a laughingstock with no value. And the few tests we do have, well naturally the race drivers do them.” There was also a question about FIAT’s contribution to Ferrari’s Formula 1 programme: “Zero,” explained Montezemolo. “We get no financial contribution from them and Ferrari survives on its sponsorship, prize money and the cars it sells.”
As for Formula 1 without Ecclestone, Montezemolo repeated his view, which he has expressed several times in the past: “We will need to rethink everything, with a structure that provides for a head of administration and finance, a commercial director and a Number 1 for technical matters. The work can no longer be centralised around just one man.”