Ferrari boss on Schumi, Alonso and 2010
19 December, 2009
Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo hosted his traditional seasonal meeting between Ferrari and the Italian and international media, at Maranello. The Ferrari boss was in good form giving an amusing tongue in cheek view of the headline hogging Michael Schumacher rumoured F1 comeback plans with Mercedes. He also talked enthusiastically about Fernando Alonso’s arrival to be part of the team while looking back at what went wrong in 2009 and how things will be different in 2010.
What began as a wild rumour has slowly edged towards near-fact: Michael Schumacher is returning to the formula one grid.
Montezemolo during a conversation with Schumacher earlier this week, “he told me there is a very strong possibility” he will race a Mercedes next year.
Montezemolo confirms that some of Ferrari’s passionate Tifosi will not appreciate the news that Schumacher will be wearing silver in 2010. “They think Michael is a traitor. But I will explain to them it is not Michael but another one. The real Michael is still with Ferrari.”
Schumacher’s return is set to be announced either shortly after Christmas, or at the beginning of January.
“The real Schumacher, the one I know, will remain forever part of the Ferrari family. “I said it in Monza and I repeated it in Abu Dhabi,” said Montezemolo, before proceeding with some irony, “but, it seems he has a twin brother, identical in every way, who seems to have it in his head to go and race in Formula 1 with Mercedes. I don’t know him personally, but it seems we have nothing to offer him: we have two young drivers in Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, on whom we are counting to deliver a lot next year.”
“Joking apart, Michael’s current role revolves around the development of our road cars, including the important phase which saw us launch the 458 Italia, which is the essence of technology and owes a lot to research carried out on track with the Formula 1 car. I think that, this summer, when I asked him to stand in for Felipe, after the terrible accident in Budapest, he suddenly rediscovered the desire to race and the fact he was unable to follow through with that, left him a void that we are unable to fill. I remember how despondent he sounded on the evening of 9 August, when he called me to say that the problem with his neck meant he could not race in Valencia.”
“It’s lucky that, despite the unsporting stance of some, we were able to run him in the 2007 car at Mugello, otherwise Michael would not have been fully aware of his situation. We have tried to move forward with the idea of running a third car, but for the moment, that is not possible. I don’t know what he will decide for the future, but I extend to him and indeed his twin brother, my very best wishes.”
Montezemolo believes Fernando Alonso is the right driver for the future at Ferrrari
The Ferrari president was asked about Fernando Alonso’s reputation and personality, including how his relationship with McLaren so badly broke down in 2007.
“I spoke about these elements with (Stefano) Domenicali maybe 1000 times, not 100, 1000 times, and I spoke with Alonso,” he said. He added, “I told him: ‘If you come to drive for us, you drive for a team, you drive for a group, you don’t drive for yourself. If you want a team, then you do your own team, fantastic, like John Surtees. In Ferrari we want to put you in the best condition to win. If not, we will never hire you.”
He also clarified that Santander, Ferrari’s major new Spanish sponsor, did not demand that Alonso join the team, as was suggested in an interview this week by Kimi Raikkonen.
“Certainly, they (Santander) are happy, but it is not the sponsors that choose the drivers: we have never operated like that and we never will,” said Montezemolo. “We have been watching him (Alonso) since 2007 and Domenicali discussed it with me this summer,” recounted Montezemolo, addressing journalists at the Christmas dinner. “He is an extremely talented driver, quick and good at working with a team, while being totally focussed on winning.”
“I think he is coming to Ferrari at just the right time in his career. We had already reached an agreement for 2011, when both our drivers’ contracts would have expired. Then, we realised that our team needed a driver capable of really getting involved with the engineers, a characteristic that was not part of Kimi’s genetic make-up, even though he is an amazingly talented guy. Then came Felipe’s unexpected accident and, before taking a decision, we needed to know what his prospects were. Once we were certain he was fine, then in light of what was going on at Renault, we decided to try and bring Alonso on board a year ahead of schedule. Let’s make one thing clear, we were very happy with everything Kimi did for Ferrari during his time at Maranello: he won the world championship in his first year and played a vital part in our taking the Constructors’ title in his second year, while in this difficult season he at least managed to secure us one victory.”
Montezemolo acknowledged that the team struggled in 2009
“2009 was bad, but I am confident that for next season, we can return to our winning ways.” Montezemolo is counting on the Scuderia’s desire to react and get over this year’s interruption to its usual form. “From 1997 up until now, we have nearly always been in the fight for the title, winning it many times, or losing out at the final race. The only two exceptions have been 2005 and this season just gone. There are reasons for the drop in performance, especially the grey areas in the regulations, which led to different interpretations and the way in which decisions relating to these were taken. Then, we also have to consider that, in 2008, we fought right to the bitter end, trying to win the title, just as a major rule change was on the horizon.”
“Furthermore, especially at the start of the season, we made mistakes and there were problems with reliability which cost us dear. Then, we reacted. Domenicali worked on the team which, in the second part of the season, worked perfectly. The team also worked on the car, but unfortunately, there was no way to alter its basic design philosophy. We introduced the new diffuser, but that alone was not enough: it was like when we were young and tried to fit a radio to a car not designed to accommodate one. In fact, at the end of July, we decided in any case to cease development of the F60, in order to concentrate on the design of the new car. Unfortunately, just as we began to rack up a few good results, Felipe had his terrible accident. We were very concerned for him, first of all as a person and then in terms of his future as a driver.”
“The rest is history. Thanks to Kimi, we managed at least one win, but then we became ever more uncompetitive, partly because so many others were still pushing hard on the development front. Neither Fisichella, nor the fearless Badoer managed to get a result with a difficult car and so we ended up fourth.”
“Now, it is time to turn the page and get Ferrari back to its rightful place. “I repeat, I have a lot of faith in this team, which let us not forget, has won three titles in three years and lost a fourth in a manner that everyone remembers,” continued Montezemolo. “I recall there were many who said we would not know how to win after the Schumacher and Brawn era, but that was not the case. For 2010, we have a great driver pairing, the best for a team like ours.”
There are no major changes to the team structure
“We have consolidated certain changes made during the course of the season, such as Chris Dyer in the role of Head of Race Engineering and alongside him are young and up and coming people such as Diego Ioverno.”
“The responsibility for aerodynamics has been handed to Marco De Luca, while Andrea Stella will be Alonso’s race engineer, a role he filled with Raikkonen. Contrary to what has been written, there is no influx of engineers following the Spaniard, because we have a highly rated group of people here, who have shown they know how to win. The most important change concerns the Engine and Electronics department, which since October has been run by Luca Marmorini, a very experienced engineer, who knows Ferrari well, having cut his teeth here before moving on to tackle another challenge.”