Q&A with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo 26 Apr 2009
The Bahrain Grand Prix was arguably another race that Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo might rather have missed, given that his team scored just three points, courtesy of Kimi Raikkonens sixth place. But at least it was three points more than they managed at the last three rounds, thus avoiding what would have been the worst start to a championship campaign in Ferrari history. Montezemolo blames a late start to 09 development, grey areas in the rules, and a certain level of complacency for the Scuderias slump
Q: What is your explanation for Ferraris poor start to the season?
Luca di Montezemolo: I was thinking in my car coming to the track that my first race with Ferrari was at Silverstone in 1973. At that race Jacky Ickx started from 16th position and Arturo Merzario from 18th. So in my life I have seen a lot of difficult moments - this is part of the competition, this is part of sport. We have won eight world championships in the last ten years, in the last two years we won three out of four titles - and the fourth we lost on the last corner of the last lap of the last race. So we have to look ahead. But I want to understand why we are there, why we are in the middle of a black tunnel. And there are three main reasons. Number one, we have seen very badly written rules. They are what I call grey rules, with different interpretations. And if teams that have won the last three world championships, like Renault, McLaren and Ferrari, an important team and car manufacturer like BMW and even Red Bull, have made one interpretation, it means that the rules are not so clear. So very unclear rules means different interpretations, means polemics and different cars in the field. And there is KERS. KERS represents a lot of money. It represents something that has been introduced to make a link between Formula One and advanced research for road cars in terms of energy, and in terms of green and in terms of innovation. So we immediately did KERS, even though KERS means a lot of money, it means a problem with the safety, it means reliability and it means a completely different car - as McLaren have done and as a lot of other teams have done. But we have been surprised that KERS was just a suggestion, not a real rule. And today we are facing a very strange and in my opinion not positive situation. We have three different F1s on the grid. We have F1 competition between cars with KERS, F1 competition between cars with no KERS and a different floor, and thirdly competitors with no KERS and no floor. I think this is bad, and it is one of the reasons why unfortunately we are not competitive and we are forced to invest time and extra money at such a difficult moment, to make heavy modifications to our car.
The second reason is that we have started to work hard on the new car late. And this was a pity, particularly in a year in which the rules have been completely new. It is not, in other words, an evolution of last year's car, and this is a second reason why we have not been competitive. And the third reason is that I think that inside the team there has been a little bit too much of a presumptuous approach. Sometimes by putting your head down in the ground is useful to looking ahead, but having said that sometimes having your whole head, feet, everything in the ground is better. So I think these are the main reasons. We are working hard and I have a big confidence in our team. I am sure that we will go back very soon - not immediately, but soon.
Q: How long will you wait and observe before you change something within the team? You cannot be happy with the way it is now
LdM: Of course I am totally unhappy. But the stability of the team and confidence with the team has been my main goal since1992 and I will continue, as this team is exactly the same team that passed the finish line in Brazil - not 20 years ago but a few months ago - to win the championship. So I have no problem. When I know the reason I am confident, but when I dont know the reason I am worried. I know the reason, my people know the reason and they are fully committed, so I am very confident. Then I am upset for other reasons, but they have nothing to do with the team.
Q: What is the present situation regarding unity within FOTA?
LdM: Well, I think the unity of FOTA is good. We will have a meeting in London on May 6 to discuss, as we did at the end of April, and we dont know yet the exact rules for next year as stability is important to keep the costs down. We have made so many changes in the past year that now we need stability in the future. Some teams have taken the opportunity from very bad rules by making their own interpretation. What we will try to do is to get all the teams together as this is a very difficult moment.
Q: Can you clarify Michael Schumachers position with the team?
LdM: This whole situation was a little bit invented by the press. Michaels position has been very clear since the beginning. When Michael stopped I asked him: Michael do you want to become a manager? Do you want for one year to be the right hand of Jean Todt and then replace Jean Todt? Yes or No? He said no. So we said: Why dont you come sometimes to the races. But his main engagement was to work on the development of the road cars. He has a very good connection with our technicians but he has no role inside the team because he has no time to be present in Maranello. Having said that, Michael is part of our family, Michael is part of our history and he has a good relationship with Stefano Domenicali and is always welcome to suggest an idea. No more, no less.
Q: What do feel when you see Brawn winning and leading the championship? Ross Brawn was also part of the Ferrari family
LdM: First of all I like Ross very much, because he has been part of our family during very important years and gave it a very important contribution. Then I see the Honda car with the Brawn name - a car that Honda invested a lot in, with two wind tunnels running. So this is still a Honda, built with one of the biggest budgets. And their interpretation of the rules is significantly different to other teams. In my opinion this was mainly due to this grey area of the rules. At the least, the rules have been very badly written. Then I dont want to make any comment about the result of the (diffuser) appeal as I dont like to make comments as this is a Ferrari attitude since forever.
Q: What do you think has been the effect of that presumptuous approach by the team?
LdM: Well, sometimes when you win too much, you think you are the best. I want a different attitude, particularly when you have fantastic people like we have in Ferrari. Sometimes we think that keeping top is easy. But over ten years, we have been able to maintain ourselves at the top. Except for 2005, when we were not competitive, we won or lost the championship at the last race. This year the main reason was that if we approached the rules in a different way, without KERS and with a different floor, then today we would talk about a different Ferrari.
Q: FIA president Max Mosley wanted to know from the teams what a good budget cap figure would be. What does Ferrari think about a budget cap? Wouldnt that be a solution that would please you, as it would give you freedom?
LdM: Let me put it in a different way. We have been in Formula One since 1950 without stopping. We race and we continue to race in Formula One for three historic reasons since the beginning: competition is part of the Ferrari brand. We started as a team and then became a car manufacturer. The second reason is advanced research. We want Formula One to be a technologically competitive series where there is competition in which we can develop gearboxes, engines, electronics, and yes, why not KERS, and then transfer this to our road cars. And the third reason is that competing in Formula One means extreme competition between teams, drivers, cars, technology and technicians. We want to maintain this kind of level. This is the reason why weve been against a standardised engine. I personally have a lot of passion and Ferrari has a lot of passion, but this is not a never-ending story. So we will see. What I feel is important is that we have stability and credibility of governance of Formula One. What I think we need is a strong political authority, we need clear rules, we need teams that are very close away from the track and good competition at the track and we need a modern, efficient company as the commercial rights holder. Having said that I dont like to do polemics, as this is what Formula One doesnt need as it is facing difficult times. But I think that the reaction of the teams has been fantastic.