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Posts tagged “Montezemolo

Australian GP: Ferrari thrilled to be back at the top again

By Berthold Bouman

Australian GP Ferrari thrilled to be back at the top again - Photo: FerrariAlthough Kimi Raikkonen won the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne today, Ferrari are in the lead of the 2013 FIA Formula One Constructors’ Championship, as Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were second and fourth respectively, which means the Scuderia have bagged 30 points at the Albert Park Circuit.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo must be pleased with the result, last year the Maranello-based team scored only 10 points during the first race of the year, and were playing catch-up for almost the entire season. But Ferrari is back at the top and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali is also happy with today’s result.

“After winter testing, we had said we were aiming for a podium in Australia and I am pleased we have reached this first objective. This is only the first of nineteen races and we are happy to see Scuderia Ferrari at the top of the constructors’ classification: it is an encouraging start on which we must continue to build our championship,” Domenicali said in a team statement.

Alonso gets in his car, he finished second today - Photo: Ferrari

Alonso gets in his car, he finished second today – Photo: Ferrari

Alonso agrees with his team boss, and is also pleased to see Ferrari has returned to the top. “We can claim to have started this season on the right foot, immediately in the fight with the best. Along with the results from winter testing, it is a very encouraging sign that we managed to get the most out of a weekend that was full of unknown factors, both in qualifying and the race,” said the Spanish double World Champion.

Alonso was adamant the three-stop strategy was the right one, “With the degradation we had, it would have been impossible to manage on one less and bringing forward the second one by a few laps meant I was able to pass Vettel and Sutil.”

But he still thinks Red Bull is very quick, and remarked, “Finishing ahead of the Red Bull tastes like a win, even if we know that despite today’s race result, they are still the quickest.”

He’s already looking forward to the next race in Malaysia, “We can expect another weekend with very changeable weather and one that also puts a lot of stress on the cars from a mechanical point of view and on the drivers, from a physical one. But we can tackle it calmly on the back of this good result.”

Massa can relax a bit, he was fourth today - Photo: Ferrari

Massa can relax a bit, he was fourth today – Photo: Ferrari

Massa was also happy, he even led the race today and he is also upbeat ahead of the next race, “This is definitely a very positive start to the season, especially because this is a track where I have always suffered. We have shown that our car is competitive, with a good race pace and that is down to all the hard work done during winter testing.”

The Brazilian reckoned he could have been on the podium as well, “I had an attacking start to my race, in which I was immediately fighting for the top places. Maybe if we had brought forward the second stop, as Fernando did, the podium would have been within my grasp, but I am still very happy with my result.”

And of course, the man who designed the Ferrari F138, Technical Director Pat Fry, was also pleased with the progress Ferrari has made. “This afternoon, we had a good race pace and both drivers performed well without making any mistakes.”

But there’s still work to be done and the Briton said, “We are aware that we still have a lot of work to do if we want to continue to improve. Maybe we could have risked a two stop strategy, but given the unknowns linked to tyre degradation, we preferred not to do that. In the next races, it will be vital to understand the tyre behaviour, in order to choose the best strategies.”

Ferrari hope to be competitive right from the start of the season

By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari hope to be competitive right from the start of the season - Photo: FerrariFerrari President Luca Cordera di Montezemolo defined the new F138 Formula One car as ‘hopeful’. “Yesterday afternoon, I saw it and I defined it as ‘hopeful’, because I noted plenty of attention to detail, especially in areas where aerodynamics are key,” said the flamboyant Italian.

Why does he have the hope the car will be competitive right from the first race of the season? “The answer is threefold,” said Montezemolo, “Firstly, because of the obsessively detailed review of the past season, secondly, the major changes to the organisation and work methodology and thirdly, the concentration on just one wind tunnel, which will be important, especially throughout this season.”

He again made it clear he wants more testing in Formula One, “Track testing is not available to us, something many would like to see reintroduced, so we have concentrated more on simulation tools. Bringing an experienced driver like De la Rosa to Maranello is part of this strategy and attention to detail.”

He also explained why Fernando Alonso didn’t take part in testing at Jerez next week. “The decision not to run Fernando in the first week at Jerez was dictated by the wish to allow him to stick to a very precise physical training programme. However, for the Barcelona test, attention will switch to performance, which is why Fernando will start then, rather than the first few days,” he said.

Stefano Domenical and the new Ferrari F138 - Photo: Ferrari

Stefano Domenical and the new Ferrari F138 – Photo: Ferrari

Also Team Principal Stefano Domenicali made it clear Ferrari wants to be competitive right from the start, “There are areas of development on the car which will be very important, from now until the end of the year. We have a clear goal, which is to give Fernando and Felipe [Massa] a competitive car, at the highest level.”

And there’s no time for mistakes he said, “Our approach from the first race on must be the right one and we must be mentally ready to deal with very tense moments. We definitely don’t want to find ourselves having to fight like last year to close down a 1.6 second gap to the fastest [team].”

Domenicali is adamant his team will be able to solve problems if they should arise during the start of the season, “If we come up against surprises in the early part of the season, we will try and stay focused, prioritising the reasons why things have not gone as expected.”

Nikolas Tombazis, Ferrari’s Chief Designer, is also certain his team will have a ‘strong package’ at the start of the season, as a result of the recent changes within the Ferrari organisation, “The recent reorganisation of the team after a couple of disappointing seasons had an impact on my position when it became clear that there were too many demands on my time overseeing both the mechanical and aerodynamic aspects,” Tombazis said.

And he explained, “Over the last few years, Formula One has become ever more sophisticated so one person can no longer do every single thing.” Ferrari is this year using the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne, Germany, as Ferrari’s own wind tunnel will get a major upgrade after almost 12 years of service.

Tombazis explained the dilemma Ferrari faced, “The ideal situation would be to have the wind tunnel right here and I cannot say that using a wind tunnel in Cologne is the perfect solution, but weighing up the medium and long-term advantages of having an upgrade on our wind tunnel or carrying on as it was, we concluded that our current strategy was the best.”

Although he is confident Ferrari is ready for the 2013 season, he refused to make any predictions. “Recent years have taught me not to say too much too early, so let’s wait and see what answer we get from the track. I think we have done a reasonable job and we certainly had to make a step up from where we had been in the past few years,” he said.

The Ferrari designer wants to see the results of the first tests of the season before he gives the F138 the final verdict, but he said, “I believe we will have a strong package for the third test and first race.”

Ferrari launches new F138 at Maranello, evolution of 2012 car

By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari launches new F138 at Maranello, evolution of 2012 car - Photo: FerrariFerrari launched their 2013 contender, the F138, at their headquarters in Maranello today. The car, designed by Technical Director Pat Fry and Chief Designer Nicolas Tombazis, doesn’t have the stepped nose, but still has the pull-rod front suspension like its predecessor the F2012.

Ferrari reorganised their technical department ahead of the 2013 season, and the F138 is described by Ferrari as an evolution of the 2012 car, but every part has been revised in order to maximise the performance.

According to a Ferrari statement, “The design philosophy of the suspension layout has not changed and it continues to use pull-rods both front and rear, but it has been refined to the limit, in order to gain as much aerodynamic advantage as possible, especially at the rear.”

“The configuration of the front and rear wings derives directly from the last versions used on the F2012, partly because development of that car ran all the way to the final race of last season,” the statement further read.

The Ferrari F138 – Photos: Ferrari

But the aerodynamic elements of the car as shown today are already obsolete, and ‘significant modifications will be introduced in the weeks leading up to the first race and a busy development programme is already planned’.

The Drag Reduction System (DRS) on the rear wing has been revised due to the modifications of the 2013 Sporting Regulations. According to Ferrari, “Great attention has been paid to weight reduction and on increasing rigidity.”

The KERS system is still located in the mid-lower part of the car to maintain maximum safety standards. Ferrari put a lot of effort in reducing the size and weight of the system, and at the same time improved the efficiency of the components to ensure the highest level of performance during those seven seconds the system can be used during a lap.

During testing in Jerez and Barcelona, Ferrari will also work on understanding the new Pirelli tyres, the team’s pit stops work and strategy management.

Ecclestone could be forced out of office by bribery case

By Berthold Bouman

Ecclestone could be forced out of office by bribery caseFOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone admitted he could be forced out of office by the Gribkowsky bribery scandal, the Formula One boss allegedly paid the German banker a $44 million bribe for the sale of the BayernLB bank’s Formula One shares to investment company CVC in 2005.

Gerhard Gribkowsky was arrested in January 2011 and in June of this year he was sentenced to eight and a half-year imprisonment for tax evasion, bribery and breach of trust.

Ecclestone has admitted he paid the German banker, but stated in court  that Gribkowsky was blackmailing him as he threatened to reveal his tax affairs to the HRMC. He therefore paid the $44 million to the German who was the former Chief Risk Officer of the BayerLB bank.

There have been speculations Ecclestone could be charged with bribery as well, but the Germans are still investigating the matter. If that happens, according to Ecclestone, the investment company CVC ‘will probably be forced to get rid of me if the Germans come after me. It’s pretty obvious, if I’m locked up’.

Bernie Ecclestone

Earlier this year plans for a $10 billion floatation of Formula One were shelved by CVC as they were afraid the bribery case could have a negative effect on the floatation.

During the annual Christmas dinner with the press, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo already hinted that Ecclestone should leave, “If Bernie is accused under process, I think he will be the first to give a step back in the interests of Formula One.”

And he added, “The era of the one-man show cannot continue. We are slowly approaching the end of a period characterised by the style of one man who has done significant things.”

In a report in the UK Telegraph, Ecclestone admitted CVC is searching for a replacement, “They said they had hired a head-hunter to find somebody in the event that I was not going to be there — if I was going to die or something. It is the normal thing they do to keep people happy.”

Ferrari President Montezemolo defends decision to keep Massa for 2013

By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari President Montezemolo defends decision to keep Massa for 2013During the annual Christmas press meeting in Maranello, Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo defended his choice to keep Felipe Massa for 2013. “The Brazilian improved a great deal in the second half: in fact in the first part, it seemed he’d gone on a round the world holiday,” Montezemolo said jokingly.

But he added, “Joking apart, I think the decision to reconfirm his position was the right one: if we had changed, then one would need to take on someone who would make a difference and I can’t say I noticed many drivers around who would be quicker than Felipe.” And he is of course right, it would probably take months for another driver to get used to the famous Scuderia Ferrari, and Montezemolo indeed did not have any alternatives.

But, of course, there’s more to it, as Ferrari firmly believes in team spirit, and the Ferrari boss therefore said, “Also, we did not want to change the balance and the good atmosphere within the team. Domenicali and I told ourselves it was best to wait and I think that the facts proved us right. Towards the end, when Felipe was even faster than Fernando a couple of times, the points he scored played a vital part in securing our place in the Constructors’ Championship.”

Felipe Massa, Ferrari - Photo: Ferrari

Felipe Massa played a vital role in the Constructors’ Championship

About championship runner-up Fernando Alonso Montezemolo said, “The Spaniard is a mix of Lauda and Schumacher: like the former, he has the ability to drive every race lap as though it was qualifying, like the latter, he has the intelligence to know when it’s time to push and when it’s time to look after the car.”

But he lamented Alonso’s bad luck, “Fernando went on holiday at the start of the summer break with a 40 point lead over his closest challenger and because, when it came to collisions we were forced to retire, while others kept going as if nothing had happened.” But he also admitted the car was just not fast enough, “The biggest regret is that we did not have a car that was quick enough to win the World Championship.”

And indeed, Ferrari finished second in both championships this year, but they are no quitters, “Once again this season we were contenders. We must start from this positive point,” concluded Montezemolo. “If we succeed and improve our performance then we can be winners!”

Ecclestone: I’m 82 years old and that’s how it is!

By Berthold Bouman

I didn’t take long for Bernie Ecclestone to react on Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo’s comments that the Formula One boss would be ‘too old’ for his job. “The one thing he is correct about is my age — there is no doubt about that. I can’t do anything about that. I’m 82 years old and that’s how it is,” said Ecclestone to the BBC.

Bernie Ecclestone facing investigation by German Prosecutor

Bernie Ecclestone

And the FOM CEO said about Montezemolo, “He says he doesn’t remember what he says very often. Luca is not as old as me. I’m sure in his case it has nothing to do with his age because he’s always been the same. At least he’s consistent. God knows what’s going to happen when he’s 82.”

But Ecclestone doesn’t take Montezemolo’s comments seriously, he actually likes the Ferrari boss, “Luca is a lovely guy, I’m probably as a big a supporter of him as anybody. I am a big admirer of Luca’s and I’m sorry for all the trouble he’s had with politics recently. He should never have got involved in the first place.”

Ecclestone suspects Fernando Alonso pushed Ferrari to seek clarification about the Vettel yellow flag saga from Formula One’s governing body, the FIA. “I think there was so much pressure from probably the driver. You must remember he’s [Alonso] been saying nearly every race this year the car is rubbish and it’s a bit difficult for them not to look as if they’re trying to do something to help him.”

About the other things Montezemolo complained of, in particularly the current in-season test ban, are easy to explain as on Friday the FIA has its Annual General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey, where the future regulations of the sport will be discussed.

Montezemolo blasts testing ban, Ecclestone is too old for the job

By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo heavily criticized Formula One, and ridiculed FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone, the man who runs the Formula One show, as well. Montezemolo is still not happy with the testing ban and he also reacted on Ecclestone’s attack on the Maranello-based team regarding their stance in what became known as the ‘yellow flag saga’.

“There are things that aren’t going well in this sport and the moment has arrived to clarify these once and for all in the appropriate places. We can no longer have a situation in which the transfer of technology from the track to the street is reduced to the bare minimum, engines and gearboxes are always the same and the aerodynamics no longer has anything to do with research for road cars,” Montezemolo said during the Finali Mondiali days at Valencia.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo - Photo: FerrariFerrari President Luca di Montezemolo

The Italian is still unhappy, if that is the correct word, about the testing ban, “It cannot be that in this sport you can’t test. We’ve been saying this for a while and we will repeat it in the appropriate places so for the moment I don’t want to add anything else. But our patience has run out so someone needs to think about whether they want Formula One still to have companies that invest and consider it the most advanced research bench for its own cars — as Ferrari has always done since 1950.”

Montezemolo forgot one thing: the extensive testing of Ferrari in the ‘good old days’ was actually the reason for the FIA to ban testing altogether and to only allow three pre-season testing sessions. At the time the other teams jokingly said that there was always a Ferrari testing something somewhere, as they spent more days testing than participating in Grands Prix, at the time Ferrari even had two special test teams.

Ferrari is apparently no longer happy with Ecclestone either as Montezemolo also said, “We are constructors, not sponsors: I’m no longer happy that we can’t do testing on tarmac and that you can’t give any chance for young drivers to emerge — since some people have used the expression ‘It’s a joke’ in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real ‘joke’.”

“Yes, I’m referring to one of Ecclestone’s phrases: my father always taught me that you have to have respect your elders, above all when they reach the point that they can no longer control their words. So I will stop there. Certainly, old age is often incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities,” he added.

He was of course referring to Ecclestone who last week said that Ferrari seeking clarification from the FIA about the yellow flags that Sebastian Vettel allegedly ignored during the Brazilian Grand Prix, was ‘a joke.’ But what Montezemolo said about Ecclestone is certainly not a joke and is inappropriate, to say the least. The 82-year old Formula One boss hasn’t reacted yet, but one can be certain that this story will be continued …

Montezemolo wants a total revamp for 2013, Vettel overtaking case is closed

By Berthold Bouman

Montezemolo wants a winning car right from the start of the season

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo - Photo: FerrariA few days ago Ferrari President Luca Cordera di Montezemolo told his Ferrari team that he was proud to have been a contender for the 2012 Drivers’ Championship until the very last race, the flamboyant Italian has now called upon his team to produce a car that is capable of winning right from the start.

Last weekend Fernando Alonso lost the championship to Sebastian Vettel, the difference was just three points, and earlier this week Montezemolo said, “Certainly not winning the title is the cause for great sorrow and great regret, because we always want to win and we came close.”

This morning Montezemolo spoke to his team at their Maranello headquarters and said, “You should be proud of what you have done, because you managed to be contenders right to the very end, even if we did not have the quickest car.”

And he added, “There were at least two cars, the McLaren and the Red Bull, that were better than ours. Therefore having managed to get ahead of at least one of them in the Constructors’ and keeping Fernando in the fight right to the end, was very significant and I wish to thank you for that.”

But although he’s proud of his team, he wants a better car next year and he said, “However, now is the time to look ahead to next year. I want us to start with a car that is immediately capable of fighting for the win and it has to be our first task.”

Montezemolo wants to see changes for next season, “In order to achieve that, each one of us must improve in our own roles by at least a millimeter. We must revamp our organization and our working methods to try and be at the same level as the best, right from the first race, which for too many years now we have failed to do.”

Vettel overtaking case is closed

Alonso and Massa on the podium in Brazil - Photo: Ferrari

Alonso and Massa on the podium at Interlagos

Montezemolo talked a lot about pride this week, the word he seemingly forgot when Ferrari asked the FIA in a letter for clarification about Vettel’s overtaking manoeuvre on Jean-Eric Vergne during the title deciding race in Brazil, hoping the German would get a 20-second post-race penalty and thus could retrospectively lose the Formula One crown to Alonso.

Even Bernie Ecclestone called this move ‘unbecoming’ of Ferrari, the FIA wiped Ferrari’s arguments from the table and said there was ‘no case to answer’ and deemed Vettel had done nothing wrong.

In a statement today Ferrari said, “The letter to the FIA was in no way intended to undermine the legality of the race result. We received tens of thousands of queries relating to this matter from all over the world and it was incumbent on us to take the matter further, asking the Federation to look into an incident that could have cast a shadow over the championship in the eyes of all Formula One enthusiasts, not just Ferrari fans.”

The case is now closed according to the statement, “Ferrari duly takes note of the reply sent by the FIA this morning and therefore considers the matter now closed.”

This week’s Formula One videos (Week 44)

Circuit of the Americas ready to rock and roll

The first of a series of video features showcasing in detail the major aspects of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas. International motor racing announcer Jonathan Green brings us up close and personal with all facets of the Circuit of the Americas as we prepare for our first major international event — The 2012 Formula One United States Grand Prix November 16th to 18th.

The great Ferraris of Sergio Pininfarina exhibition official opening at the Ferrari Museum

Present at the opening were Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo, Paolo Pininfarina, president of the eponymous company, Piero  Ferrari and members of the Pininfarina family including the late Sergio’s wife, Giorgia.

Red Bull Racing Seoul, Korea running

Red Bull Junior driver Antonio Felix Da Costa Seoul Running in the RB7 along the Jamsu Bridge in Seoul, South Korea.

Ferrari Azure event in Maranello with 2012 London medal winners

A day to celebrate Italian excellence “bound together by passion for sports, privation and the will to win”, as Montezemolo said.

Caterham: F1 Technical Briefing, Abu Dhabi: How tyre performance affects F1 car set-up

Performance Director John Iley examines the Yas Marina circuit and explains the effect that varying tyre performance can have on car set-up and performance.

Inside Grand Prix: Does Vettel stay at Red Bull Racing? What does Raikkönen?

The topics are: Vettel staying at Red Bull, Raikkönen staying at Lotus, Rumour mill — France to replace New Jersey, Hockenheim not Nürburgring, Nico Rosberg blog, Championship standings, Brembo Brake Facts.

Massa pleased to be part of the Ferrari family for another year

By Berthold Bouman

Felipe Massa was of course very happy to stay with Ferrari for another year, as was announced by the Maranello-based team yesterday after the Brazilian had met with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo. “Ferrari is my racing family and throughout my entire time in Formula One, I have always driven cars powered by engines built in Maranello: I can’t see myself driving cars propelled by anything else!” said Massa.

Massa to stay with Ferrari for another year

Massa was again the subject of many discussions, as his performance this season had been far under par. But just like last year, Montezemolo has given the 31-year old driver from Sao Paulo another chance. Recently his form has improved and if he had not scored 30 points during the past two races, Ferrari would never have been able to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship from arch-rival McLaren.

Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was also happy with Massa’s new contract, “We are pleased to have extended our relationship with Felipe for a further year,” he said. “He has been part of our family for over a decade and has shown, especially in this recent part of the season, that he is once again competitive at the highest level, which is what is expected of every driver who gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari,” he added.

And, one thing should not be forgotten, Massa is an experienced driver with currently 170 Grands Prix under his belt, he has gathered 663 World Championship points, won 11 races, scored 15 pole positions, 14 fastest race laps and finished on the podium 34 times.

Unfortunately he missed out on the 2008 crown by just one point during one of Formula One’s most memorable championship deciding races, the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix. Massa won his home Grand Prix after taking pole position, but lost the title to Lewis Hamilton in the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season, when the Briton overtook Timo Glock during a rain-struck Grand Prix.

But his most difficult season was 2009 when he was seriously injured in an accident during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and he was sidelined until the end of the season. “I want to thank President Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali, who had faith in me and who have always supported me, even at the most difficult moments,” Massa said yesterday to express his gratitude to the Ferrari team.

Fernando Alonso, who earlier this season had labelled Massa as the best team mate he has ever had, wrote on Twitter, “I am so happy to continue another year with Felipe Massa as a team mate, I’m sure we are the best team!”

Meanwhile Ferrari’s famous horse whisperer, a columnist on the Ferrari website, slammed the English website that suggested Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel was about to sign a contract with Ferrari for 2014.

“All that was required was for an English website to ‘fire off’ the news of a presumed agreement between Vettel and the Scuderia — however inexistent — to unleash the fantasies both of fans and other writers on the web,” the horse whisperer wrote, clearly frustrated by all the rumours that have surrounded Ferrari’s future driver line-up. Montezemolo, rumours say he is the horse whisperer, reacted also and said he didn’t want ‘two roosters in the same hen-house’, but despite this the rumours about Vettel going to Ferrari still persist.

Ferrari denies Vettel rumours, championship still open says Montezemolo

By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has denied rumours Sebastian Vettel could join the Scuderia from Maranello in 2014, as was claimed in reports published today by BBC Sport. “Today the problem is not with drivers. 2013 is still to come but I don’t want to have two roosters in the same henhouse, rather two drivers who race for Ferrari and not for themselves,” said the Italian.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo

“I don’t want problems and rivalries, which we didn’t have between Schumacher and Irvine, between Schumacher and Barrichello, between Alonso and Massa or Massa and Schumi or Massa and Raikkonen,” he explained. He also rubbished the rumours Ferrari wants to hire Adrian Newey, “I can say that he is very good at his job but we also managed to win eight constructors’ titles in the last 13 championships without him: I have huge faith in our own engineers.”

Asked about the position of Felipe Massa he said, “I’m happy to see Felipe Massa back at a high level: tomorrow I will meet him at Maranello, we will have a chance to talk about his future and then I will take a decision.”

He was impressed with the Brazilian’s recent form, as thanks to Massa’s 30 points which he earned during the last two races, Ferrari has taken over McLaren’s second place in the Constructor’s Championship, “He has returned to the levels that we used to know well. I expect a lot from him and his capacity to take points from our rivals.”

And Ferrari is certainly not giving up on winning the 2012 Drivers’ Championship, although Fernando Alonso lost the lead and is now in second place, six points behind Vettel. “Ferrari doesn’t give up and we will fight to the end. It’s a very open championship: a few Grands Prix ago it was McLaren who seemed unbeatable, now it’s the turn of the Red Bull while we are still up there in the fight.

“Over so many years at Ferrari I have seen everything: World Championships lost at the last minute like we saw with Fernando in 2010 — or even after the finishing line itself, like with Felipe in 2008. But we have also won when no one would ever have imagined it possible, such as Kimi’s title in 2007.”

And he warned his rivals, “Pay attention as the situation is changing really fast this year!”

Montezemolo wants Ferrari to focus on the last five races

By Berthold Bouman

Fernando Alonso’s retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix is the second big blow to the championship aspirations of the Spaniard, who also had to retire from the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. But Ferrari is not yet ready to throw in the towel and with five races to go there are still 125 points up for grabs, and Ferrari President Luca de Montezemolo wants his team to be fully dedicated to the final five races.

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo

“It’s at times like these that I want to see the Ferrari I know,” he said. “A team that is focused and that holds its nerve. I will speak to Fernando by phone soon to give him even more motivation with which to tackle these last five races, with the bit between his teeth, as indeed I expect all the team to do.”

He was pleased to see Felipe Massa back on the podium. “Second place for Felipe was very important in this final part of the season when his contribution is even more vital,” Montezemolo said.

But the flamboyant Ferrari boss also expects his team to work even harder, as all is not lost yet, “I expect a huge effort from our engineers who have already shown they are capable of that and we are perfectly aware that this championship is still in our hands.”

Montezemolo praised Alonso, who in his opinion is the best driver around, ”We know we can count on the strongest driver around at the moment and it’s only mistakes from others at Spa and again at Suzuka, that have prevented him from having a more comfortable lead over his rivals. Let’s not forget that, but for those two collisions, today Fernando would have had at least 30 points more and that’s a conservative estimate.”

And the Italian warned his rivals the tide could easily turn in Ferrari’s favour, “In sport, as in life, the wheel turns and we must not forget that recently it has not done so in a positive way for us, but it does not take much for it to change direction.”

Massa still faces uncertain Formula One future

Felipe Massa’s position at Ferrari has been under pressure for quite some time now, but this time it looks like it will be his last season racing for Scuderia Ferrari, and maybe even his last season in Formula One altogether.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari

The only thing the Brazilian can do now is to perform well during the last seven races of the season, hoping Luca di Montezemolo will once again forgive him and give him another year. “There is no news on my future at the moment, but there’s no doubt that good results will help,” Massa confirmed. “I just need to keep pushing hard and getting good results, in the hope of hearing some good news soon,” he added.

“It’s always better to know what the situation is, as of course I want to know what I’m doing next year,” he admitted. “But I can tell you that it’s never happened that I’m in the car in the middle of the race and I start thinking about what I’ll do next year! However, I know that results are what matter, so if the situation arises where you have to take a risk in the race, then you have to think carefully about it, as you know your priority is to finish the race.”

Massa is one of the key figures to the 2013 drivers market, the same goes for Lewis Hamilton who still hasn’t signed a new contract with his current employer McLaren. Of course the rumours say Hamilton will go to Mercedes or Ferrari, which would mean Massa or Schumacher would have to find a new employer for the 2013 season, and that will not be easy, and thus retirement could be an option as well.

Ferrari President di Montezemolo has ruled out hiring Sauber’s Sergio Perez in 2013, as he thinks the Mexican is not experienced enough yet. “Next season is too early, to put a young guy to Ferrari with the pressure of Ferrari, you need more experience” said the flamboyant Ferrari boss recently.

But if Perez is too young and inexperienced, no other of the current talented young drivers in Formula One, like Daniel Ricciardo or Nico Hulkenberg, would be able to replace Massa at Ferrari. Ferrari needs a second driver to support their bid for not only the 2013 Drivers’ Championship, but also for the 2013 Constructors’ Championship.

Another possibility is Kimi Raikkonen moving back to his old Ferrari team, but Lotus maintain they already have contracted the flying Finn for 2013, but both parties have so far refused to confirm this.

Indeed, the future is uncertain for Massa, but on the other hand, if neither Hamilton nor Raikkonen would be interested in driving the second Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso, Ferrari doesn’t have much of a choice and they might as well give Massa another chance in 2013.

Montezemolo and Domenicali praise Alonso for German GP win

By Berthold Bouman

Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali have praised Fernando Alonso for winning the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. “I wish to thank the whole team and Fernando for this fantastic victory! Hockenheim is in a country that is home to some of the greatest car constructors in the world and that has a great Formula One tradition and a Ferrari was in the number one position on track, yesterday in the wet and today in the dry,” said Montezemolo today.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

And the flamboyant Italian added, “I am proud of the amazing job the team has done at the track and the factory over these past few months. We must continue like this.”

Domenicali was also impressed by the Spaniard’s performance. “It was like a 67-lap qualifying run! I find it hard to remember watching from the pit wall such a tight race from the start to the chequered flag,” said the Ferrari team boss. “Fernando was perfect: not one mistake, not one hesitation, pushing to the maximum for an hour and a half. What a driver!”

About the next race this weekend at the Hungaroring, Domenicali commented, “We know we still have a lot of work to do, because we are still not the fastest. We have seen how quickly things can change this season, therefore we must keep concentrating to the maximum, especially on the reliability front.”

Alonso himself meanwhile, also warned Ferrari should keep pushing, as the championship certainly hasn’t been decided yet. “We did not have the quickest car. McLaren and Red Bull had a little bit extra but not enough to get past,” said the winner of the German Grand Prix.

“We must keep focussed, avoid problems with reliability or with the pit stops and I know that when it comes to that, I can count on the best team, a team that is used to winning a lot. I always want to give 100 per cent and work day and night towards this goal.” Alonso commented.

“I always want to give 100% and work day and night towards this goal. I am not forgetting that Red Bull and McLaren were quicker. I said that the month of July would be crucial, with 75 points up for grabs in four weeks and so far we have brought home 43, so we will try and finish the job in Hungary!”

Bitter disappointment for Ferrari in Valencia

By Berthold Bouman

Very disappointed faces in the Ferrari garage this afternoon after qualifying for the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Especially Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo couldn’t hide the disappointment on his face, he had travelled to Valencia to see how his drivers would do, but the result was unexpected, although he should have known better.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

It is actually a miracle Alonso is second in the Drivers’ Championship just two points behind leader Lewis Hamilton. It is a miracle the Spaniard won the Malaysian Grand Prix, and came home second and third during the Spanish and Monaco Grand Prix. It is a miracle Alonso’s worst performance was a ninth place in Shanghai, China. It is a miracle Alonso has scored points during all seven races this season.

In Valencia Alonso qualified 11th, and Massa 13th, which was actually not even their worst qualifying performance. Despite that, Montezemolo was disappointed. Very disappointed.

“Just a few thousandths of a second is all it took to prevent Fernando and Felipe from making it through to Q3 and it’s a real shame, because looking at the times in the final part of qualifying and the potential of our car, we could have been in the fight for the rows right at the front,” said the flamboyant Italian on the Ferrari website.

And added, “I am very disappointed, because I was hoping for something better: the positions on the starting grid definitely don’t reflect the worth of today’s Ferrari and on top of that, it has happened at a track where it is particularly difficult to overtake.”

“But,” he said, “tomorrow, we will try to at least make the most of the fact we have two new sets of softs: tyres are playing a decisive role in this championship and it’s up to us to make the best possible use of them.”

Unfortunately, Montezemolo missed a few facts. For instance, Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta did find those few thousandths of a second and landed eighth and tenth place in a car that was designed and constructed with a budget approximately 35% of the budget Ferrari has. Romain Grosjean, who was responsible for bumping Alonso out of the top ten in Q2, was 0.218s faster in his Lotus than the fastest Ferrari. Even the Williams of Pastor Maldonado was two-tenths faster than Maranello’s prancing horses.

And when the President of Ferrari is disappointed, then according to good Italian tradition, the Team Principal must be disappointed as well. And of course he was. “We are disappointed and there’s no point in denying it. Q2 is the hardest part of qualifying, because this year everyone is very close and it only takes a mere nothing and you pay a very high price. And that’s what happened today to both our drivers,” said Stefano Domenicali.

And he couldn’t help ‘tweaking’ the facts a bit, “Given that with their times from Q2, Fernando would have started seventh and Felipe ninth: with a further two sets of softs to exploit, the times would definitely have been better and I let you draw the inevitable conclusion.”

Well, the inevitable conclusion is that other teams did use that second set of softs in Q2 and that is in fact the reason they made it into the last qualifying session, and Ferrari did not.

Alonso smart as he is, had apparently anticipated this inevitable conclusion and rebuked, “It’s easy to say now that with two runs on softs in Q2 we would have made the cut, but maybe now we would be here lamenting the fact that we did not have two for Q3: it’s always easy to judge things after the fact.”

Yes, that was of course possible, but we will never know will we? Therefore he changed his tune, “However, we were not quick enough to be in the top ten in the second part of qualifying and now the race will naturally be tougher.”

But there seems to be some hope as Alonso also said, “Let’s hope that, starting from the clean side of the track I can quickly make up a few places and then we will try to also make the most of the two sets of new softs we have left: that’s at least a small consolation after this far from positive afternoon.”

So bitter disappointment for Ferrari, but why? They have the magic Alonso, a double World Champion, a Spaniard who is famous for his excellent starts, his dogged determination, and his wisdom when it comes to race strategies. Many people wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a stellar start tomorrow, jumps the Force Indias and the Lotuses, and before you know it he will be chasing Hamilton and challenge him for the lead in the championship!

Vettel eases to pole position for European GP at Valencia

By Berthold Bouman

Sebastian Vettel took his third pole position of the season for Red Bull during qualifying for the European Grand Prix at Valencia, Spain this afternoon. The German topped the time sheets with a lap of 1m38.086s after one single run during the third and last qualifying session. Vettel did have to use a second set of soft tyres to take pole, be he reckoned it was worth it, as starting from the first place of the grid is certainly a huge advantage on a street circuit.

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull

“I think it was a great recovery from Q1 and Q2 today, as I didn’t feel entirely happy in those,” said Vettel. And added, “It had been a good weekend leading up to qualifying, but conditions changed before Q1. However in the end we pulled it altogether. Everyone has worked very hard with preparing new parts for the car, which seem to be step forward.”

Team Principal Christian Horner was delighted with yet another pole, “After such a tight qualifying, where at stages the top seven cars were covered by less than a tenth of a second, for Sebastian to deliver a final lap that put him four tenths clear was a remarkable effort. It has earned him his 33rd pole, meaning he matches Jim Clark and Alain Prost, which are two extremely illustrious names.”

Certainly not a good day for Mark Webber who after he had experienced gearbox problems during the third free practice session this morning, during qualifying had hydraulic problems which meant his DRS didn’t work and the Australian had to throw in the towel in Q1 after taking a very disappointing 19th position on the soft Pirelli tyres.

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest McLaren driver this afternoon and took second place, 0.324s behind Vettel. “I’m extremely happy to be starting on the front row. To see other teams make big improvements to their cars this weekend, and yet still be starting from P2, is a surprise that I’ll happily take,” said Hamilton.

“We’d been struggling a little with set-up and front locking from the start of practice yesterday, so I went into qualifying really just focusing on getting a decent result and starting as high up the order as possible.”

Button again had problems with his front wheels locking and his car was as he said, ‘all over the place’ and the Briton was certainly not happy with his performance and didn’t get any further than ninth place, but at least this time he did make it into the top ten.

Pastor Maldonado had grabbed the first place for Williams earlier in Q3 but ultimately took possession of third place after beating Romain Grosjean who was fourth for Lotus with a time of 1m38.505s, the Frenchman was just 0.008s faster than his team colleague Kimi Raikkonen who will be leaving from fifth spot on the grid tomorrow.

Not a really good day for Mercedes who had high hopes ahead of qualifying, but although Nico Rosberg was able to clinch sixth place, Michael Schumacher, who was one of the favourites for this weekend, did not make it into Q3 and had to be satisfied with 12th position on tomorrow’s start grid. It seems Mercedes still hasn’t found the sweet spot when it comes to tyre performance during qualifying.

Even worse was the performance of both Ferrari pilots, Luca di Montezemolo’s presence in the Ferrari garage didn’t help very much. All Montezemolo could do was shake his head in disbelief after Grosjean had bumped Fernando Alonso out of the top ten in Q2. Alonso finished in 11th place on home soil, while a struggling Felipe Massa took 13th place.

It was a good day though for Force India, as Nico Hulkenberg grabbed eighth place and his team colleague Paul di Resta took tenth place at the Valencia street circuit this afternoon and were thus faster than both Ferraris.

Despite seventh place Hulkenberg had expected a bit more, “I think overall it’s a great result for the team to get both cars into Q3, but maybe we were hoping for a little bit more than P8 and P10, especially considering how we have performed so far this weekend.” And about the racehe commented, “we are still near the front and will take the fight to the cars around us to try and come away with some points.”

This time it was Kamui Kobayashi who made it into Q3 and landed seventh spot for Sauber with a time of 1m38.741s, while Sergio Perez had many problems and took 15th place lapping the circuit in 1m39.353s, almost one and a half second slower than the Japanese driver. “For me the car’s balance wasn’t good in qualifying, and the car felt a bit unpredictable. For the race I hope we can go at a consistent pace with a good strategy,” said Perez.

Also outside the top ten was Williams driver Bruno Senna who was 14th and was far off the pace of his Venezuelan team colleague.

Caterham had something to celebrate today, for the first time this season they qualified for the second session Q2 as Heikki Kovalainen did a great job and took 16th place beating both Toro Rossos, and thus it was all smiles in the Caterham garage this afternoon. Kovalainen attributed his progress to his hard-working team and the many upgrades they had brought for Valencia.

“Today’s performance was the result of a great effort by the whole team. This morning we weren’t sure if we could do it or not but both runs in Q1 were really good. As the temperatures went up and the track kept evolving my car just felt better and better and I really got the most out of it on that final lap on the softs,” Kovalainen commented.

Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne were 17th and 18th for Toro Rosso, it was really the best they could do today. Vitaly Petrov was 20th in the second Caterham, while HRT drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan once again beat Marussia and took 21st and 22nd place respectively.

Charles Pic was 23rd for Marussia, but the unluckiest man of the day was Timo Glock who didn’t even start qualifying as he was still suffering from a stomach bug and was way too ill to drive. Marussia will tomorrow morning announce whether the German will start the race or not.

It would have been an excellent opportunity for Maria de Villota to make her Formula One debut for a Spanish team in front of a Spanish home crowd, but unfortunately for the Spanish lady, the regulations say a driver cannot be replaced after qualifying.

The same weather conditions are expected for tomorrow, and with Vettel, Hamilton and Maldonado in the top three it will be interesting to see what happens at the first and especially the second corner, also keep an eye on Grosjean, Raikkonen and Rosberg behind them, as they are fast starters and could make up two or even three places.

The race strategy will be based upon the performance of the medium tyres, Pirelli expects at least two stops as the soft tyres will degrade very quickly at Valencia.