Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo gave a wide ranging interview to Gazzetta dello Sport, which included the thinking behind the hiring Kimi Raikkonen to replace Felipe Massa and partner Fernando Alonso at Ferrari starting in 2014 – claiming that the Spaniard is happy with the decision.
Montezemolo said, “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.”
The Ferrari boss pointed out, “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.”
“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.”
Word is that Alonso has questioned Raikkonen’s PR skills, a problem Montezemolo appears to acknowledge, “I am the first to understand [Alonso’s] 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 [Raikkonen’s] 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.”
“Going back to Lauda, when he returned with a different energy level, he won the title, beating Prost,” recalled Montezemolo who was team principal at the Maranello squad during thier heyday in the seventies.
Massa was always regarded as one of the family by Ferrari and Montezemolo spoke fondly of the Brazilian, “He’s an exceptional guy and a wonderful person. 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’ Championship. It will be good for him to have a change of scenery.”
The interview also focussed on the team’s current campaign which Montezemolo is refusing to give up on.
He revealed, “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’ Championship.”
“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…”
Italian media have in the past questioned the ability of current team principal, Stefano Domenicali to lead the team.
But Montezemolo remains adamant that the option to replace Domenicali’s was not an option, “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.”
Costs of competing in Formula 1 at the highest level continue to be a hot topic, and Montezemolo is adamant that costs have not been reduced, “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 laughing-stock with no value. And the few tests we do have, well naturally the race drivers do them.”
He also dispelled speculation that car giant Fiat contributed financially to the team, Zero! We get no financial contribution from them and Ferrari survives on its sponsorship, prize money and the cars it sells.”
Finally his thoughts on Formula 1 without Bernie Ecclestone at the helm: We will need to rethink everything, with a structure that provides for a head of administration and finance, a commercial director and a number one for technical matters. The work can no longer be centralised around just one man.” (GP247)
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