Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo believes that Mercedes’ form since the test it conducted with Pirelli in Barcelona in May damages the credibility of the championship.
Since the test, Mercedes has won three of five Grands Prix and moved ahead of Ferrari into second place in the Constructors’ Championship. Mercedes has 208 points and Ferrari 194, with Red Bull on top with 277pts.
In a wide-ranging interview in Corriere della Sera, which was reproduced on the Ferrari.com site, Montezemolo welcomed the return of testing next season and made comparison with the situation we had this season where its restriction led to confusion over what kind of testing was permissible, which ultimately led to the International Tribunal hearing over the Mercedes test. This concluded that Mercedes had breached the Sporting Regulations, but had done so in good faith and basically found Mercedes, Pirelli and the FIA responsible in equal measure for the situation.
“We will finally have testing again and not a farce like what we saw this year with one team doing illegal testing, without even paying the right penalty for it,” Montezemolo said. “In this case, I would have expected more clarity and courage from the FIA.
“On the other hand, the benefits gained by the team that carried out the secret banned testing are watched by everyone. Before then, it had not won a single Grand Prix, then after the test it won three out of five races. These are the sort of serious incidents that affect F1’s credibility and alter the championship.”
Mercedes scored 72 points in the first five races of the season and in the five races since Monaco has scored 136, almost double the number.
At the same time, Ferrari has done the opposite; 117 points from the first five races and only 77 from the last five.
The Mercedes has had consistent qualifying pace throughout the period with seven out of ten pole positions, but the difference is clearly in race performance and specifically tyre management.
Monzezemolo also used the interview to reiterate that he felt he needed to intervene and publicly tick off Fernando Alonso because of “some attitudes, a few words, some outbursts..”
There has been a feeling recently that Alonso was running the show and this episode may well be aimed at recalibrating things at Maranello. It’s a calculated strategy, Montezemolo knowing that Red Bull is unlikely to take Alonso and there is nowhere else for him to go.
But he also put Felipe Massa on notice,
“Felipe is a quick driver and a great guy. But in the past days, we were very clear with him: both he and us need results and points. Then, at some point, we will look one another in the eye and decide what to do.”
Massa has had several stays of execution; in recent years his career has been a prevailing trend of underachievement with occasional runs of form.
Montezemolo is clearly irked by the general state of his team and experience suggests that when he gets irked, something needs to change; he gave team boss Stefano Domenicali the thumbs up for his work, but encouraged him to be tougher and to make hard decisions. It may be that this time Massa does not escape the axe.
Last year the team left it until late in the season for Massa to prove his form, which he did in the closing stages. It will be interesting to see if there is any movement in the transfer market by Ferrari once F1 comes back off its summer break. Nico Hulkenberg is at the top of a short list of possible candidates, but it is understood that the Ferrari management isn’t wildly excited about any of the options. There has been speculation about an offer to Kimi Raikkonen, as a possible hedge against a fall out with Alonso, but its unlikely that he would go there to partner the Spaniard.
If the F1 team is toiling a little at the moment, Ferrari’s road car operation is in the form of its life with its strongest ever net cash position at €1.2 billion and net profits for the first six months of 2013 up by 20% to €116 million on revenues of €1.17 billion. Sales in China slowed, while the US and UK were both up, with the UK taking over from Germany as Ferrari’s leading European market.