Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has written an open letter to the Ferrari fans, or tifosi as they are known in Italy, asking them to stick with the team in what promises to be a challenging season, but also challenging the FIA and the organisers to be careful on a couple of levels.
One of the most interesting passages is where he says, “Such an important set of changes to the regulations is bringing some grey areas, for example fuel, software, consumption… In these I am fully expecting the FIA to be vigilant – as I’m sure they will be – to avoid any trickery, which has also taken place in the recent past but must not happen any more for the good of this sport.”
The FIA has a very complex job in policing the new rules and there are many things for them to check at the races; with more sophistication in technology comes more ways to circumvent the rules, is his message and there are bound to be some controversial moments where teams get around regulations. There is also the elephant in the room of engine homologation and whether manufacturers will be allowed to do anything to their power units now that they are homologated, beyond fixes for reliability issues. If it turns out that the Mercedes unit is a long way ahead, will the rules be bent to encourage competition? Renault are pushing hard for changes, in light of their difficulties. But they were allowed to do updates in the early V8 days (around 2008/9) and they won most of the world championships since then.
Another familiar Montezemolo message is the fear that drivers become like “taxi drivers” because they are carefully nursing their cars around, rather than racing to the limit in the “extreme F1” which he and many fans want to see.
This will resonate with the fan base, as will his fears that the sport is becoming too complex for mass market appeal. It’s an exciting moment for the sport, with the new technology changing the order and sending out a new message, but F1 must be very careful not to become so complicated that fans cannot follow it. An FIA briefing for media in Melbourne on Thursday was mind blowing in its complexity; even for journalists who have been living this sport for over 20 years.
Here is the text of Montezemolo’s letter:
“It seems incredible but another season is about to begin and I, like you, am anxious and in a state of strong trepidation – as happens to me every year, even though I have gone through so many championships as President and, before, as sporting director. There are more unknowns and uncertainties about this season than in the past. The rule changes are profound and numerous. It’s not just a matter of the new six-cylinder turbo engine, but also systems with integrated electric engines, control units with innovative and complex software, a new package of aerodynamics… In essence it’s a complicated car that will also require a different driving style.
“So the first target is reliability, as we clearly saw in the test sessions.
Everyone has issues; we have lined ours up and we are in the process of resolving them. We’re also putting into practice an intense plan of development, which can count on the fact that the data from the wind tunnel have been confirmed by the track comparisons, something that has not happened in recent years.
“It will also be a difficult championship for the spectators to follow. The drivers will have to take care that they do not wear out the tyres and save fuel. I have already said that I hope they don’t turn into taxi drivers and I say that with the greatest respect to taxi drivers, but they obviously do a different job. I, like all of you, love an extreme Formula 1 where technology and drivers are always on the limit.
“Such an important set of changes to the regulations is bringing some grey areas, for example fuel, software, consumption… In these I am fully expecting the FIA to be vigilant – as I’m sure they will be – to avoid any trickery, which has also taken place in the recent past but must not happen any more for the good of this sport.
“So what should we expect from tomorrow? I have asked for the highest commitment from Domenicali and his team and I know that they are all doing their best. We have a strong team, the best driver pairing – who are experienced and very talented – and everyone knows what they have to do.
“We can count on an important factor that only we have: the immense affection from you, our tifosi, all over the world. I ask you for your usual great support: let’s not go overboard in the good moments and let’s not give up in harder ones. The championship is long and the objective is clear.