Fernando Alonso waved the starter’s flag at the Le Mans 24 Hours race, one which is inextricably linked with the history of Ferrari, but at Maranello they were quick yesterday to shoot down a story in Wall St Journal which suggested that the Scuderia was poised to leave F1 to race again in the classic 24 hours race.
Of course,” Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo said, “We cannot do sports-car racing and Formula One. It’s not possible.”
It came on the back of another Montezemolo interview in which he slated modern 2014 F1: “Formula One isn’t working. It’s declining because the FIA have forgotten that people watch the racing for the excitement. Nobody watches racing for the efficiency, come on.
“And we cannot touch the engine,” he added, referring to the rules banning development of the engines beyond reliability fixes.
“People watch racing to be entertained,” he said. “No one wants to watch a driver save gas or tires. They want to see them push from here to there. It’s sport, yes, but also a show.”
Montezemolo has also written to Bernie Ecclestone and the majority shareholder CVC calling for a summit meeting to address the sport and its declining audience figures and its future direction.
The Wall St Journal – mindful of Montezemolo’s previous threats in 2009 to leave F1 if then FIA president Max Mosley’s infamous budget cap was adopted and the threats from Enzo Ferrari to quit whenever things got sticky in the past – concluded that “Ferrari Could Leave Formula One” adding “Chairman Suggests Possible Switch to Sports-Car Competition”
Yesterday Ferrari distanced itself from such suggestions, “This is a bit of a stretch based on President Luca di Montezemolo reiterating that Formula 1 needs to evolve and renew itself, while also admitting that there is a unique attraction to the 24 Hour race.
“To say that after 2020, Ferrari could quit Formula 1 to concentrate on Le Mans and the Endurance championship takes his words to extremes. Plus of course, there’s nothing to stop Ferrari upping the ante and competing in both disciplines. So it’s just pure speculation.”
Ferrari is committed to F1 to at least the end of 2020 thanks to the deal struck between Montezemolo and Ecclestone two years ago. They and Red Bull were the first names on the list when the F1 impresario was locking down teams for the future and they both receive significant additional payments for their participation; Ferrari as longest serving team gets a large payment none of the others are entitled to.
As the deadline of June 30 approaches for changes which can take effect next season and no sign of any meaningful cost savings for F1, it is the small teams who are under threat of not continuing in F1, not Ferrari.
There are signs that we could lose one team before the end of this season and two or three others aren’t far behind, as they struggle with the lopsided distribution of funds to teams which sees top teams like Ferrari take the lions share of the money.
Ferrari is in many ways the spine of F1 and it will always have the “nuclear” option up its sleeve of threatening to quit if it wants to strong arm through a change.
But it isn’t doing it on this occasion.