Montezemolo puts spotlight on Alonso team player role
Montezemolo puts spotlight on Alonso team player role
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Dec 2009   |  11:42 pm GMT  |  100 comments

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has again put the spotlight on Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s expectation of him that he will work for the team and not for himself.

The driver of whom Ron Dennis once said, “Competitive animals know no limits” and Martin Whitmarsh said, “As long as they can keep him winning I’m sure he will be happy,” comes to Maranello with a bit of baggage and Montezemolo has chosen to confront this head on. He said today that he had spoken with Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali “1,000s of times” about this subject while assessing the risks of hiring Alonso in light of the wreckage which happened at McLaren in 2007,

“I spoke with him (Alonso) and I told him that if you come to drive for us, it’s because we want you, you drive for a team, you drive for a group, you don’t drive for yourself,” said the Ferrari president. “In Ferrari we want to put you in the best condition to win. If not, we will never hire you. We know that you can win the championship — we will do our best — but you are part of it.”

This is the second time Montezemolo has made comments along these lines. This does not happen by accident because he’s had too much Christmas sherry, the comments are made for a reason and expectations are being managed on all sides here.

The dynamic with Alonso’s Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa will be one of the main talking points of the 2010 season. Massa has said that he will not be standing aside and giving Alonso a clear path to victory.

Meanhile Autosport is reporting this evening that the FOTA joint launch has again hit problems. Many teams are unhappy about the coverage they might get in the shadow of an event in Valencia headlined by Alonso and Ferrari in one corner, Schumacher and Mercedes in another with Hamilton and Button at McLaren in the supporting cast. How much air time would Force India or Toro Rosso get on a day like that?

The FOTA joint launch has been plagued with problems since the outset with PR companies invited to pitch for the work but vexed by the demands being made of them and a confused picture of what everybody wanted to achieve. At the time of the F1 commission meeting in Monaco last Thursday it seemed to have been agreed that the joint launch would go ahead as a public event with a budget of €2.4 million. But now it looks like it might be in danger of falling over.

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Things will erupt with Massa and Alonso if it ends up kicking off.


I have never really understood this idea that Maclaren give equal treatment to both drivers. They like everyone else only do this when it is their best interests. When Montoya and R Schumacher were equally mediocre they got equal treatment, when Hamilton and Alonso were equally excellent they got equal treatment. However when Hakkinen was better Coulthard or Hamilton better then Kovi they gave they star guy the lead. Everyone does it and will always do so it is the logical thing to do.


Ralf? In a McLaren? Mediocre yes, but in a McLaren?


It atleast proves that Ferrari have considered the events of 2007 carefully in their plans, but a risk is still a risk no matter how you splice it.

Montezemolo and others know full well that the unforgiving hammer weilded upon them by the Italian media if this fails will fall on their heads. We all know that Alonso and Massa are fierce competitors, and this combination would be a challenge for any team to master. The consensus is though that it is Massa who is best placed at Ferrari, it is up to Fernando to prove that he is the better driver and Ferrari’s best hope for the 2010 championship.

At McLaren, Alonso’s best performances were after the events of Hungary 2007, when his relations within the team were at their lowest. It was also the time when Hamilton’s fortunes began to unravel and he started to make mistakes, infamously during the Chinese grands prix of that year.

In many ways, Massa’s talents have been allowed to flourish at Ferrari over the past four years, especially with Raikkonen as his team mate. It is obviously going to be very different for the Brazilian, having a very political competitor in Alonso across the garage.

It is not often that Ferrari can take lessons in driver management from McLaren. The Schumacher/Barrichello pairing was one of the most formidable in history, however the manner in which Fernando’s career at McLaren fell apart so publically would make anybody wary.

The key factor is that we will, if their cars are up to par, have Hamilton and Alonso going head to head again. One in a Ferrari, the other in a McLaren.


I don’t know about you James, but I have a bad feeling about Alonso to Ferrari. Don’t get me wrong…I like Fernando, but in my mind, shades of McLaren are at work here and if he gets off to a slow start (i.e. Massa’s quicker), then what?


James there are claims being made that Luca’s comments were not as it was portrayed in the English media.

Can you confirm if Luca words were translations from Italian quotes or direct quotes in English?


“Due to lack of F1 history knowledge, I can’t find a proper comparison for other top drivers in similar situation”.

The Piquet-Mansell title battle at Williams in 1986 may be considered a parallel. They both screwed up in the last part of the season, despite having the best car, allowing Prost to take the title in his inferior McLaren. That year, Mansell was probably even more unlucky than Hamilton in 2007.


I must say I love the Ron Dennis quote about competitive animals. Who better to make such an observation!


As a big Massa fan i look forward to the arrival of Alonso, as i did Raikkonen. Raikkonen pushed Massa to new heights and Hamilton pushed him in 2008, i’m aware that hardly anyone believes Massa can beat him, but i think do, if he beat Raikkonen and matched schumacher at the end of 2006 i think he can beat anyone.

This is Felipe’s big test, he has to watch out for Alonso and Kubica(who wants his drive) while fighting for the title, Forza Massa


Didn’t Luca push Michael out of the team in the first place? The way I see it Michael has served his term at Ferrari and given them their glory years. Time to move on to a greater challenge. I found his “twin” statement very peculiar indeed. I don’t think Schumi would have appreciated his comments


I am having a lot of questions about the whole Schumacher – Massa – Luca thing:

1. Why would Ferrari prefer Massa to a seven time world champion? Massa is clearly not in the same league as Schumacher, Hamilton and Alonso. Luca is making a big mistake here.

2. Why did Schumacher want to protect Massa’s career by give up his race seat to Massa three years ago? Well, it is payback time now: Why can’t Massa give Michael’s car back? For one year only. It would benefit his health and Ferrari as Michael would remain in the family. But no, teamplay does not come to mind here.

3. Okay. So Ferrari needs Massa for the Santander deal. Why? Ferrari is one of the few teams making a profit from F1. They don’t really need the money. Do they?

I don’ really get this Massa adulation from Ferrari.

They’ve made Ross Brawn redundant a few years ago. Now they are doing the same to Schumacher. It is time for Michael to move on. To his old fellow. I can’t wait for the Brawn – Schumacher – Mercedes magic.


Agreed. Such statements should give Michael great motivation to get in his Mercedes next year and humiliate Ferrari on the track.


Regarding the air time,do you know what are these teams proposals?


If McLaren went behind Alonso fully in 07, they would get two titles easily. If I were Ron, I would want Hamilton won instead of Alonso. Eventually the shareholders of the team were the big loser. My point here is the team can really screw up their season more than their driver. If the team and drivers share the same benefit of winning, they will succeed. That could not be said in the case of McLaren/Alonso relation. I still remember the cheering in the McLaren garage only for Hamilton’s action.

I am not saying Alonso is perfect. Due to lack of F1 history knowledge, I can’t find a proper comparison for other top drivers in similar situation (James can probably help me on this).

If Ferrari think Massa is good enough, why hire Alonso. Once you hired him, please trust the guy and don’t repeat mistakes of team McLaren.


Hiring Alonso merely to get Santander money onboard through a water tight 5 years deal sounds very much the case. After which they wouldnt be really rooting for Alonso as the number 1.


“Due to lack of F1 history knowledge, I can’t find a proper comparison for other top drivers in similar situation”. The Piquet-Mansell title battle at Williams in 1986 may be considered a parallel. They both screwed up in the last part of the season, despite having the best car, allowing Prost to take the title in his inferior McLaren. That year, Mansell was probably even more unlucky than Hamilton in 2007.


i really dislike Alonso, could he be making demands and making waves already.

This is thier way of saying shut up and get on with it ??


Hello James,

Why is it Ferrari has been so reluctant to continue implementing the “one man team” philosophy ever since Michael Schumacher left? It seems like the team is allowing their emotional attachment to Massa overrule their purpose for hiring and calling for Alonso to assume the “Schumacher role”.


becuause maybe Ferrari were so fed-up of hearing for years that they dont have the proper racing philosophy like McLaren and Williams meaning having TWO EQUAL DRIVERS !!!

and now finally when Ferrari are doing what F1 fans are expecting of them ( giving equal treatment to both drivers , which btw was actually the case when Schumacher was there )

Now Alonso fans are bitching that Ferrari shoild resort to having a no 1 status !!

what a bunch of hypocrytes with short memories !The no 1 driver status was’nt accepted when MS was driving but now all of a sudden it’s OKAY for Alonso ??


I knew an old man who had made his living for 50 years betting on horse races without ever going to the track. He said he does it strictly by studying the race forms, stating: “Since the trainers also secretly bet on the races, they can do a lot to influence the outcome of the races. All I do is use the forms to decipher what they are trying to tell me” (what they are attempting to do).

So again Ferrari with the statements emphasizing the word “team”. What is Ferrari actually trying to say?

It seems apparent they are trying to change SOMEBODY’S mind with this political campaign. Who would that be, and why does their mind need changing?

Someone on the team, or someone who either owns it or is betting on it?

Those “we need another Schumacher” statements earlier this autumn must be biting them in the ass right now. Unlike Schumacher before him, Alonso isn’t coming in with a strong team, and there’s another good team already there on Massa’s side of the garage.

I’d place a good bet that they are neither happy with Alonso and his former team messing with their championship bid last year, nor with his statements to the press last year about the drivers who were fighting for that championship, dismissing their attempts as undeserving (or something to that effect).

There’s a lot of money (and probably jobs) on the line all over the place to make this Alonso for Kimi switcheroo to work out.


If Schumi likes Massa as much as has been claimed, would he do a year with Mercedes to repay some debts and then bring Massa along to replace him? Just can’t see Felipe getting another proper crack at the title with Alonso as his teammate so would he consider leaving his “home” ?


The question is would Mercedes want Massa? Probably not, if they can get their hands on Vettel in the near future.


Massa and Alonso are going to tear each others heads off…


Methinks Di Montezemolo says too much. Domenicali is the team principle but he must feel like the office boy at times.


I agree with you there…. being an ousider you cant really know but he does seem to me to be a bit too ‘corporate’ at times… he loves mentioning the ‘details’ in his interviews… but i guess that is his job…?

Paige Michael-Shetley

Agreed 100%. Domenicali is nothing more than a figurehead.

It’s really clear based on comments that the decision to dump Raikkonen for Alonso was LdM’s decision. (i.e., LdM saying that ***HE*** would “make it happen” in reference to Alonso driving for Ferrari before the announcement was made.) Domenicali’s statements about the situation are basically the same word-for-word as LdM’s, as if LdM has given Domenicali a script to read.

One thing is for sure: Jean Todt would never have stood for LdM meddling in his race team or making the kind of public statements LdM has made. Not so surprisingly, Ferrari has gone downhill since Todt vacated the Team Principal role and LdM’s ego took over.


It’s all well and good to quote Dennis or Whitmarsh with regard to Alonso but they both failed miserably in 2007. Allowing Hamilton to challenge an established WDC was pure folly. They paid the price for their egregious error in judgement by allowing Kimi to snatch the title from them. Given that Kimi had just left McLaren, it was sort poetic that he was the one to capitalize on McLaren’s bungling. Alonso has been tagged with being difficult etc since then. Some of it may be deserved, but most of it is pure nonsense perpetuated by McLaren supporters. Alonso is the best driver on the grid. The most complete driver by far.

Montezemolo is trying to leverage Alonso’s reputation to put more pressure on him to perform. He is also using that reputation to set Alonso up as a potential fall guy in the event Ferrari produce a sub-standard car. The rats nest that is Ferrari F1 politics is back at work. After taking a hiatus during the Schumi, Brawn, Todt, Byrne years. Montezemolo pushed out Kimi and slandered him. He also pushed Michael towards the door to make room for Kimi. Alonso had better prepare himself for doing battle on, and off the track.


James, is it possible that Alonso let Ferrari know that he was uncomfortable with Schumacher’s involvement with the team, and wanted him a bit more distant, and this may have made it easier for Schumacher to consider the switch to Mercedes (along with all the other reasons)?


C’mon ! the notion that Schumacher left Ferrari becuase of Alonso is completely ridiculous … how many times have we seen Schumacher and Alonso on the football field (post 2006) having a great time together,

Schumacher welcomed Alonso with open arms when Alonso’s announcement at Ferrari was made official ! So enough with stories !


Schumacher welcomed Alonso because he dislikes Raikkonen whose arrival forced him to retire.


So much speculation about future relations between Alonso and Massa…

If Ferrari will have great car for next season, it absolutely normal that now and then team mates play some kind of ming games. It´s part of the show, and in other sports we have the same kind frictions.

We know Alonso, but we also know Massa. The brasilian guy isn´t affraid of anyone in the grid and if someone tries to play with him, there will be problems because Massa isn´t the kind of guy who stay quite. If someone asked me to point out something about Massa which I don´t apreciate, it´s exactly the difficulty he has in keeping his mouth shut. He speaks to much and reacts agressively. Much more than Alonso who seems to deal better with those kind of frictions.

Massa will never be (again) a second driver. He is very fast and able to win as he has shown many times, and in Ferrari he is at home. He was second driver when he was team mate of Schumaker, but that was a very different situation.

By then Schumaker had the all team behind him and that was the main reason of his success (72 victories in a Ferrari, I think). He was very very good but without such a great team giving him everything he needed to win…

Now the game is very different. Massa will have to go flat out with all his speed an determination and try to beat Schumaker. That will be very interesting to watch. I have the feeling that Schumaker could be in bad shape next year. IF he doesn´t have a supercar, McLaren and Ferrari could beat him and Mercedes hard, very hard (Mosley words about Todt versus Vatanen).


about the Alonso-Massa thing… they can talk all they want right now…

all one can say is… we will see.. march isnt too far off…

Paige Michael-Shetley

At the same time, though, James, I think LdM is basically hinting that Ferrari views Alonso as the number one driver. Here’s an interesting comment he made on the Raikkonen-Alonso switch:

“We realised that our team needed a driver capable of really getting involved with the engineers, a characteristic that was not part of Kimi’s genetic make-up, even though he is an amazingly talented guy.”

According to lots of sources, Ferrari already had a driver with such capability: Felipe Massa, who is reportedly (including self-reportedly) engages with people at almost every level at Maranello, including members of the other side of the garage. It’s very hard for me to escape the interpretation of LdM’s comments that Ferrari view Massa as inadequate and Alonso as their new leader. Other comments coming out of Ferrari on the Alonso move- especially those comparing him to Schumacher, talking about his ability to lead a team, etc.- imply the same view.

If this is in fact the way Ferrari really feel and will operate next year, it’s a real shame for Massa, who proved he could compete for a championship in 2008 and was arguably the best driver in 2009 before his accident. On the other hand, Massa faced a similar situation before 2007 when Ferrari were making similar comments about Raikkonen, and he was clearly motivated to work harder, improve, and deliver top results, so we can expect a similar effort from him this year.

The whole situation reminds me most of the Prost-Mansell pairing at Ferrari in 1990. Mansell was the established driver at the team and had gotten the best results possible out of a Ferrari that was just not on par with McLaren even with his occasionally signature daft and erratic moments. Ferrari then brought in Prost, who proceeded to do Mansell’s head in and drive him nuts. I think Massa is a very similar character to Mansell: very passionate and determined, yet at the same time quite insecure. I view Alonso as having developed into a Prost-like person in the aftermath of the year with Hamilton: very cool-headed and calculating. I can see Alonso doing to Massa what Prost did to Mansell, with the situation ending for Ferrari like the Prost-Mansell one did; in other words, not well.


An interesting analogy, Paige. I suspect the only constant is the team name and the Tifosi, but the potential is there. I saw very few of the races that year, largely reading about them in magazines. My memory is that Mansell got the worse reliability and that added to his frustration.

I suspect that with high reliability, the edge will go to the quicker driver of next years car. I don’t buy the argument that Ferrari favoured Massa over Raikkonen – I believe it was a case that over the season Massa was able to make the car work more often. If the Ferrari is the best car and both Alonso and Massa are equally able to exploit it, then games will start. Otherwise it is likely to be similar to Vettel-Webber situation where comments are made but it is relatively civil.

Paige Michael-Shetley

It depends on what you mean by “favored.”

If you mean that Massa was designated the number one driver, then no, he wasn’t favored.

If you mean that Massa was supported more by team members and engineers as a result of his engaging with them while Raikkonen was Mr. “Show up and drive,” then I do think it happened. Also, a number of sources claimed that the F2008 was an understeery car (especially after mid-season upgrades), which suited Massa’s style more.


The Prost-Mansell analogy is very interesting, Paige, and a great topic for discussion. The backdrops are remarkably similar in that both Mansell and Massa had delivered excellent results but were/are perceived to be flawed in some way that separated them from the multiple champions of the day, hence both being partnered by such drivers.

The differences are interesting, too. Mansell did not speak Italian and was fairly bluff and forthright. Prost was fluent in Italian and also the ultimate racing politician, much more the fencer to Mansell’s pugilist. At today’s Ferrari, Massa is fluent in Italian and much more integrated in the team than Mansell ever was. Alonso is clever but I don’t view him as being in Prost’s league of manipulation.

The ‘Top Trump’ card specifications of Alonso and Massa are, I think, closer matched than were Prost’s and Mansell’s. Where the divide is greater and to Massa’s detriment, is that Mansell came to the team expected to deliver wins and hopefully the title, whereas the Brazilian was employed to support the top driver and, speed not withstanding, almost accidentally became elevated to more or less lead status when a previously unrecognised flaw in Raikkonen prevented him from driving forward the development of a weak car.


Button was the best driver before Massa’s accident


Welll.. was he?

Paige Michael-Shetley

I agree, but you could make a case that Massa car-adjusted doing the best job of any driver. He really did well to get as much out of the car as he did.


yes that’s true, you are right about Massa’s attitude, he really does appreciate everybody in the team, great guy.

But I have always wondered, if he didn’t have his horrific accident, would it be Massa being replace my Alonso rather than Raikkonen?


Alonso has learnt a lot during his mclaren period. I don’t think he’ll make the same mistakes. How everything goes, depends on him getting the upper hand over massa soon. If he is unable to do it, it can turn sour. But never as bad as it was at mclaren. First of all, james allen and the other members of the british press, don’t have the same influence they had over the mclaren team, and they already have two recent british world champs, so they are not as desperate as they were during 2007.


Hi, José – I think, mate, you really don’t know this business. If you think that the British press is biased, you really don’t the guys in Italy — or even Ferrari.

Pray to Alonso take control of Massa as quick as he can, because if Fernando fail to do so, the Italian “Gionalistas” will turn his life in a hell.

Ask a guy named Alain Prost, he would love to tell you some histories…


british press is always baised…. i was other day watching old videos .. “Hard Talk” one with mosley where the host is trying to rub the whole spygate thing onto alonso …it was really dissapointing to see british view and thinking hamilton is “hero” n star….alonso the villain…. lets not forget wen martin makes comment like “we handled the situation badly”…. more of the problem is with the team….


Mate. The fact that the italian journalists are worse than the british, don’t make the british perfect. The fact is that they are fans like us, and in 2007 they lost it a little bit. More than 10 years without a world champ was too much to handle, and when a talent like hamilton showed up, they did anything within their power to help him get a shot at the title. And sure they did. It’s just human, i probably would have done the same. Mate.


James – exactly how much influence *do* you have over the McLaren team? 😉


FOTA Joint Launch = Stupidest idea ever.


The joint launch is a good idea, however not for the press since rightly the small teams would not get any exposure.

But to present all the teams and drivers together prior to the season at an event open to the public would be a good idea i think. This would give the fans a chance to get close to the cars and drivers away from the constraints of a race weekend and would ad to the exitement in the build up to the coming season.

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