Yesterday was Ferrari’s traditional end of year dinner with the Italian media and there have been some headlines about company president Luca Montezemolo wanting more from the team and from Felipe Massa.
But less widely reported were his comments about world champion Sebastian Vettel and Bernie Ecclestone, which could have more far reaching consequences.
There have been various stories this year speculating about Ferrari’s interest in Vettel, but Gazzetta dello Sport’s Pino Allievi – normally a reliable guide to the goings on in the corridors of Maranello – suggests that there has been a change of feeling and that the desire to get him there in 2014 – to work alongside Alonso and take over from him – is now real and strong.
The formula the team built around Michael Schumacher was unbeatable and Ferrari is trying to replicate that now with Schumacher’s natural heir, Alonso.
The natural heir to Alonso is undoubtedly Vettel. The three drivers share a number of qualities of which intelligence and winning spirit are the two most significant.
“Vettel is a brilliant driver,” said Montezemolo. “He’s young, but seems very intelligent in the way he carries himself. He has a great future..let’s see. I like drivers who use their head more than their right foot.
“But it would be on condition that we don’t upset the balance in the team. Today we have a balance, I don’t want drivers who’ll have a problem with each other.”
Also to be carefully noted were Montezemolo’s comments about F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone, which are a signal that after several years of making tough, critical statements about the 81 year old supremo, there has been a genuine thawing of relations between the two men and observers in Italy believe it could presage a deal in the New Year which would tie F1 and its most important brand together.
“I must pay tribute to Ecclestone who has always had a great respect for the role and importance of Ferrari,” said Montezemolo.
The feeling is that part of working to get Ferrari signed up for a new long term deal with the sport involves Ecclestone working to fulfil some of Montezemolo’s wishes, like the return of more testing.
Montezemolo appears to have put his ambitions to get involved in Italian national politics on the back burner for the moment, with a change of government in Italy amid the chaos of the Euro crisis. He is going to be centrally involved in the next stages in F1.
It will be a very interesting year, 2012. As well as a closer fight on the track between the top three teams, I believe, be ready to hear a lot about politics between teams, about the new Concorde Agreement and the FIA under Jean Todt has yet to show its hand.
Of course there could be developments arising from the outcome of the Gribkowsky case in Munich which could reverberate in F1.