Last Friday, somewhat lost among all the furore over the announcement of the Hamilton-Mercedes transfer, there was an important note made by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo in a Q&A session at the Paris Motor Show. It was the session where he confirmed that Ferrari would need to shut down its wind tunnel in either December or January for calibration checks, which has had reasonably wide coverage.
In the same session, Montezemolo talked about Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and there were a couple of important lines to note, for better understanding the full picture when the time comes for the team to announce who will drive alongside Alonso in 2013.
The first point was that he described Alonso as “the strongest driver Ferrari has ever had,” which is quite some claim.
But then he responded to Alonso’s line from Singapore that, “If the team decides to change Felipe, anyone who arrives has to be better than Felipe. I’ve seen a lot of names written, and I don’t know if they have been written with the head or the heart. With all the names you hear, if you compare what Felipe has done in Formula 1 and what these little names have done in Formula 1…”
Montezemolo said, “He’s right that there aren’t any “phenomenons” in circulation. But first Fernando should win the world title and then we will certainly not put anyone alongside him who would bother him. It is the case that the decisions on drivers are taken by us, obviously sharing them with him. Massa has been very strong in the last two races. I’m taking a few days to reflect.”
This is interesting on a couple of levels; first by agreeing with Alonso that the possible candidates for the seat are “little names” it makes for some uncomfortable questions if and when then should hire a Di Resta or a Hulkenberg. Also the use of the word “share” is interesting. In Italian he says that of the decisions “ovviamente condividendole con lui”, which literally means “obviously sharing them with him.” I take that to mean that they will share their decisions with him, rather than that he would have a share in making the decision, but there is a slight ambiguity there which is intriguing.
Meanwhile Massa said this week, “The best way to deal with this situation is to race without thinking about the future. My future is important, but now what counts are results. I feel good. At Suzuka we can be very competitive because there are plenty of fast corners which suit the F2012.”
There is a feeling that one of the two Force India drivers has a shot at the Ferrari drive. There’s been a suggestion at large for a few weeks now that one of them is on some sort of option for a one year deal, a kind of “prove yourself” opportunity.
The team seem to be in no hurry to decide, but the market is now shifting into gear with the log-jam of Hamilton/Schumacher/Perez having been cleared, so it may not be too long before we learn what Ferrari plans to do.
Ferrari is rallying in the Constructors’ championship thanks to 26 points from Massa in the last three races. They are now in third place, 14pts ahead of Lotus and 16 behind McLaren.