Montezemolo: Ecclestone should quit over corruption charges

Bernie Ecclestone should quit if German prosecutors charge him with corruption according to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, who recently attacked F1’s chief executive for being too old to remain in charge of the sport.

“Could the post be filled by Montezemolo?” wondered Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt.

Whether or not the 65-year-old Italian wants the 82-year-old Briton’s job, he admits to thinking the Ecclestone era should be over.

“I hope for Bernie and F1 that nothing will happen,” Montezemolo, referring to the possibility Ecclestone will be formerly charged over the Gerhard Gribkowsky bribery scandal, told the Independent.

“If Bernie is accused under process, I think he will be the first to give a step back in the interests of formula one. This could be bad for F1.”

As for Ecclestone’s long reign over the sport, he continued: “The era of the one man show cannot continue: we are slowly approaching the end of a period characterised by the style of one man who has done significant things.”


Montezemolo: Vettel next in line for ‘number 1’ Ferrari seat

Luca di Montezemolo on Thursday admitted reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel is next in line for Ferrari’s ‘number 1’ race seat.

“If, tomorrow, Fernando would withdraw for any reason – let’s say he moves to Hawaii with his girlfriend – then I would want Vettel,” laughed the fabled Maranello based team’s president, according to Auto Motor und Sport.

Spaniard Alonso, however, is tied up contractually for years — and Ferrari is more than happy with him.

“I’m incredibly happy with him,” Montezemolo agreed. “He is more than just a driver.”

Referring to Ferrari’s influential past drivers Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher, Montezemolo said Alonso is “a bit of both”. But he also doesn’t spare his praise of German Vettel, who while contracted to Red Bull has been the subject of long speculation his future could be in red.

“He’s young,” Montezemolo started, “he has his feet on the floor, and he has an indomitable will to win. “Schumacher made me aware of him years ago because he knew him from his karting years. I must say, Michael was right.”

Montezemolo admitted Vettel, 25, is higher on Ferrari’s wish list than is Lewis Hamilton.

“Because he is younger, and because Ferrari would be Hamilton’s third team. And if you’ve reached your third team, your career is already in its second half.”

Indeed, Montezemolo said he doesn’t even mind that Vettel accused Ferrari of playing “dirty tricks” in a bid to beat him to the 2012 title.

“In the heat of battle,” said the Italian, “you can always say something emotional.”

Montezemolo, however, appeared to rule out pairing Alonso with Vettel, saying that sort of star-studded lineup would be “difficult”.

For now, that keeps Felipe Massa in a job, even though Montezemolo hinted he is keeping his eye on the next generation of potential Ferrari drivers.

He suggested he will be watching Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean very closely.

“Next year, we have two and a half new driving pairings: Perez at McLaren, Hamilton at Mercedes, and the half is the ‘new’ Massa with us.

“I am very curious to see how Hulkenberg goes with our engine at Sauber, and also the young man who on the first laps this year was sometimes a little too fast,” Montezemolo smiled, undoubtedly referring to Frenchman Grosjean.


Briatore: Montezemolo & Ecclestone ‘will be friends again’

Bernie Ecclestone has kept a war of words with Luca di Montezemolo running.

Earlier, after the F1 chief executive slammed Ferrari’s pursuit of the yellow flag saga as “a joke”, Montezemolo suggested Ecclestone’s “old age is … incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities”. Ecclestone, who is 17 years older than 65-year-old Italian Montezemolo, has now hit back, claiming the Ferrari president often “doesn’t remember what he says”.

“I’m sure in his case it is nothing to do with his age because he’s always been the same. At least he’s consistent. God knows what’s going to happen when he’s 82,” the Briton told BBC Sport.

Actually, Ecclestone insisted he is a “big supporter” of Montezemolo’s, but thinks the yellow flag saga should have been handled “behind closed doors”.

“I think there was so much pressure from probably the driver (Fernando Alonso),” he said.

“You must remember he’s been saying nearly every race this year the car is rubbish and it’s a bit difficult for them not to look as if they’re trying to do something to help him.”

Ecclestone also dismissed Montezemolo’s complaints about the F1 regulations.

“The rules are there for everyone to use in the best way they can. They’re the same for everyone,” he insisted.

However, one of Ecclestone’s staunchest allies insists Montezemolo only reacted to a “clear provocation” by the 82-year-old.

“Sometimes when Bernie tries to be funny he is not, Luca was disappointed because no one would have liked that statement, and he answered him. Within ten days they’ll be friends again,” former Renault boss Flavio Briatore told Italian radio Rai.

Indeed, Briatore thinks Montezemolo is “right” to complain that formula one has been “put back in the hands of engineers”. Meanwhile, Spaniard Alonso contradicted reports he played a leading role in Ferrari’s push for Sebastian Vettel to be stripped of the 2012 title over the yellow flag affair.

“I was on vacation and didn’t even have an internet connection good enough to watch videos,” he is quoted by La Stampa newspaper. “But the situation needed clarification out of respect for the fans. Ferrari was right to turn to the federation,” added Alonso.


Montezemolo hits out at Ecclestone, Schumacher

Luca di Montezemolo used Ferrari’s end-of-season event at Valencia to criticise former team driver Michael Schumacher as well as F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

Directing his attention to German Schumacher, who won five consecutive drivers’ titles at Ferrari, president Montezemolo admitted he was unhappy the now-retired Mercedes driver moved over so readily at Interlagos for his countryman Sebastian Vettel.

In Brazil, Ferrari’s new ‘number 1′ Fernando Alonso was fighting for the drivers’ title with Red Bull’s champion.

“I was expecting a slightly different final race on the part of Michael Schumacher because he is a driver with links to Ferrari through some extraordinary moments and with whom we feel very close,” said Montezemolo.

The Ferrari president, however, saved his real vitriol for Bernie Ecclestone, who last week described Ferrari’s questioning of the outcome of the 2012 championship as a “joke”.

The affair surrounded an overtaking move by Vettel that, although ultimately declared legal by the FIA, was questioned by Ferrari in the days after the Brazilian finale.

Insisting Ferrari remains highly critical of F1 regulations including the emphasis on aerodynamics and a lack of testing, Montezemolo said: “Since some people have used the expression ‘It’s a joke’ in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real ‘joke’.”

As for 82-year-old Ecclestone’s criticism of the yellow flag saga, Montezemolo – who is 65 – said: “My father always taught me that you have to have respect for your elders, above all when they reach the point that they can no longer control their words.

“So I will stop there. Certainly, old age is often incompatible with certain roles and responsibilities.”


Ferrari would welcome Porsche to F1

Luca di Montezemolo has revealed that he would welcome Porsche if they chose to enter the world of F1.

The VW-brand has played down the latest rumours about a V6-powered grand prix foray on the back of its forthcoming return to Le Mans, but Ferrari president Montezemolo said: “I feel great respect for Porsche, who I consider the main rival of many of our cars.

“Competition is always welcome, especially when you’re sure you will win,” the Italian is quoted by Spain’s AS newspaper.

But even with Porsche rejecting the latest speculation, the German newspaper Kolner Express said all the signs are pointing towards a 2016 foray for the famous sports car maker.


Montezemolo urges ‘huge effort’ for 2012 title battle

With the title battle now essentially a head-to-head between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, Ferrari has acknowledged that its F2012 was outclassed by Red Bull’s improved single seater at Suzuka last weekend.

“We cannot go at Sebastian’s pace at the moment,” Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is quoted as saying by German Bild newspaper. “I expect a huge effort from our engineers now.”

Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa, who finished second behind Vettel in Japan last Sunday, added: “Red Bull had a much faster car than everyone at Suzuka.

“It was hard fighting with them in qualifying and virtually impossible in the race,” he is quoted by Brazil’s Totlrace. “Let’s see, but I hope that each track is a different story.”

At Suzuka, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali said he understood Alonso’s frustration when he wrongly surmised that Ferrari had not improved the F2012 in the last six races. Spaniard Alonso said the media spotlight is always brightest on Ferrari.

“A lot’s been said about us,” he said. “If we try a wing once, then don’t use it, it becomes news, but these things happen regularly in all teams,” insisted Alonso.

Ahead of Korea, where he will defend a mere 4-point advantage over Vettel with five races still to go, he said he is confident Ferrari can improve the car. But in Japan, even before seeing his championship lead shrink in the Suzuka gravel trap, Alonso had said his 2012 advantage was a “miracle”.

Now, he insists: “We have not been gifted anything, indeed Spa and Suzuka deprived us of places that were easily within our grasp. It’s not through some sort of divine miracle that we are in this position, it is down to the work of all us, from first to last.”

Speaking at an Italian university this week, Montezemolo said he had spoken “at length” on the telephone with Alonso since Suzuka.

“We will play to the end and I have great confidence in the drivers,” he said, also referring to Brazilian Massa who is now expected to stay in 2013. “If Alonso had not been put out at Spa and Suzuka then we would still have a great safety (points) advantage,” added the Italian.


Montezemolo: Perez not ready for Ferrari switch

Luca di Montezemolo has dealt a knockout blow to speculation Sergio Perez could be set to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari next year.

After his second place at Monza last Sunday, rumours that Sauber’s Mexican Perez is now set to step up to Ferrari are rife.

But Ferrari president Montezemolo said: “Next season is too early. To put a young guy to Ferrari with the pressure of Ferrari, you need more experience,” he told Sky Sports News.

The comments seem to increase the likelihood that Ferrari will simply re-sign the improving Massa for 2013, with rumours still circulating that Sebastian Vettel could then switch from Red Bull for 2014. Montezemolo admitted he is impressed with the reigning double world champion.

“He’s young, he’s a very good driver and he’s making a very good experience,” he said. “So this could be, of course in the theory, but if you have to ask me the name I have to tell you this name (Vettel),” he added.


Massa takes step towards 2013 contract

Felipe Massa has received strong backing from Ferrari despite a bad race for the Brazilian on Sunday.

The 31-year-old struggled so markedly early this season that some believed it impossible he is a contender to retain his race cockpit for 2013. But the last few races have been much better for Massa, including in Valencia, where he was right on eventual winner Fernando Alonso’s pace in qualifying.

Then came Sunday.

“I am very sorry for Felipe,” said Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, “who was really unlucky. He was going very well and I’m sure he could have brought home a good result if not for all the problems he had.”

Indeed, Massa’s pace was struck early on by rear end damage, his strategy was ruined by the safety car, and Kamui Kobayashi crashed into him.

Otherwise, “He started in fine style and had everything in hand to get a really good result,” team boss Stefano Domenicali insisted.

So is Ferrari still on the market to replace Massa for 2013?

“This is not the moment to talk about contracts,” Montezemolo said.


Fingers point at Pirelli after ‘odd’ qualifying

Luca di Montezemolo pointed his finger at Pirelli on Saturday as he slammed an “odd” qualifying session at Valencia.

A surprise and rare visitor in the Ferrari garage, team president Montezemolo was bitterly disappointed after neither F2012 made the Q3 cut.

“We were fastest and then everything changed when we put on the soft tyres,” he told Italian broadcaster Rai. “We need to take care that this does not become a tyre manufacturing championship,” Montezemolo warned.

Fernando Alonso, however, insisted that the main problem in his native Spain was that the red car was simply “not fast enough”.

But there were others casting a wary glance in Pirelli’s direction, including Jenson Button, who qualified just ninth despite earlier looking to have emerged from his performance slump.

“All the way through the pace was very good, and then we put on a new set at the end, came out of the pits and turned into turn one and I had no front grip,” said the McLaren driver. “I don’t know why that is, but it’s something I’ve definitely got to find out about because I don’t think the circuit changed that much between runs.”

Former grand prix driver Taki Inoue sounded positively unimpressed.

“Another different lottery winner can be expected at Valencia. 2012 seems to be Pirelli gambling. This is not F1 any more. Boring!” the Japanese wrote on Twitter.

Force India boss Vijay Mallya disagrees completely.

“Formula One has become so very competitive, exciting and unpredictable,” the Indian billionaire said after qualifying. “Not because of the genius engineers in teams but the Pirelli tyres!”


F1 must react to European crisis – Montezemolo

F1 must acknowledge Europe’s financial crisis and cut costs urgently – that is the call of Luca di Montezemolo, president of Ferrari, the largest of the four Formula One teams that are headquartered in Europe outside of the UK.

There is talk of the need for a sovereign bail-out in Italy, hot on the heels of Ferrari sponsor and Spanish bank Santander’s long-term credit rating downgrade.

“The world economic situation and that of Europe in particular is very serious and the world of Formula One cannot ignore the fact,” Montezemolo said. “We cannot lose any more time — we need to tackle urgently and with determination the question of costs.

“Ferrari is in agreement with the FIA’s position that drastic intervention is required,” he added.

Montezemolo’s comments coincide with the expiry of the current Concorde Agreement, and suggestions that some teams are pushing hard for the FIA to police a mandatory budget cap. Speaking with Spain’s AS newspaper, former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari answered “limited budgets” when asked what he would impose if he was in charge of the sport.

“And I would put further conditions on testing in the wind tunnels,” he added. “In F1, the drivers are absolutely dependent on aerodynamics and some (teams) invest EUR 300 million in this area. I would also set five points in one year in which a team can introduce new specifications,” said Alguersuari.