Q & A with Luca di Montezemolo

Q. What is your explanation for the start of the season and the difficult situation Ferrari finds itself in?

Q & A with Luca di Montezemolo

Luca di Montezemolo: Listen. First of all it is not so easy. I was thinking this morning in my car coming here from the airport that my first race as Ferrari team manager was at Silverstone in 1973. You were too young!

Jody Scheckter was in the middle of a big crash and Jackie Stewart was in the lead. At that time, at that race, Ferrari started with Jacky Ickx in 16th and Arturo Merzario 18th. So in my life, I've seen a lot of difficult moments. This is part of competition, this is part of sport.

We have won eight world championships in the past 10 years. In the last two years we won three titles out of four, and we lost the other one at the last curve, of the last lap of the last race. So we have to look ahead.

But to answer to your question - I want to understand why we are there. Why we are in the middle of a black tunnel. And the main reasons are three.

Number one, we have seen very bad written rules. They are what I call grey rules, with different interpretations. And if teams that have won the last three world championships, like Renault, McLaren and Ferrari, an important team and car manufacturer like BMW and even Red Bull, have done one interpretation, it means that at least the rules are not clear. So very unclear rules means different interpretations, means different cars in the field.

Second, is KERS. KERS represents a lot of money. It represents something that has been introduced to have a link between Formula 1 and advanced research for road cars in terms of energy, and in terms of green [technology] and in terms of innovation as I like. And we have done immediately the KERS, even if KERS means a lot of money, it means a problem with the safety, it means reliability and it means to project a completely different car - as McLaren has done and as a lot of other teams have done.

But we have been surprised to see KERS was just a suggestion, not a real world. And today we are facing a very strange and in my opinion not positive situation. We have three different F1 on the grid - we have F1 competition cars with KERS, F1 competition between cars with no KERS and a different floor, and third competitors with no KERS and no floor. I think this is bad, and it is one of the reasons why unfortunately we are not competitive and we are forced to invest time, and extra money in such a difficult moment, to do a heavy modification to our car.

The other reason is that we have started to work in a hard way to the new car late. And this was a pity, particularly in a year in which the rules have been completely new. It is not, in other words, an evolution of last year's car, and this is a second reason why we have not been competitive.

And the last reason is that I feel inside the team there has been a little bit too much of a presumptuous approach. Sometimes to put the head down in the ground is useful to looking ahead, but I must say that sometimes having your whole head, feet, everything in the ground, even more underground, is better. So I think these are the main reasons.

We are working hard and I have a big confidence in my team. I am sure that we will go back very soon - not immediately, but very soon.

Q. You are a patient man - but how long can you be patient before something has to change in the team?

LdM: Of course I am totally unhappy, but stability of the team and confidence of the team for me since 1992 was my main goal and I will continue. This team is exactly the same team that was very close, crossed the line not 20 years ago but a few months ago winning the championship, so there is no problem.

When I know the reason I am confident, and when I don't know the reason I am worried. I know the reason, my people know the reason - and they are fully committed, so I am very confident. But then I am very upset for other reasons that are nothing to do with the team.

Q. What has the present situation done for unity within FOTA?

LdM: Well, I think that unity of FOTA is crucial. I think it is very good and we will have a meeting in London on May 6 to discuss. I call your attention to the fact that we are at the end of April and we don't know exactly next year's rules. For me, for us, stability is important to maintain costs down because we have done so many changes in the last year, so we need stability for the future.

Some teams have taken the opportunity of very badly written rules for an interpretation. Somebody asked for a different interpretation, but it doesn't mean that we are all together.

And until I will spend time, not for so long because I have too many things to do, as FOTA I will try and have all the teams together. This is very important, particularly in these difficult moments.

Q. There has been discussions and confusion about Michael Schumacher's position in the team. Can you clarify that please?

LdM: To be honest, I am sorry. This was a little bit invented by the press, because Michael's position is very clear since the beginning. When Michael stopped, I told him - do you want to become a manager? Do you want to be for one year on the right arm of Jean Todt and then replace Jean Todt? Yes or No? No!

I am sorry because I think Michael has got a good mentality, but I understand that his life is different. So we said to him, why don't you come sometimes to the races, but his main engagement was to work on the development of road cars - Scuderia California he has done a lot of work, with very good relations and team spirit with our technicians.

He came last year to a few races, and he came at the beginning of the season - and he will come back. But he has no responsible role within the team because he has no time to be present in Maranello.

Having said that, Michael is part of our family. Michael is part of our history. Michael is in very good relations to Domenicali and he will continue to give ideas and suggestions as a consultant - no more and no less.

Q. What were your feelings when watching the Australian Grand Prix and seeing the Brawn cars leading. Were you proud because Ross came from Ferrari, or disappointed with what your team did?

LdM: Well, first of all I like Ross very much because he has been in our family in very important years, giving a very important contribution. Then I have seen a Honda car with the Brawn name, of a car manufacturer Honda that has invested a huge amount of money in two wind-tunnels - deciding at the beginning of the [2008] season to concentrate very early on a completely new car, and then decided at the end of the year to stop. But this is a Honda - with one of the biggest budgets to prepare this car in F1 - with a different name and with a very good car. And, with an interpretation of the rules that is different from other teams.

In my opinion, this was mainly due to this grey area of the rules and the demonstration is that important teams have done a completely different interpretation - so at least the rules have been very badly written. I don't want to make any comments about the result of the appeal because I don't like to make comments - this is a Ferrari attitude since forever, at least in the public.

Q. You were talking about the presumptions at Ferrari. What do you believe was the effect of that?

LdM: Well, there is sometimes when you win too much you think you are the best. I want a different attitude, and some time to have this approach is useful, particularly when you have fantastic people like we have in Ferrari.

Some time we think that maintaining the top is easy. But we have done 10 years, showing that we are able to maintain the top. Except for 2005 where we were not competitive, we won or lost the championship at the last race. This year the main reason was that if we approached the rules in a different way, without KERS, and with a different floor, then today we will talk about a different Ferrari.

Q. Max Mosley has asked for some input from teams about a budget cap. What do you think about that?

LdM: Let me put it in a different way. We are in F1 since 1950 - without stopping or going up and down. We have been there.

We race and we continue to race in F1 for three historic reasons since the beginning. Competition is part of the Ferrari brand. It is part of our plot. We started as a team and then we became a car manufacturer...We have won and raced everywhere in the world in prototypes, except in go karts.

Second, we want advanced research. We want F1 as a technologically competitive series, where there is competition, in which we can develop gearboxes, engines, electronics - why not KERS? And then transfer it in our road cars.

And third, we compete in Formula 1 because F1 is extreme competition. We rather prefer to have even shorter races in which there is really competition between drivers, between technology, between teams, between cars, between technicians. And we want to maintain, for what we can do, F1 at this level. This is why we have been against the standard engine and things like this.

I personally have a lot of passion. Ferrari has a lot of passion, but this is not an endless story. So we will see.

My attitude, and I think this is important. Stability, credibility of governance of F1 - I think we have and we need a strong political authority. I am a legalist - we need a strong political authority.

As a regulator, we need clear rules. We need teams that are very close to each other outside the track, and with competition between them on the track. And we need a modern, efficient company for the commercial [rights] holder.

Having said that, I don't like to do polemics. I don't like to answer - particularly when I disagree. This is my approach with Ferrari - whenever we decide to talk, we will talk once and not many times looking ahead. I don't want to do polemics at all. We don't need it, F1 doesn't need it. F1 is facing difficult moments but the direction of teams to reduce costs has been fantastic.

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