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Ferrari CEO Sounds Off at Annual Maranello Holiday Lunch

Ferrari CEO Luca di Montezemolo

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo observed two traditions earlier this week: he hosted the annual Christmas lunch at Ferrari’s Maranello headquarters, and he also held forth in a keynote speech delivered during the event.

Regarding the 2010, do Montezemolo, like a dutiful schoolmaster, graded his pupils (i.e. drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso) thus: “Felipe had a complicated season, but he will be able to get back to the level that saw him back in 2008 which is not exactly a long time ago, become world champion, albeit for just a few seconds.”  That sounds fairly equivocal.  However, he later amended that by saying more critically of the Brazilian, “At a certain point in the season Felipe was fed up and sent his brother.  For this Felipe gets 7 minus.”

This was the second time within recent memory that di Montezemolo resorted to the “evil twin” excuse for a driver’s behavior.  It will be remembered that when Michael first gave up his poster boy job of retired Scuderia pilot to decamp to Mercedes. do Montezemolo made very similar remarks about Schumi’s “brother” turning his back on the Scuderia, and not Schumi himself.

So it is now, with Massa.  The Brazilian’s substandard performance this year is seen as a betrayal of sorts, and once again di Montezemolo resorted to the evil twin explanation.  Tongue-in-cheek, of course, but one suspects that on some level di Montezemolo regards a poor race performance as a form a betrayal, if not an outright defection from the team.

Di Montezemolo went on to sing Alonso’s praises: “For Alonso, in his first season in Ferrari, I give him 9 and a half. But unfortunately even he didn’t win [the championship].” Obviously, that can’t be making Massa feel very good.

Di Montezemolo also returned to a pet subject, the expansion of sporting regs to allow increased testing and the use of a third car and driver on the grid. “Honestly,” he said, “I feel it would be better to have the opportunity of running a third car rather than seeing cars that would struggle even in GP2.  It’s an idea we will put forward again strongly for the future.”  He was obviously referring to the relative performance of the newbie teams, who haven’t exactly set the world alight with their performance.

And regarding the testing ban, he said,”We must unblock this absurd limitation on testing.  Formula 1 is the only sport in which there is no chance to train. It is like asking Real Madrid, Milan or Inter to play with smooth-soled boots in the rain or not to warm-up before a Champions League game.”

Di Montezemolo also spoke out against the current ban on team orders, which is set to be repealed in 2011.  “Fortunately, the rule banning team orders has been abolished, which was well and truly a hypocritical rule,” he said. “It has always been part of the sport and those who race for Ferrari are perfectly aware of the fact. The FIA, under the guidance of Jean Todt, is working well and this decision confirms that trend.”

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