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We Need To Listen To Luca

FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
25/06/2014

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Luca di Montezemolo appeared to threaten Ferrari's withdrawal from Formula One. That was never going to happen and there has since been clarification from the Ferrari camp.

Some people regarded di Montezemolo's comments as sour grapes because Ferrari has been struggling this year, but the guy has been associated with the Scuderia for forty years and there have been plenty of lean times in that period. While some say that Formula One needs Ferrari, it is more the case that Ferrari needs Formula One, and it needs the category to be credible.

Win or lose, Ferrari has been in Formula One since 1948. Other companies have taken part in motor sport to sell their road cars, and they have come and gone. Originally, Ferrari sold a few road cars to fund the racing and it was not until about 1957 that the 250GT had become what one might call a production car, though it was the 250GT SWB of 1960 which really attempted standardisation.

Over the years Ferrari has built a mystique like no other marque. According to those who measure such things, Ferrari is the world's most valuable brand, ahead of Rolex, Coca-Cola, Armani, even ahead of Pitpass.

It is its participation at the pinnacle of motor sport which gives Ferrari its edge. It is similar in other sports; some teams have a special glamour even during lean spells and that is due to their history. Luca di Montezemolo does not fear that Ferrari will be damaged by not winning this season, but that Formula One itself is losing its way and it is that that can damage Ferrari.

Ferrari is an interdependent off-shoot of Fiat and it owns Maserati and Alfa Romeo; at different times two of its great rivals. There is, no doubt, a lot of complicated paperwork and bean counting behind that. Fiat has enough on its plate with Chrysler, Lancia and Abarth, not to mention dormant marques like Moretti and Autobianchi.

Ferrari has said that it is monitoring Le Mans, but that does not mean that a Ferrari will race there again. There could, however, be entries from Alfa Romeo (four times a winner) or Maserati. We are talking about the vast and varied Fiat parts bin. The splendid Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione and 8C Spyder used a modified Maserati platform and a Maserati V8 engine, tuned and built by Ferrari.

A joke used to be that in France the country owned the largest motor manufacturer; while in Italy, the largest motor manufacturer...

In 1955, Ferrari was in trouble, it had run out of ideas in F1. Meanwhile Lancia was in a severe financial crisis. Fiat brokered a deal which saw the Lancia D50s handed over to Ferrari together with Lancia's chief designer, the great Vittorio Jano. On top of that Fiat added a cash subsidy.

The reason was that Ferrari's track successes raised the profile of the whole Italian car industry which was still struggling to reach full production following WWII. France and Germany were trying hard as well (Britain's factories had largely remained intact) and Ferrari gave Fiat an edge in the market. When a Ferrari won a Grand Prix, or Le Mans, it was an advertisement for Italian engineering and style.

One of the most remarkable things about post-war Italy is how it has become a world leader in style.

Di Montezemolo is worried that F1 is losing its grip and has called for a summit meeting in Maranello prior to the Italian GP. TV ratings for Grands Prix are slipping particularly in Germany, Italy and South America.

Di Montezemolo believes that young people are losing interest, and they are the future of the sport. As TV rating drop, so does the amount teams can charge sponsors, and sponsorship is the key to F1's survival. We know that there are several teams on the grid today whose financial position is marginal.

Bernie has never seen the point of social networking, but Luca is keen to get F1 fired up in this area. That is only one example.

We have DRS, funny tyres and now titanium plates have been tried to generate sparks. We are to have standing starts after a safety car period and shorter practice sessions. Hardly a day goes by without some new idea to put the zing back into F1.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Jackal, 21/07/2014 1:21

"F1 today is not racing IMO ... it is a gimmicky sideshow. If we are to move to the current hybrid engine, then we must lose this ridiculous fuel management scenario. Bring back refueling during pitstops and allow cars to race to their full potential for the entire race. While the tyre situation is better than last season drivers are still restricted by them to the point where tyre management is also hurting the sport. Instruct Pirelli to construct decent racing tyres that allow the drivers to exploit the entire performance band of their package. Fake passing (aka DRS) is not a thrilling display and does not depend on the talent of the driver (other than his ability to push a button). Get rid of DRS .... if there must be a push-to-pass option in F1 than limit the number of times it can be used (as is done in Super Formula in Japan).

Lastly the formula is so restrictive innovative minds like Newey find it necessary to leave the sport for new challenges. The cars look like something the cat dragged in and on top of that gimmick/knee jerk solutions are implemented with no apparent thought or reason. Standing restarts, double point GPs, trumpet exhaust, sparking skid plates ... all utter nonsense. Bring back true racing on true racing circuits in countries that truly understand and appreciate motor racing. "

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2. Posted by Willy, 01/07/2014 15:55

"> It strikes me that the F1 community has lost it's way and has no idea
> how to find it's way home.
> There are complaints of dropping TV revenue from loss of viewership
> and a depleting fan base.
> From my point of view this is due to the watering down of the
> excitement of the sport and lack of actual driving going on, on track.
> The drivers are told when to shift, play with brake balance, engine
> revs, etc. All these take away from being a racer and being able to
> make fast decisions on-track that will affect the race outcome.
> I don't want to watch a car go around and around while the pitwall
> tells the driver what to do and when to do it. Boring shite that.
>
> Bring back refueling, get rid of DRS and hybrid power. Give the
> drivers as many pitstops and tire changes as they want. Make the
> engines as powerful as possible and let them race.
> Lets watch these talented drivers be drivers and not just passengers
> in a car controlled by others decisions.
> The largest watched sport worldwide is still football and the rules
> have not changed the size of the field or the ball and the amount of
> players is the same. It is still as exciting as it was years ago and the
fans love it.
> Why does F1 feel it has the screw with the rules each season.
> And they scratch their heads and wonder why fans are leaving.
"

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3. Posted by miss d'it, 28/06/2014 14:03

"I think some of the comments from Luca, are sour grapes. His engineers and designers are not clever enough to think about deconstructing the engine and building it like it was the 1st engine built (as merc have done), and they as well as renault have the same engine size but a lot less performance. I do agree with the writer, that the threat to withdraw is hot air, but is definately not a 'taxi procession'.

We have seen some fantastic races this year. I like the non traction control, the power going to those rear wheels is tremendous, and i love the fact you can hear the tyres squealing after the pitstops and the noise, well i think it a cross between bikes and truck racing (remember that), but next weekends trip to silverstone will confirm this.
I don't however like the weight limit, as it has and will restrict driver choice, i am also not sure of this 'standing restart' i think it will lead to some serious shunts as the more eager drivers throw everything for places, exciting? maybe, but not safe and when the teams are complaining about costs, how long until they revert to rolling starts, also cutting costs by reducing free practice, yes in places like korea etc, but when 40.000 hardy souls turn up at silverstone, canada, monza etc, surely not, thats why we go for 4days.

I've watched F1 for over 35+ years, yes things evolve, but lets not shut out the 3day, upto our ankles in mud (4cast for race weekend is not looking dry), diehards who understand the sport, there is a full and enjoyable programme of racing over the 3days and pretty exciting it was last year, and not the happy clappy corporate or look at me who just turn up for the race and go home.
Build on this years 'racing', forget gimmicks and the holy grail of tv ratings will stay and grow.

Enough of my rant, bring on silverstone."

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4. Posted by yagijd, 27/06/2014 13:30

"The rules are too convoluted. Make the rules simple like length and breadth displacement and turbo or not and watch the innovators bring back the excitement. The most exciting racing I have seen lately is the USAC non winged sprint cars. Their rules are simple and straight forward. 22 cars with 900 + hp in a 1300 pound car for 30 laps on a half mile track averaging 117 mph. The rules have been virtually static since 1948 and the stands usually well filled. Ask Adrian Newey I've seen him there asking questions. The sound of a BRM 16Cyl or a Matra V12 have been replaced with sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. "

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5. Posted by ape, 26/06/2014 23:45

"F1 is much better now than the boring Ferrari / Schumacher era. Montezemolo had no respect for the fans with his team orders and made of Barrichello and Irvine pathetic puppets."

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6. Posted by Peter W, 26/06/2014 12:06

"Ban all electronic driver aids. Bring back manual gearboxes. Sod KERS or whatever its called now. Put on 2 huge big fat back tyres and go racing."

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7. Posted by Carugatese, 26/06/2014 10:43

"hedge fund, sorry!"

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8. Posted by Carugatese, 26/06/2014 10:38

"Perhaps is the case that F1 has been designed and managed like an edge fund: it reached its peak, raised a lot of money, someone gained the big prize and now that what appears to be a sort of financial speculation far more than a sport, is plummeting, we start to reckon the casualties."

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9. Posted by Hardliner, 26/06/2014 6:05

"All that's wrong with F1 is a result of CVC and Ecclestone trying to hike the value of their shares in it. Until they are out it will be run as entertainment rather than as sport. Too much attention will be given to the teamowners business interests in an attempt to somehow justify relevance, a spurious connection with road cars. Too much money willbe offered to drivers in an attempt to make them part of a brand. A weak and ineffective FIA doesn't help. The best initiative of recent years was FOTA, which alas seems dead. I'm afraid I think the whole shooting match needs to start again from basics, tell Bernie and the FIA where to go, and build a budget around say 16 GPs per annum and a ticket price of £50, and see where you end up."

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10. Posted by gturner38, 26/06/2014 3:20

"I'm sorry, but what has been hard to understand about this year's races from a strategy standpoint? They may be saving fuel, but they've been doing that for years. We just never paid any attention to it unless Red Bull told Webber to turn his engine down just before Vettel made a foolish pass attempt (Turkey and Malaysia). Before KERS, DRS, and two tire compounds per race, the "show" was a lot of noise and pretty cars in a procession. Now that the racing involves cars that are closer together in lap times actually running beside each other from time to time, we seem to be fixated on noise and systems that fans really don't have to think about during the race. Someone who knew nothing about ERS would have been at no disadvantage watching the race in Austria. In fact, Canada is the only race which knowledge about the system would really be necessary to fully understand the race and even then, I had no problem enjoying the spectacle while sitting at the track with no way of knowing Rosberg had an ERS issue.

As for TV ratings, perhaps F1 is too fixated on that model. TV ratings are down for everything both because there are more channels and because there are more options online. And, as I've said before, it doesn't help when the people who have a vested interest in promoting the sport make public claims that it's terrible, boring, and not worth watching. I can understand Bernie or Luca calling Jean Todt or the leadership of the other teams to discuss their concerns in private, but F1 is the only sport I've ever seen where everyone feels the need to air their dirty laundry in public."

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11. Posted by UK Matt C, 26/06/2014 0:05

"For once I feel The powers to be in F1 need to listen to LDM, F1 is sadly loosing it's appeal to hardened race fans let alone new potential fans. Having been an F1 fan for c40 years and traveled to many races, I still love the sport and just can't quite bring myself to switch it off! I had a reality check at the weekend when my partner was sat next to me trying to look interested and I was trying to explain ERS DRS bla bla, she just doesn't see the point, her observation was "they're not very fast any more are they" I explained lap times show yes they are but the sound of restricted engines half revs, makes the cars sound slow, and unexciting.
If I was LDM I would consider fulling the plug, by no means is this sour grapes but it doesn't fit there brand as Mike wrote above.
Last year I had my first taste of moto GP paddock at Silverstone and the atmosphere, energy, excitement, value for money, is everything that F1 used to be.
Currently a whitewash by a certain young Marquez (in the same way as the legendary MSC domination years ago) but so much more exciting and genuine.
I noticed Lewis Hamilton in the Moto GP Padock and I think he tried to fake some of the excitement in Austria that he leaned from VR46 & MM93 the previous weekend.
I feel like I have cheated on my favourite sport but the truth is, F1 is no longer appealing to me and unaffordable, unless you go to Sepang where tix are a fraction of UK prices.
Probably a pointless moan, but for once I think Teams need to join together and take a good look at what's wrong with the sport, constantly picking holes in regs to penalise opposition is no fair way or winning races.
Fans want atmosphere, excitement, value. Save the fuel saving and batteries for endurance racing
"

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12. Posted by karel, 25/06/2014 15:06

"I think that F1 should keep the safety regulations, remember the past, but on the other hand it should step back from the ivory tower it's in now. Have some basis technical regulations and let the eams decide on how they want to build the car, which tyres, which engine and bring it back to the public. One must be able to smell, hear and experience F1, have a signature of a pilot without paying 500 pound sterling. Then developments will start again and f1 will be exciting. Imagine a writer who must save on inkt this is what F1 is now with millions going on for Tv rights while nobody is watching anymore"

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13. Posted by Spindoctor, 25/06/2014 14:15

"I don't think anyone argues with the idea that F1 is in decline. What's interesting is that after many years of growth in "consumption" and reduction in sporting quality, this reduction in interest is occurring just when the Sport has improved.

I'll take the risk of sounding naïve and idealistic by suggesting that the petty, grasping cynicism underlying the control and management of F1 has finally gnawed the heart out of it. All that's left is a zombie-like shell that shambles about from race to race but is no-longer "alive" in a meaningful sense. We punters, even those recent fans, drawn by the glitz and flim-flam seem to be less and less inclined to watch.

I assume that Bernie and CVC have worked on the basis that dumbing-down, and turning F1 into a "human interest" story would attract an ever increasing number of viewers as it transformed more and more into "Big Brother" on wheels. As TV moguls running BB have discovered, you can't actually sink much below the lowest common denominator before even the most uncritical of your target audience tires of the banality and triviality on offer and stops watching.

While there are many ways in which the Sport can be improved, one of the biggest boosts to F1 would be to change the aura of self-satisfied greed which surrounds it. It would probably help if instead of Bernie's attempts to "blackmail" huge sums out of Race Organisers by threatening to move GPs to better-paying states, we were to see genuine efforts to make things better for ordinary fans, and to spread some of the wealth to smaller teams. "

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