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.