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Ostensibly congratulating Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull on their third successive titles, Luca di Montezemolo couldn't allow his Christmas media luncheon to pass by without getting a few things off of his chest.
"Let's start with this," he told the assembled International and Italian journalists, "let's congratulate Red Bull and Vettel, who had an amazing car and is a great driver.
"If for whatever reason, Alonso was to retire, then I'd like Vettel, a driver who has his feet on the ground and a great will to win," he continued, a comment that will do little to quell the endless internet speculation linking the German with the Italian team. "It was Schumacher who pointed him out to me a few years ago, as he knew him from the time when Sebastian was still racing karts. I have to admit Michael was right but having said that, I am immensely happy to have Alonso in our team!"
Then it was on to the more serious stuff.
"During the year, there were some things I did not like," he continued. "I saw cars that did not comply with the regulations, but instead of being disqualified, their teams were told to fix it for the next race. Above all, I note with regret that it is no longer possible to have a technology transfer from the track to the road, because in too many areas, development is frozen and because aerodynamics is too important, so that the cars are more and more like spacecraft and less like cars.
"All this is born of a desire to go for the lowest common denominator, something that needs to stop and is the result of decisions made four years ago, at the time of Mosley, when there was an urgent necessity to reduce costs. With 2014 however, we need to start a new phase: we will see which means of governance Formula 1 will adopt, but we will put forward our ideas very forcefully. For our part, a choice which I wanted to emphasise to give the greatest possible emphasis with the Board of Directors, is that we will do all in our power to push for a strong change, to bring Formula 1 back to its role as a real test bed for road car research. We will no longer accept this principal of absolute democracy. The gap between the small teams and the big ones is still very big but you can't always do everything at the lowest level: if they don't have the resources or the structure then they should compete in a lower series. On this subject, I will put back on the table the idea of selling a third car to the smaller teams, a solution that would allow them to have a competitive car at relatively low cost, which would allow them to attract more sponsors.
"As for testing, it's getting close to ridiculous," he continued, returning to another favourite theme. "The FIA is not opposed to it, we are not and so what is the reason for it. There are teams who have put a lot of funding into simulators as have we, while at the same time we have invested heavily at Mugello, which is now one of the nicest circuits in the world. In the next few days we will meet Ecclestone and Todt and we will put all these perplexing points on the table. I would remind everyone that test sessions are not just for developing the cars, but are also an opportunity for sponsors and for young drivers. What possible media or commercial interest can there be in testing in a simulator?"
Saving the best for last, the Italian turned his attention to Ecclestone, clearly still seething at the F1 supremo's dismissal of the post-season 'Flag-gate' saga… amongst other things.
"Every so often, Bernie likes to play the boss and gets involved in matters that don't concern him: godfathers no longer exist, at least not in Formula 1. Interpretation of flags, be they yellow or blue is nothing to do with him and he used expressions that I do not accept. Our behaviour in this instance was not only transparent, but perfect and maybe he would do better to think about attracting bigger crowds and more youngsters, and to discuss more with the television stations and the media.
"We are approaching a time when we need to think about the future, because all eras must inevitably come to an end, as happened to us when Todt, Brawn and Schumacher left. It's not a case of replacing Bernie and in fact I do not like doing to others what I would not want to happen to myself. It's a question that needs to be tackled with the current owners of this sport, CVC which, let us not forget, is an investment company looking for a financial return on what it has invested in Formula 1.
"The era of the one man show cannot continue: the future should be in the hands of a team that will look after all the different areas. We are slowly approaching the end of a period characterised by the style of one man who has done significant things. It's a bit of a similar case to what will happen to me: within the decade I will face this question, but when I am 75 not 82..."
And at this time of year, the season of good will to all men, we have a sneaking feeling that when it comes, Bernie's response will be well worth the wait. If only we could get Max to contribute his two-penn'orth.
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