Ferrari flop sparks debate in Italy

Thursday, 18 November 2010 00:47 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Ferrari’s woeful end to the Formula One season has prompted some Italian lawmakers to call for the automaker’s president to resign.

Fernando Alonso entered Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix leading the drivers’ standings, but finished seventh in the race after several strategic errors by the Italian team, handing the title to Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel.

Cabinet minister Roberto Calderoli was among those suggesting that Ferrari President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo should step down, prompting Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to issue a statement Monday in Montezemolo’s defense.

“The result from yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix certainly wasn’t what we all expected, but we’ve still got to be grateful to the men and women of Ferrari, whose work allowed (the team) to near an objective that until a few weeks ago seemed unthinkable,” Marchionne said.

Fiat owns an 85 percent stake in Ferrari. “It’s true that we lacked something in the final sprint but I am convinced that everyone at Ferrari, from its president on down to the last mechanic, did a great job,” Marchionne added.

“Therefore these sarcastic comments, mostly from the political world, seem thoughtless and offensive to me.”

There is speculation that Montezemolo could have political ambitions to lead a new coalition in opposition to Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi. He dismissed Calderoli’s suggestion, telling online journal that he would prefer to “talk about serious things,” adding that any political comments “don’t even minimally tarnish the dedication and capacity of the men and women of Ferrari.”

Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci also sought to calm the outrage.

“You can also finish second in sports sometimes,” Petrucci said. “We should thank Ferrari for all it has done and continues to do. There are also opponents - congratulations to Red Bull and Vettel.” In a statement posted on its website, Ferrari also expressed dismay over the political talk.

“We’re sorry to see that there are some politicians on the outside who are ready to jump onto the winner’s bandwagon, then push for the guillotine when things go badly,” the automaker commented.

“And we don’t understand anyone who revels in self-defeatism, who sinks into the culture of, ‘Everything’s gone wrong, we have to start all over again.’ They are vices that are very Italian, that we must learn to shake off.”

Ferrari team director Stefano Domenicali acknowledged that the squad made three tactical mistakes in the race: regarding Mark Webber of Red Bull as Alonso’s top challenger instead of Vettel, not realising how long the soft tires were going to hold up - leading to a poor pit-stop strategy - and not taking into account how tough it was to pass slower cars late in the race.