Egregio Signor di Montezemolo,
Almost as predictably as the sun rising and setting, when Ferrari finds itself in a rut, it threatens to pull out of the sport and blames all in sundry but itself when the clear evidence is your team still cannot produce a car capable of challenging for the championship.
And so it is again that you have again popped up, bleating to the soundbite-hungry media. This time you’ve told the Wall Street Journal that the sport’s TV viewership is declining because the FIA has “forgotten that people watch the racing for the excitement. Nobody watches racing for the efficiency”.
Well I’d beg to differ. Most of the races this year – while largely dominated by one team – have been absolute thrillers, with the battle for reliability proving to be a decisive factor in the quality of the racing.
It’s not the first time that you’ve dusted off your soapbox to try and position yourself as a campaigner for the alternative vision of Formula 1, but there are a number of holes in your argument.
The 2014 season harks back to the famous 1988 championship season which was dominated by McLaren, winning all but one of the 16 races that season. It was the final year of turbo engine regulations, and the MP4/4 – coupled with its ripsnorting Honda engines – gave a demonstration in its mastery of that year’s technical regulations.
Mercedes has – so far at least – handed out the same lesson to the rest of the field. And just like in 1988, it’s pretty much assumed that one team will emerge victorious each weekend (although last weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix did a masterful job of throwing that assumption out of the window).
But also just likes 1988, the excitement and unpredictability come in not knowing which of the leading team’s two drivers – Hamilton or Rosberg in 2014; Prost or Senna in 1988 – will win each weekend.
It’s yet another case of sour grapes from you. Your red cars are once again massively underperforming despite an embarrassment of financial and technical riches, plus two of the best drivers in the field.
Ferrari gets at least five per cent of the revenues that Formula One generates before any of the revenues are carved up and redivided elsewhere: before the prizemoney is even dished out. You negotiated that.
Quite how much lands up in your coffers is a very well-kept secret – the accepted total revenue earned by F1 has been at least $1.5 billion a year for the last three years. With the Constructors’ Championship prizemoney handed out on a sliding scale of $100-50 million to the first ten-placed teams, that means Ferrari would still earn more cash than any other team even if it finished last in the Constructors’ Championship standings. How is that possibly ‘competitive’, particularly in the face of you moaning about a lack of competition at the sharp end of the field?
Added to that, Ferrari – by dint of another sneaky deal you helped negotiate in 2005 – has the right to veto any introduction or change to F1’s regulations, provided its motives are “not prejudicial to the traditional values of the Championship and [if] it reasonably considers that the new regulations are likely to have a substantial impact on its legitimate interest”.
That right of veto gives your team a theoretical advantage over its rivals, hardly a great position of fairness. Of course Ferrari has a history and prestige in Formula 1 that no other team can match, but you would be hard-pressed to find a fan that would agree that your team’s ability to control the rules and make outrageous sums of money without much performance is somehow a good thing.
The fact is this: you AGREED to the 2014 regulations, either in principal or by not using your veto rights. You’ve made your bed and now you have to accept the fact that (yet again) Ferrari has been outsmarted by a rival team (and then a few more!), which just happens at the moment to be another carmaker competing for a slice of the luxury car market that you currently make over $3 billion a year in revenue from.
Despite all of the advantages you’ve helped negotiate for your red team, you will face a sixth year of failing to win either Championship title. The F14T is a poor car, consigning the team to third in the Constructors’ Championship standings and battling with the likes of McLaren (in a transition year) and a resurgent Force India and Williams.
The buck has to stop at your leadership. Stefano Domenicali fell (or was pushed?) onto his own sword just two races into the 2014 season, and the newly-arrived team boss Marco Mattiacci will take a while to turn things around.
You’re very good at pulling the spotlight onto yourself when the team is performing well, but when the going gets rough your tailored Prada suit takes on a rather Teflon finish: nothing sticks.
So you come out blaming all in sundry: from the regulations, to the others teams, the fans, the drivers, the circuits. There’s suggestions that Ferrari will quit and go endurance racing, which is usually (but not always) denied.
But the last time we checked – with the 24 Hours of Le Mans on this weekend – that seemed to be a championship that was all about “efficiency”… Funny that.
So Mr di Montezemolo, I close with this: the chest-thumping and tantrums are getting very tiresome. You are not bigger than Formula 1, but Formula 1 is certainly bigger than Ferrari.
Your only point of difference is that you have stayed around since the dawn of time, but Formula 1 didn’t fall to its knees when other great manufacturers – Maserati, Lancia, Mercedes, Honda, Renault, et al – came or went. The world won’t stop spinning if Ferrari decided to up sticks and go elsewhere either, and to pretend that it would is simply disingenuous. If you want to try your hand at another championship, knock yourself out.
So why don’t you stop the whining and the blame-shifting, and instead clean out the ‘dead wood’ and marshal what’s left to rise to the technical challenge of the new regulations that you helped shape. We all want to see Ferrari return to the winners’ circle – it is good for the image of the sport – but we’re all sick to death of the the whingeing when you control all of the toys in the sandpit.
Sincerely, all Formula 1 fans
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