For me it is always deeply irritating when the result of investigative journalism is demoted to remarks of the kind of “that’s just speculation” by the ones concerned. I have voiced that before. There are colleagues out there who don’t bother to research and just limit themselves to write about what teams or drivers have declared by the way of official statements. Playing safe simply isn’t exciting, you might as well work in a bank then. Still, even official statements aren’t worth much these days, right Mr. Montezemolo?
As a journalist dedicated to keep up what’s going on in behind the scenes in Formula 1, life ain’t easy anyway. Obviously nobody is telling you the truth about what’s going on, as a matter of fact you get lied straight to your face quite often. So you usually go elsewhere to check, not with those concerned in a certain matter. You got to gather your jigsaws to get a part of the overall picture right. Usually official statements seem the fixed jigsaws you start with and you add up what you can gather around that by way of separating credible sources from what gossip queens think is going on.
What have we learned in 2009? That neither an existing contract with a known duration, nor an official announcement of a contract extensions are valid, as soon as they come from Ferrari’s press office. That, of course, is no criticism on the work the folks there are doing. Certainly not. It’s more about what they are told to communicate and who’s telling them to do so. I’ll leave some room to imagination for you to assess yourselves what’s going wrong there.
However, most of us had in mind that Michael Schumacher had his contract as Ferrari’s counselor renewed late last summer, because that’s what the World was told on the Weekend of the Italian GP. As it turns out now, it’s very unlikely this ever happened. Although we were told it had been done. Or even better: We were led to believe so. When quizzing Luca di Montezemolo about it, no-one asked specifically “did Schumacher sign a contract with Ferrari?” I know the man from my own experience with such “interviews”. You’re told upfront which question you’re allowed to ask and you get told right away to which matters he will not respond. Finito.
So, where digging deep is forbidden, how could you possibly get a decent answer? But to be honest, I would no longer bother to ask. Luca di Montezemolo is known as a shrewd businessman. But also as somewhat of a showman with a fair amount of “grandezza” in his entire way to present himself. My guess is that with Monza coming up, the man felt self-confident enough to let the second part of his nature taking over from the rational thinker, the other half then. Over the years he has proven over and over again to seek Ferrari’s advantage ALWAYS. For example as far as political advantages and terms of prize money were concerned. Even if it happened to the detriment of the sport. He’s not to blame. That’s his job after all.
It would have been IMPOSSIBLE to even consider the possibility of Mr. Montezemolo handing out a PR jewel of the magnitude of one Michael Schumacher on a plate to Ferrari-Maserati’s fiercest competitor in the sportscar and premium sedan segment. And surely an even tougher competition on track from 2010 on as well. But hey, every bit of information we’re getting seems to indicate Schumacher WILL be back. With Mercedes. And Mr. Montezemolo is apparently very happy to explain at length how come. Not in the true sense of what all this is about, just his version. Of course. Because telling it all would be a tad too embarrassing, I should think.
So, I’m sorry to say: But as long as Mr. Montezemolo keeps fiddling into the middle of decision making processes at Scuderia Ferrari, statements with the cavallino on the header no longer can be seen as one of the “reliable jigsaws”. As a matter of fact, if you read this, Luca, take your time over the holidays to stop and reflect a little: Will a Ferrari costumer still feel entirely secure as to, say, warranty of his brand new car when there’s so much obvious lack of moral reliability going on, given recent declarations coming from the people heading this otherwise great brand? My feeling is that there’s not much to be proud about lately. I would give it a serious thought.
P.S. Bravo: You did very well in handing over the FOTA presidency.