It is difficult to imagine Formula One without Ferrari being an integral part of the sport, but that is a real possibility if Ferrari President, Luca di Montezemolo is to be believed.
The Scuderia boss has come out demanding changes to F1 that must be met to ensure the long-term involvement of the Maranello outfit.
He has come out in the industry press claiming,
We can be very patient but there are precise conditions for us to continue with our work. We race not just for the publicity it brings us but above all to carry out advanced research aimed at all aspects of our road cars: engine, chassis, mechanical components, electronics, materials and aerodynamics, to such an extent that the technology transfer from track to road has grown exponentially over the past twenty years.
He went on to say,
Formula 1 is still our life, but without Ferrari there is no Formula 1, just as without Formula 1, Ferrari would be different.
Long-time followers of F1 will not be surprised to hear that Ferrari thinks that the sport revolves around them. Rarely, however, has it been put into such plain language.
To be fair, Ferrari is the one constant in the kaleidoscope that is F1. They are the only team to have competed in every one of the 61 seasons that the sport has been travelling the globe.
That should count for something.
Ferrari’s demands, surprisingly, actually make a fair bit of sense.
The main changes that they would like to see are: the introduction of a third car per team, the return of in-season testing and reduced reliance on aerodynamics.
To look at them in reverse order, the aerodynamics issue is one that is close to the heart of many F1 fans.
The modern F1 car has more in common with a fighter jet than anything that normal punters might get to drive on a day-to-day basis. The aerodynamic grip that these cars can produce is astonishing, but it is these same innovations that are killing the sport.
Take a look back at races from the 1970’s and 80’s and see how close cars could follow each other through corners. It was great racing and there was overtaking galore. The air coming off a modern F1 car, however, is so turbulent that the aerodynamics of the following car simply don’t work efficiently making following closely impossible.
No amount of KERS and DRS can make up for that.
The absence of in-season testing is not helping either. While the testing was banned to create a more equitable environment for the poorer teams, it has meant that bridging the gap to a team that brings in an early advantage is extremely difficult.
It’s no surprise that teams can’t catch Red Bull Racing at the moment.
Teams now have to use Friday practice sessions to try out new componentry, which takes away from their race preparations.
Finally, the introduction of third cars is a difficult one.
While having another Ferrari or McLaren running around would give good drivers a rare competitive spot to aim for, there are only a limited number of spots on the grid. More of the top teams' cars will mean less of the lesser teams.
It might make for better racing, but takes away sport’s nursery, the places where aspiring drivers and other team members go to learn their trade.
If there’s one thing that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone really enjoys, it’s people demanding that he do something. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the Ferrari outburst and whether he will engage in his usual game of brinkmanship.
Anyone taking bets on who blinks first?