On Ferrari’s official website, they are reporting that Montezemolo’s demands for change from the Formula One officialdom were in no way an ultimatum or threat to leave the sport.
For those who missed out on this outburst, you can get the details here, but the comment that has raised F1 eyebrows was, "If Formula 1 still wants Ferrari it must change."
To most observers, that statement is pretty unequivocal. It says, If you want us to stay, then you need to change.
Not at Ferrari, though.
They have countered with this:
For starters, the words “leave” or “ultimatum” did not even feature in his pronouncement, but what really needs to be stressed is that Montezemolo spoke in a totally constructive fashion, which is usually the case with the President of a company that has always been in Formula 1 and who has the future wellbeing of the greatest form of motorsport so close to his heart.
While it is certainly factually correct that Montezemolo didn’t use those exact words, the meaning was clear for all to see. Besides, if someone puts a gun to your head, it really doesn’t need them to say “I’ve put a gun to your head” for it to get your attention.
So what we are now to believe is that Montezemolo’s words were like the stern talking to that a naughty toddler might get from their dad, as opposed to the schoolyard bully demanding your lunch money.
Were di Montezelomo's comments a threat to leave F1?
The problem is that while his original comments had some merit and were reasonable starting points for a debate, the fact that they were put up as demands immediately puts everyone offside.
There is a strong sentiment in F1—outside of the Ferrari fan club—that the prancing horse has too much influence in the sport already. This isn’t helped by Jean Todt stepped straight from his position as CEO of Ferrari into the presidency of the FIA.
The latest demands just underline that sentiment.
It comes as no surprise that Ferrari are demanding change at a time when they are struggling in the F1 championship. They are uncompetitive and, rather than work within the restrictive—but moderately equitable—rules framework, they want to be allowed to run free and spend their way out of trouble.
The rest of the F1 world has fought hard to level the playing field. They’re not about to turn their back on that just to help Ferrari feel better about themselves.