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CAR interviews Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo (2011)

Mon, 10 Oct 2011

Fiat will not sell a stake in Ferrari, Formula 1’s governing body should stop knee-jerk rule changes and Lewis Hamilton is a top driver – those are the views of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, expressed in conversation with CAR Magazine. CAR’s October 2011 issue – on sale now – contains a VIP tour of Ferrari and interviews with the company’s top brass: president di Montezemolo, Ferrari CEO and engineer Amedeo Felisa and design chief Flavio Manzoni.

We covered so many fascinating topics that some great material could have finished up on the cutting room floor. Instead we’ll publish the full transcripts of the interviews this week. Luca di Montezemolo was on great form, cracking jokes and holding court in typical charismatic fashion, in his private Maranello dining room. Read on for the full conversation, and for the pictures of our access all areas visit, pick up the October issue of CAR (free digital preview here).

Luca Di Montezemolo: 'I have seen your test drive with McLaren and Ferrari...'

CAR: 'Good!' [followed by trepidatious laugh]

LDM: 'I don’t like too often when our competitors, particularly in F1, they talk too much about us, “Ferrari has the biggest [such and such]”... I don’t want to do the same with them. I like the road cars competition. Fifteen years ago I said I don’t want to be the last of the Mohicans, apart from Porsche. Jaguar in the shit, McLaren did just one car with three seats, one shot then nothing. I like for my people, little bit presumptuous, to say we want to be the best. But to be the best on our own is self-service promotion. Having said that, there are a lot of newcomers both in Formula 1 and in road cars.

'In Formula 1 I like to have a polemic with somebody who has won half of what Ferrari did, it’s impossible to say but at least half, in road cars everybody is welcome. In my opinion, one reason I have a lot of respect for Porsche, is history. It doesn’t mean if you don’t have history you’re not allowed, but history, emotion of driving, personality, a little bit of dreaming around the problem are important ingredients for a successful car. Not just in sports cars, the Mini, Renault R6, Fiat Cinquencento, so welcome to some newcomers but with respect.'

Have you also seen our CAR Racing supplement, with some bloke called... ahem... Lewis Hamilton on the cover?

'Lewis Hamilton is a fantastic driver. I like him because he’s a fighter, I like him because he has a lot of determination, for me he’s by far, together with Alonso, he’s the best driver in the world at the moment, and I know that he has a very good taste in cars [Di Montezemolo winks], as many F1 drivers of the present the past and I’m sure of the future. I like him.'

Would you be happy if a Ferrari driver was as critical of the team as Lewis has been on occasion?

'Let me be coy. Let me talk about Ferrari. We are in a good moment, even in Formula 1. I was very unhappy at the start of season for the simple reason of losing the [2010] championship in an unbelievable way, at the last race, it was easy to get a fourth place. If earlier in the season, they told me we get a fourth place I would say, “Listen Ferrari has to win, not a fourth place” then in the the only race it was necessary just to get a fourth place and...[Di Montezemolo claps his hands loudly]. I still wake up [in the night about it]!'

[CAR’s photographer, Jamie Beeden, enters the room]

'Who is this guy, he’s a paparazzo? Be careful!'

Jamie Beeden: I last photographed you in 2003, at the Maserati Quattroporte unveiling. You haven’t changed!

'I change, no you haven’t changed! I’m very proud to be so close to a good-looking women instead of just a car! [Di Montezemolo gestures to Federica Marchionni, Ferrari director of brand and LDM’s lunch appointment.]   

'Last week I said that next year I want a car that’s competitive from the start of season; last year for different reasons we were not very strong at the beginning and this year I was extremely disappointed, all the Tifosi not only me. I told all the people I want more, a strong, strong, strong reaction in terms of method, more determination. Formula 1 as I said before regarding Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 is not a sport for a big corporation: you need to have rapid decisions, no bureaucracy, to have people who can work day and night, I always tell my people and myself we have to be more unhappy when I win than when I lose. When I win I don’t want the people thinking...

'This is our helicopter arriving, red for Ferrari, half red I have to go tonight to Rome.

'I’m very pleased at the reaction despite the unclear situation with the rules. Sooner or later I will say something because patience has its limits; I see at the Silverstone race something I haven’t seen in 30 years, even more, to change the rules on Friday then on Saturday – I haven’t seen it: I was used to change thing rules before every three seasons, then every season, then in the middle of the season, but I’ve never seen it [during a race weekend]... anyway, this is not the place to talk about it but sooner or later the Ferrari voice will come out...'

By Phil McNamara