On 29 July 2013, the day after the Hungarian Grand Prix, an interesting piece appeared on the Ferrari website entitled ‘A turning point to tackle with a knife between the teeth’. It related the comments of Ferrari President Luca de Montezemolo, who was apparently less than happy about the team’s performance, and also the behaviour of its lead driver, Fernando Alonso. The piece stated baldly that Montezemolo had ‘tweaked his (Alonso’s) ear’ reminding him that “all the great champions who have driven for Ferrari have always been asked to put the interests of the team above their own. This is the moment to stay calm, avoid polemics and show humility and determination in making one’s own contribution, standing alongside the team and its people both at the track and outside it.” Nobody seems entirely sure why Alonso was on the receiving end of Montezemolo’s ire, but one theory is that it was his reply when asked what he would like for his (forthcoming) birthday, his response was ‘a new car’.
The public castigation of Ferrari’s most expensive employee by the President gave me a real sense of déjà vu. Last night I was re-reading one of Niki Lauda’s memoirs ‘For the Record’ written in the late seventies and focusing on his experiences during the season of 1976 when he almost lost his life and did lose (by a very small margin) the World Championship to James Hunt. I had got to the part where he was being criticised in the media by Enzo Ferrari saying that he made a mistake by coming back too early for the Grand Prix at Monza. Enzo Ferrari was renowned for communicating his pleasure or otherwise with the race team, Gestione Sportiva, via the media and it seems that Ferrari’s current President is following a similar line. However, interestingly, Montezemolo started off by saying that “The Ferrari I saw in yesterday’s race doesn’t sit well with me.” If he is following Enzo’s tradition of criticising his drivers through the media, he is not following his other tradition of never criticising his cars, but then I guess they don’t have his name on them.
January 3, 2012
After dropping rather a lot of hints, I received the Senna DVD for Christmas and enjoyed watching it in between various helpings of turkey and Christmas pudding. It was certainly an outstanding film, recounting the story of the Senna versus Prost duel simply by using film clips and interviews. It was also good to see a clip featuring a rather younger version of my co-author Richard West announcing Senna’s arrival at Williams back in 1994.
I am also looking forward to the much-heralded ‘Rush’ to be directed by Ron Howard: Richie Cunningham from Happy Days and director of Frost/Nixon; Da Vinci Code and A Beautiful Mind, amongst others. The film will, I understand, be a dramatisation of another epic F1 duel, that which took place between James Hunt (McLaren) and Niki Lauda (Ferrari) in 1976. It is rumoured that Russell Crowe will be playing Richard Burton, who really did feature in Hunt’s life at the time – I wonder if Tom Cruise will be playing Bernie? One of the contrasts between the Senna vs Prost and Lauda vs Hunt battles was that Lauda and Hunt actually got on very well off the track while fighting for the championship on it – both of them spoke their minds, regardless of political niceties, and both recognised the other as a kindred spirit. Given the early publicity surrounding the film I was rather amused to see that the former editor of BusinessF1, Tom Rubython, had undertaken a wonderful bit of opportunism and followed up on his biography of James Hunt ‘Shunt’ (Btw if you want to read about James Hunt his ‘official’ biography by Gerald Donaldson is outstanding), with a book on the battle between Hunt and Lauda entitled ‘In the Name of Glory – 1976’. So we now have the book as well as the film, but it isn’t the book of the film and it won’t be the film of the book, but probably most people won’t know and won’t care – timing is everything.