My old friend Bernie Ecclestone won’t say it, he is far too diplomatic and self-controlled, but it looks like Ferrari, or rather their chief Luca di Montezemolo, has lost the plot.
Their abject reaction to losing out on the Formula One world championship is a distant remove from what is to be expected from a set-up with so much achievement, history and reputation and Di Montezemolo’s latest outburst against Ecclestone and his broad hint for the great man to step down is one to be condemned.
I have no doubt it would have stirred a wry grin on Bernie’s otherwise rarely smiling countenance, a fixture belying an undercurrent of humour and kindness not too often displayed in public — but still it will have hurt the wee man as he heard about the very public and indiscreet mutterings from Maranello’s principal.
Di Montezemelo was speaking at a Ferrari function in Valencia, Spain, and was moved unwisely to comment on 82-year-old Bernie’s advancing years in a veiled attack on the genius who guided grand prix racing to greatness and vast riches, much of it into the Italian legends’ coffers, on the world stage and who shows no signs of deterioration.
It was an unsophisticated elbowing to one side of F1’s guiding light, when the 64-year-old Italian company president suggested the long-term occupant of F1’s top seat is not the power Ferrari prefer to have in place.
It all stems from Ecclestone’s derisory dismissal as “a joke” of Ferrari’s protest over Red Bull ace Sebastian Vettel’s third title-clincher over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso in the last race of the championship chase in Brazil.
Di Montezemolo, riled at the remark, sneered: “Since some people used the expression ‘it’s a joke’ in recent days, I would like to say that this is the real joke.
“My father always taught me that you have to respect your elders, above all when they reach the point they cannot control their words. So I will stop there. But, certainly, old age is often incompatible with certain rules and responsibilities.”
Oh dear! Di Montezemolo’s outburst will have done neither him nor Ferrari any favours, but as he is the ultimate boss with the final say there will be no comebacks dared from within his HQ, even if some of his staff will have secretly winced at his ineptitude.
As for newly-wed Bernie, I’ll say it for him: Silence, Mr Di Montezemolo, is not only golden but essential when you have the choice whether or not to put your foot in it.
— The writer is a motorsports expert based in England.