Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Friday, June 22, 2012
You know things are serious when Ferrari get involved. Before last week’s almost desperate-sounding plea from president Luca di Montezemolo, protestations over budgets and cost-cutting from the likes of Force India and Caterham would have been met with indifference, bordering on ambivalence.
"We’ve a couple of quite significant updates coming in Valencia and Silverstone… we are cautiously optimistic"
But the words of the Maranello chief make it clear – Formula One needs to make changes, rather than simply talking about them.
“The world economic situation and that of Europe in particular is very serious and the world of Formula One cannot ignore the fact,” he said on the Ferrari website.
“We cannot lose any more time; we need to tackle urgently and with determination the question of costs.
“Ferrari is in agreement with the FIA’s position that drastic intervention is required.
• GW – Michael Schumacher: Pirelli boss Paul Hembery reckons the Mercedes man can taste success in Valencia – either that or Schumi’s complaints over this year’s tyres have won him a new fan.
• BW – Vijay Mallya: Has had to tell his Force India team it needs to raise its game and quickly – or find itself left behind by their midfield rivals.
“We are absolutely convinced that, as I have always said, the teams and commercial rights holder must work together with the Federation on this front.
“This is no longer the moment for getting bogged down in sterile discussions or the meanderings of engineers, usually only concerned in defending the interests of someone or other; the question has to be tackled at the highest level, without delay.”
There is no halfway house in that statement – although you suspect Ferrari have not always been so assertive over the subject.
The change? Di Montezemolo says it himself – Italy, and the team’s key Spanish sponsor Santander, are facing inancial pressures finally being felt at the top end of Formula One.
The rhetoric is no doubt deliberate. Ferrari clearly want a version of the current Resource Restriction Agreement to be enshrined in the rules for next season.
If they can get the majority of teams to agree by the end of this month, they will get their way – if not, a tweak in the regulations mean they will require unanimity.
FIA president – and former Ferrari man Jean Todt has not minced his words either: “For me, F1 is too expensive…if we do nothing, we could get into a situation where we have less than 12 teams on the grid.”
Obviously the Formula One landscape is changing as the FIA looks for an F1 life beyond Bernie Ecclestone.
The sport’s floatation is still being planned for, free-to-view live television coverage – here at least – could come to an end over the coming years, while teams’ sponsorship revenues are falling.
Ferrari clearly are not comfortable with the current direction both they and the sport are heading – and Maranello, more than any team, has a real say in what happens.
So it seems, this time they mean it.
• A colleague on our new EDP F1 podcast is out of the country this weekend, so won’t be able to watch or comment on Sunday’s race in Valencia.
Apparently it’s not because the city’s grand prix is regularly a bore-fest – although I only half believe him.
Much like Montreal, Valencia loves and embraces Formula One when it arrives. The people dive into it. And the temporary street circuit offers the same issues: of developing grip over the weekend and iconic scenes similar street venues dish out.
The problem is, even compared to the previous outings at Barcelona, Valencia has yet to deliver a race to match the passions of those in attendance.
Even last season, when DRS and the first draft of Pirelli’s tyres arrived on the scene, the European Grand Prix simply came and went – probably not helped by Sebastian Vettel’s dominant march from pole to the chequered flag in his RB7.
Arguably the biggest task for the 2012 Pirelli tyres will be to make the weekend eventful. Many have tried and failed, but similar strategy calls to those from a few greedy teams in Canada would help with that.
We are still on seven different winners from seven races, don’t forget – record-setting territory.
It is now either a case of the run continuing or someone finally bagging a second race victory in 2012.
It’s only when you think back through the season you start to realise how many times Lewis Hamilton has lost out due to bad luck, bad execution or bad decisions from his team.
Having finally got it right last time out in Canada, the Brit will struggle for a better opportunity than the one awaiting him in Spain this weekend.
And if you fancy another new winner, then how about Hethel-backed Lotus to finally top the lot on a Sunday.
In truth, the E20 is good enough to have already won a race.
Mind you, would Kimi Räikkönen or Romain Grosjean be your favourite to take it?