Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has reiterated the threat that unless F1 changes direction in the near future, it will lose its most loyal supporter – as he blasted the new regulations this season for making the racing too 'artificial'.
Ferrari is the only team on the grid to have begun every single campaign in F1's six-decade history, but of late, there have been mixed signals about its continued commitment – and di Montezemolo contends that the advent of the new, steering wheel-operated moveable rear wing and deliberately fast-degrading Pirelli tyres in 2011 as well as the FIA's proposal for four-cylinder, turbocharged engines in two years' time is anathema to everything that the Scuderia
“A steering wheel is now a computer covered in buttons,” the Italian lamented in an interview with German magazine Auto Bild
, arguing that the sport 'has become too artificial' and that 'the fans no longer understand'. “The [Concorde Agreement] expires at the end of 2012. We need to discuss now how to proceed. Ferrari will continue to be there, so long as the sport gives us back something for the development of technology for our production cars – otherwise not.”
Meanwhile, the Prancing Horse is on the verge of aping early-season F1 2011 World Championship leaders Red Bull Racing with a flexible front wing for its underperforming F150° Italia – even if technical director Aldo Costa concedes that such an addition alone will not provide an immediate quick-fix to the car's front downforce issues.
“It was not possible [to keep last season's flexible front wing] with the new, more stringent test for measuring the flexibility of the wings,” he explained to Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat
. “Red Bull, however, succeeded and passed the tests. We have studied the situation carefully, and now we will have the same solution.
“We know what our biggest problem is, but solving it quickly is more difficult. We are trying solutions in Shanghai, which I hope will improve things. If they don't bring the results we expect, we have a big development in front of us.”
On the opening day of practice for this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix, however, double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso lost valuable set-up time in the afternoon with hydraulic woes – caused by 'experimental parts' – that left the Spaniard unable to complete his planned programme, one that had been due to include an aerodynamic investigation begun at Sepang, putting several new components through their paces and an evaluation of the two tyre compounds brought to the circuit by Pirelli.
“I did not manage to do any long-run testing to get an idea of the tyre degradation, but fortunately, Felipe [Massa – team-mate] managed to do that on both types, so at least we have a good basis to start from,” the 29-year-old reported. “As for the new aerodynamic components, it is too early to say if they really produce an advantage. The engineers will now have to study the data carefully tonight, before drawing any definite conclusions as to whether or not we are moving in the right direction in terms of development.
“From the little I could see, there are no problems – or at least they are very slight – in terms of warm-up on the hard tyres, which could be an improvement for managing the tyres in qualifying; in Australia it was a problem with the warm-up, and even in Malaysia with the hard tyre the first lap was not the quickest. I don't expect much to change from what we saw there, though – McLaren and especially Red Bull are quicker than us and are the favourites. At the moment, we are not capable of fighting for the win, but that doesn't mean we won't be trying.