Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has again admitted that the Scuderia has not made the most of having Fernando Alonso in one of its cars, conceding that it has been hard to keep pace with Red Bull Racing.
Speaking in a unique meeting with two fans particularly upset with the Prancing Horse's recent efforts, Domenicali answered a string of difficult questions, including one questioning whether Alonso has delivered what was expected when he was hired four years ago.
“If, in the past four years, we have come close to the title twice, it is partly down to him,” Domenicali said of the Spaniard, “Unfortunately, we have not been capable of giving him a car that matches his talent. You compare him to [Sebastian] Vettel but, when you have a better car, everything is more straightforward.”
Asked what the Milton Keynes team had that Ferrari hadn't, with particular emphasis on the latest suggestion that it was employing 'strange mappings' as part of its engine programme, Domenicali acknowledged that Maranello was still in the dark – but insisted that suggestions that the opposition was being underhand weren't meant with malice.
“Everyone is trying to work that out,” he said of RBR's apparent advantage, “But its pointless making accusations if there is no proof. The FIA can check the control unit and, if they find nothing, then Red Bull is obviously doing a good job.
“You are in front of the most sportsmanlike person in the world. In all the races, whether you see it or not, I congratulate our rivals. The little digs at Red Bull? It's a way of relieving the tension and making light of it, as is clear from the tone of [the comments].”
While the management take digs at their rivals, Alonso has been more inwardly critical – something that has seen the Spaniard pulled up in front of president Luca di Montezemolo...
“If I have something to say to him, as would be the case with my engineers, I would do it behind closed doors and in a harsh manner,” Domenicali insisted, “Externally, I will always defend the team and, when he crossed the line, president Montezemolo intervened and, in private, so did I.”
The Italian, however, did confirm that its efforts to favour Alonso were at least open and honest – even if they did not always find favour with fans who, with particular reference to last year's attempts to improve the Spaniard's grid position at the USGP, would rather see Ferrari maintain a 'purer' approach.
“In Austin, we did not 'sabotage' the gearbox [as was suggested by the interrogator], but simply made the most of an article in the regulations which allowed us to break the seals,” Domenicali explained, “The interests of Ferrari come above all else: if we had lost the championship by the number of points we'd have lost there, the evaluation of what we did would have been different. Unlike the others, we speak openly about what we are doing...”