Ferrari expected more of Schumacher at Interlagos
3 December 2012
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has expressed his dismay that former Maranello hero Michael Schumacher did not make it harder for Sebastian Vettel to deny Fernando Alonso the 2012 F1 world title.
Despite having effectively forced Schumacher into his first retirement from the top flight by signing Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the 2006 campaign, the Scuderia has always retained an affection for the seven-time champion after he returned it to title success, and di Montezemolo clearly hoped that there would be some mutual regard when it came to the closing stages of the 2012 season finale.
With Vettel holding a 13-point advantage over Alonso heading to Brazil, the odds were stacked against the Spaniard but, when the Red Bull team leader was spun around on the opening lap, it opened the door to all sorts of possibilities, particularly as Alonso found himself running second as the chequered flag approached.
More than once, owing in part to no fewer than four stops for tyres to combat the changing conditions, Vettel had to mount comeback drives, but needed a couple of positions in the last 15 laps to make sure that he had enough in hand to take the title. While a lack of resistance from Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne was to be expected, Ferrari hoped that Schumacher may prove to be more obstinate. Instead, the Mercedes driver offered little in the way of opposition to his countryman, as Vettel moved into sixth spot on lap 63 of 71.
“I was expecting a slightly different final race on the part of Michael Schumacher, because he is a driver with links to Ferrari through some extraordinary moments and with whom we feel very close,” di Montezemolo commented at Ferrari's Finali Mondiali event in Valencia at the weekend, “As for the rest, I don't want to make any comment other than to underline that in the past we have been strongly criticised for playing a sensible, necessary, right and open team game.”
Ferrari did its bit to keep Alonso in the title race by forcing Felipe Massa to 'take one for the team' after breaking the seals on an otherwise healthy gearbox at the USGP in Austin. The move triggered an automatic five-place grid penalty for the Brazilian, promoting Alonso to seventh and the cleaner side of the starting line-up.
“I have always told my drivers that they are not racing for themselves, but for Ferrari,” di Montezemolo insisted, “Ours is one team, you can see that in the pit-stops and you can see it on the track. One of the things I most appreciate about Felipe is the fact that he has always been a team player, and I know that Fernando has been one too.
“We have had criticism for how we apply these team games, but it's up to the public and the spectators to judge these things. I don't like to create controversy for its own sake - we look ahead and everyone makes their own judgement – but the behaviour of Ferrari has always prized the team game and the sport.”
Despite missing out on both the individual and team crowns to Red Bull, di Montezemolo maintained that he could not fault the effort of anyone involved in Ferrari's championship challenge.
“I've already said it but I want to say it again: I am proud of what the team has done and I want to thank everyone for that,” he said, “In particular, I want to thank Fernando, who has had the best season of his career: I must congratulate him because he never gave up and he managed to give more than anyone could have thought possible.
“It also gave me great pleasure to see a great second half of the championship by Felipe, showing we did well to keep him hanging on before we confirmed he would be staying. He has been with us for many years and this end to the season will be very important to him for the start of next year - and not just psychologically.
“We have had extraordinary reliability and this is down to [team principal Stefano] Domenicali and all his men, just as we have been very strong in our strategies and pit-stops - it's hard to find real errors in these areas.
“We haven't had a car at the same high level as the top two and we have to improve this. To win races, you have to start at the front, and to win the championship, you have to win races. I want to win the world championship and I expect a big step forward by the team in terms of organisation, methods and quality of work. If we can give a car that is capable of winning to our drivers then they will do the rest.”