Luca di Montezemolo hails Fernando Alonso and backs Felipe Massa for 2013
Ferrari chief has mixed feelings about 2012 campaign
Last Updated: 20/12/12 5:26pm
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has hailed Fernando Alonso for producing his best season in F1 during 2012 and insisted the team were right to retain Felipe Massa.
In a wide-ranging review of the season, the Italian described Alonso, beaten to the World Championship by Sebastian Vettel by just three points, as "a mix of Lauda and Schumacher" and said Ferrari kept faith in team-mate Massa after concluding there wasn't a quicker driver available to replace the Brazilian before Felipe returned to form in the final stages of the campaign.
"The Brazilian improved a great deal in the second half: in fact in the first part, it seemed he'd gone on a round the world holiday!" said the Ferrari chief.
"Joking apart, I think the decision to reconfirm his position was the right one: if we had changed, then one would need to take on someone who would make a difference and I can't say I noticed many drivers around who would be quicker than Felipe. Also, we did not want to change the balance and the good atmosphere within the team.
"[Stefano] Domenicali and I told ourselves it was best to wait and I think that the facts proved us right. Towards the end, when Felipe was even faster than Fernando a couple of times, the points he scored played a vital part in securing our place in the Constructors' Championship."
As for Alonso, di Montezemolo enthused: "Fernando had an extraordinary season, the best since he has been in Formula 1. Next year, let's hope we can say it was our best season, given that we want to give him and Felipe a car that's competitive right from the start. The Spaniard is a mix of Lauda and Schumacher: like the former, he has the ability to drive every race lap as though it was qualifying, like the latter, he has the intelligence to know when it's time to push and when it's time to look after the car."
Yet as he reflected on the season as a whole, di Montezemolo was forced to concede that he did so with mixed feelings.
"You can see the glass as half full or half empty, but clearly there is great regret," he said. "Because the outcome went down to the wire, because after that first lap in Brazil, maybe things could have turned out differently, because Fernando went on holiday at the start of the summer break with a 40 point lead over his closest challenger and because when it came to collisions we were forced to retire, while others kept going as if nothing had happened. However, the biggest regret is that we did not have a car that was quick enough to win the World Championship.
"On the glass half full side, we had amazing reliability which allowed us to come second in the Constructors' Championship despite the fact McLaren was quicker than us and despite the fact that, in the first half of the season, we pretty much only had Alonso's points to count on.
"Once again this season we were contenders. We must start from this positive point. If we succeed and improve our performance then we can be winners."