Ferrari flop sparks debate in Italy

Ferrari’s woeful end to the Formula One season has drawn
criticism in Italy, with some lawmakers calling for the automaker’s
president to resign.

Fernando Alonso entered Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix leading
the drivers’ standings but finished seventh in the race after
several strategic errors by the Italian team, allowing Red Bull’s
Sebastian Vettel to clinch the title by winning the race.

Cabinet minister Roberto Calderoli was among those suggesting
that Ferrari President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo should step
down, prompting Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne to issue a statement
Monday in Montezemolo’s defense.

”The result from yesterday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix certainly
wasn’t what we all expected, but we’ve still got to be grateful to
the men and women of Ferrari, whose work allowed (the team) to near
an objective that until a few weeks ago seemed unthinkable,”
Marchionne said.

Fiat owns an 85 percent stake in Ferrari.

”It’s true that we lacked something in the final sprint, but I
am convinced that everyone at Ferrari, from its president on down
to the last mechanic, did a great job,” Marchionne added.

There is speculation that Montezemolo could have political
ambitions to lead a new coalition in opposition to Italian Premier
Silvio Berlusconi. He dismissed Calderoli’s suggestion, telling
online journal Affaritaliani.it that he would prefer to ”talk
about serious things,” adding that any political comments ”don’t
even minimally tarnish the dedication and capacity of the men and
women of Ferrari.”

Italian Olympic Committee President Giovanni Petrucci also
sought to calm the outrage.

”You can also finish second in sports sometimes,” Petrucci
said. ”We should thank Ferrari for all it has done and continues
to do. There are also opponents – congratulations to Red Bull and
Vettel.”

In a statement posted on its website, Ferrari also expressed
dismay over the political talk.

”We’re sorry to see that there are some politicians on the
outside who are ready to jump onto the winner’s bandwagon, then
push for the guillotine when things go badly,” the automaker
commented. ”And we don’t understand anyone who revels in
self-defeatism, who sinks into the culture of, ‘Everything’s gone
wrong, we have to start all over again.’ They are vices that are
very Italian, that we must learn to shake off.”

Ferrari team director Stefano Domenicali acknowledged that the
squad made three tactical mistakes in the race: regarding Mark
Webber of Red Bull as Alonso’s top challenger instead of Vettel,
not realizing how long the soft tires were going to hold up –
leading to a poor pit-stop strategy – and not taking into account
how tough it was to pass slower cars late in the race.

With Red Bull also winning the constructors’ title, Ferrari has
now gone two full seasons without a title. Kimi Raikkonen last won
the drivers championship for Ferrari in 2007, while the team last
took the constructors’ title – of which it has won a record 16 – in
2008.

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