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.