"Because the year that has just ended was a very difficult one: it was the first without Schumacher and a new team chemistry had to be found. In short, it was a delicate season. Not to mention the weight that the spy story had: I went through summer talking to lawyers... For me, however, it has a particular value: it is my seventh triumph in the Constructors' World Championship and the sixth Drivers' Championship. In the last ten years Ferrari has won more than it had in the previous fifty. And then today's victory means that we didn't have the wrong drivers for the post-Schumacher era...".
Speaking of spy stories. Doesn't today's victory taste a bit like revenge?
"Let's say that it wouldn't have been nice to see a team that was disqualified win. That's all. But above all let's say that today's victory was deserved on the field by a team that recorded the highest number of poles and continued to grow and to work throughout the season".
Let's go back to the phone calls. Which was the one that pleased you the most?
"Ciampi's. He was very happy. I saw the whole race - he told me - I'm happy. The truth is that I think this victory triggered something specific, different in people. From Maranello they told me about a flood of emails and congratulatory phone calls".
The particular alchemy generated by impossible feats...
"Or maybe a signal".
"I am convinced that in Italy there are many companies like Ferrari that know how to win, impose themselves, innovate and always remain at levels of excellence. We who deal with sport are lucky because our world magnifies everything, creates myths, ignites spotlight. But we are nothing other than the symbol of an Italy that goes, that knows how to win. Here: I believe that Ferrari's victory is not only valid for Ferrari but also for the other exponents of this Italy that works. Hearing the sound of the The Italian anthem in a sport with such a high technological content and in which the main world brands traditionally compete rewards us and our country".
And it is pure joy also for Felipe Massa, who says:
"I'm happy for the team, unfortunately I didn't come here to win the World Championship for many reasons, due to the problems I had during the year, but I'm happy for the team. It's nice to see Ferrari, who gave me so much confidence , win the championship, and I hope that one day he wins with me. But now I'm happy for Kimi and I have to thank the whole team who worked hard even in difficult moments, when we were the subject of criticism. It's nice to see Ferrari as World Champion now , we showed that we did a great job by winning this championship and I want to thank everyone who worked with us, it's a great day for them too".
Massa's only regret is not having crossed the finish line first in front of his fans.
"I wanted to win the race in Brazil but I'm still happy because the team won the championship".
A little less sporty, but still sincere Fernando Alonso who first compliments his opponents:
"I've always said that whoever has the most points wins. Kimi had a good championship with ups and downs like all the other competitors and today he did an excellent job, he deserved it".
But then he also explains:
"I knew that the race would be difficult, not only because I had to take four or five points more than Lewis, but also because I knew that Ferrari could have taken first and second position. I wasn't able to keep up and I waited for something bad to happen to them. At the beginning I was very optimistic, I knew that the pace was good. They managed the tire situation well, but anything could happen and so at the beginning I tried to maintain third position with fingers crossed, hoping for their problems. In the end, however, nothing happened".
The suicide is complete. The 2007 season will go down in McLaren's annals as one of the most painful in its history.
In the opinion of Mika Hakkinen, the last World Champion who won with McLaren, disappointing for Ron Dennis. McLaren hurt itself. First the spy story, then the mismanagement of the dualism between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, the choice of field for the latter and, finally, the errors that denied Lewis Hamilton the World Championship. Ron Dennis now repeats:
"A big disappointment? Of course, disappointing, it was a matter of a few seconds and an incredible mistake. Sorry, it's difficult to find the words at a moment like this. Ferrari had reliability problems at the start of the season, we in this Grand Prix”.
The one who doesn't feel defeated, or at least not like the rest of the team, is Fernando Alonso.
"For not having bet on any driver, we now find ourselves second and third".
For the Spaniard, the Finn's triumph is the lesser evil, much worse it would have been to accept Lewis Hamilton as a winner. Of course, he would have liked to trip everyone up:
"But I understood that there would be nothing I could do. At the start of the race I was optimistic, then as the laps went by I understood that the only solution would be a problem with one of the two Ferraris".
Alonso has no regrets about this Grand Prix:
"I haven't lost the title here".
His last words are a hymn to diplomacy:
"My contract? I'm angry with McLaren".
But also to the irony:
"I'm sure that the team cheered for me until the end".
"I will have fond memories of this year, I'm just sorry for the fans".
In Madrid 10.000 people watched the Grand Prix in the sports hall and rejoiced three times: when Lewis Hamilton crashed out at the start, when he had gearbox problems and when Kimi Raikkonen crossed the finish line. Even for his fans, the important thing is that Lewis Hamilton didn't win. And he himself, the other truly great loser, leaves the paddock with a smile. Lewis Hamilton believes he has no cause for resentment:
"I am happy. Did you ever imagine that, coming from GP2, I would be able to challenge for the title?"
The now former rookie continues his story:
"Yes, I made a mistake at the start which cost me a few positions. But I had the pace to recover, and instead - suddenly - the gearbox ended up in neutral and I didn't understand why".
From that moment the race turned into a nightmare:
"Everything was against me".
Despite the change in strategy during the race (Ron Dennis explains: "By calling him to the pits we gained him ten seconds"), fifth place, the last position needed to win the World Championship, remained distant.
"There's no reason to be down in the dumps. Believe me, no one is suffering here. It's been a fantastic year".
Father Anthony then also intervened, taking his son away from the siege of cameras and microphones. And if Ron Dennis asks for two minutes of rest Anthony Hamilton has already started the countdown to next season:
"There are twenty-two weeks until Melbourne: we will be more rested, fitter and more experienced. We didn't win this year, we will win next year".
McLaren's backlash is a media boomerang. The complaint against the commissioners' decision not to punish BMW and Williams for the irregular temperature of the petrol is condemned by all. Starting with Fernando Alonso separated at home:
"A shame. A joke, but we've already made too many of them".
The World Drivers' Championship of the 2007 season belongs to Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari. But the final word on this troubled year has not yet been written. On Tuesday 23 October 2007, McLaren announced its appeal regarding the regularity of the petrol used by BMW and Williams: a dispute that was left pending until 2:00 a.m. on Monday the verdict came from the track. Any disqualifications of the cars under investigation would have handed the title to Lewis Hamilton (seventh at the finish line), thus mocking Kimi Raikkonen. Yet Ron Dennis, who vented his anger against the web ("It's all the Internet's fault, it's an uncontrolled source of information and it has ruined our lives, we spend our lives denying it, all this creates pressure even if the error of Saint Paul has nothing to do with this") immediately after the defeat he had said solemnly:
"We must accept this verdict with a sporting spirit".
Instead, he now says:
"Our fans and F1 insiders themselves want us to appeal. If we didn't follow through we would be criticized. Furthermore, our step is not taken to change the championship finale but to have certain rules".
A legitimate attitude but peppered with a lot of hypocrisy. It will now be up to the FIA Court of Appeal to evaluate the British observations and establish a date on which to convene the hearing: this should take place by the end of next month. The World Motor Sport Council will meet in Paris on Wednesday 24 October 2007, chaired by Max Mosley. There is a precedent that does not help the English team: in 1995 the Benetton and Williams teams were sanctioned and not the drivers, Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard. Fernando Alonso repeats:
"Awarding a championship in this way wouldn't be right, it would be a disgrace for this sport".
And he accuses Ron Dennis:
"I don't really feel like the season was managed well. The results speak for themselves, McLaren made some bad decisions, especially in the second half of the season. It's no secret that no one helped me. In the last few Grands Prix I have had my hands and feet tied. I had to accept every decision of the team, I couldn't make any choices. It was hard for me to bridge the gap".
The next few weeks will be decisive in defining the future of Fernando Alonso and of McLaren itself, although the team always hopes in article 6.5.4 of the technical regulations, the one that incriminated BMW and Williams, not punished because the commissioners saw the discrepancies of the temperature values between the FIA monitors and those of the teams. The truth is that someone in the paddock remembered that the FOM monitor showed a temperature of 62 °C on the asphalt. With that value the tires risk melting, not even in Malaysia do you drive in those conditions. The appeal, therefore. You also have to understand that, Ron Dennis. He lost everything near the finish line, the appeal seems more like a nervous reaction than anything else. From Spain they use another definition:
"The worst nonsense of the century".
McLaren doesn't give up. He does not accept that the world title was given to Kimi Raikkonen. Above all, Ron Dennis does not intend to do so, now unleashed in his battle against the hated Ferrari, to the point of entering a collision course with Mercedes, more willing to accept the verdict of the field in style. The previously announced appeal against the decision of the race commissioners at Interlagos not to sanction BMW and Williams for the use of irregular fuel is a reality and has been filed. It is now up to the FIA to decide whether to accept it, with the consequence of bringing the world of Formula 1 back to Paris for the third time in this troubled season. The complaint is there, as is clear the attempt to make Lewis Hamilton win the World Championship. But the impressive thing is the sentences that accompany it, of a totally different nature, from McLaren and Mercedes. Norbert Haug, the soul of Mercedes, tries to channel the protest into an initiative for the good of F1.
"We don't want to win the title in court, but just have some clarifications on the regulations, and I think this is in the interest of every team".
Ron Dennis' lunge, however, was of a different tone. He too, in the introduction, puts his hands forward.
"McLaren likes to win on the track".
But then he adds.
"If there has been a violation, it is right that the FIA investigates cautiously and makes the right decision. It must encourage our initiative and not reject it with disdain. We do not question the moral integrity of BMW and Williams, but if there has been a mistake it is right that the two teams pay, be removed from the rankings and allow Hamilton to win the World Championship. We are not at fault in circumventing the rules. We are victims and we must be protected".
A way to affirm that the world title must not end in Maranello, but in Woking, home of McLaren, the team that was eliminated from the World Constructors' Championship for having stolen Ferrari's secrets, but now dreams of taking revenge. Dennis will do everything he can to win his battle. As long as the FIA decides to start it. Accepting the protest and setting a hearing for a new trial in Paris before the International Court of Appeal. The threats from McLaren, which will in any case part ways with Fernando Alonso at the end of the season as the Spanish newspapers highlight every day, are not spoiling the Ferrari party, however. Kimi Raikkonen is ready to embrace the entire team on Sunday 28 October 2007 at Mugello, and those close to him assure that after his triumph, with a touching speech, he won over all the mechanics. For days the word love towards the team that allowed him to climb to the top of the world has been appearing more and more often in his sentences, to the point that it is not far-fetched to hypothesize his intention to end his career in Maranello, extending a contract that expires in December 2009. His childhood dream was to win the World Championship.
"From now on what will arrive is something more".
And Kimi Raikkonen has understood that this more (other titles) can come if he bonds with Ferrari for life. Those who frequent him see him, in his feeling with the team, as increasingly similar to Michael Schumacher, the integration process is complete, the esteem for him is spreading, to the point that Jean Todt says:
"Kimi was masterful, but no comparison with Schumacher. The team's work was impeccable, only a fantastic group can recover 17 points in two races. Those who bet on Raikkonen's triumph did well, but not even Schumacher was capable of winning alone. He needs a big car".
Meanwhile, on Wednesday 24 October 2007 Michael Schumacher tests the 2007 World Champion Ferrari for the first time, while Kimi Raikkonen gives shivers to Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat, taking him for two laps aboard the new 430 Scuderia:
"But for two more laps I drove and I had a lot of fun".
Everyone is free, it's the great Ferrari party, a gigantic world championship happening that ended late in the evening, with the president Luca Montezemolo, Sergio Marchionne, Lapo Elkann and all the top management of Fiat, Jean Todt, Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Luca Badoer and Michael Schumacher , but above all the members of Sports Management. Those who, as Luca Montezemolo says:
"They triumph thanks to the four Cs, courage, cohesion, competence and creativity, the basic factor for the success of Ferrari and of all the Italys that impose themselves in the world. There would be a fifth C (refers to the attributes ed.), but it is better not to make it public".
Free everyone, it is the day of unbridled joy. But also of the great revenge. Because Montezemolo rejoices, but he doesn't forget.
"Nothing can erase what happened this year. We have seen unfair behavior, people telling a lot of lies. Teams that improved performance in a non-sporting way. We have lived through bad and difficult times. The worst on July 23rd, with that absurd ruling by the FIA World Council on the spy story: it was stated that there had been disloyalty, but it was not highlighted in a sanction. In the end we had a double satisfaction, a lie was exposed. The risk of the principle that a jockey who races with a drugged horse ultimately wins the race anyway was avoided. A legal disgrace, so much so that I had already thought about racing Ferraris in 2008 with 8.000 cc engines. They were disqualifying the team anyway, not the riders".
Broadsides to McLaren and FIA. But also to Bernie Ecclestone.
"He talked about Hamilton's skin color and said he would have preferred him to be Muslim. He would do better to say that that FIA world council was humiliating for everyone, starting with him who was sitting there. Ferrari has always raced with loyalty and sporting spirit. There are those who let drivers race with souped-up cars: a scandal".
Honey instead for its pilots.
"They are the best in the world. Massa is the one who has achieved the most poles, Raikkonen is the world champion. I don't exchange them for anyone. I will give Kimi a gift: not in money, it is foreseen in the contracts, it will be a surprise. In Massa we have just extended the contract. I wanted it personally".
He proudly flaunts a fact about his years at Ferrari: 243 races, 249 podiums. More than one per run. He happily receives a compliment from Sergio Marchionne:
"Ferrari is the company with the closest organization to perfection I have ever seen".
An assist to state:
"Since 1997 we have been the team to beat, despite the fact that we face the giants of world motoring, while not a single euro comes out of Fiat's coffers for us".
In the meantime, the president of Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, kicks off the great celebration at Mugello on the occasion of the World Finals, which takes place on Sunday 28 October 2007. Montezemolo expresses his satisfaction and pride in celebrating Ferrari's victory in front of the Italian public. an extraordinary team.
"The victory demonstrates the level of our drivers”.
After recalling the birthday of Bernie Ecclestone, who, although unspeakable, in his opinion has a strong passion for Ferrari, and his long-standing friendship with Max Mosley, the president praises the team spirit and creativity of the group which, what he said, were reiterated as the founding values of the great company that he is proud to represent, and of which he will be President for many years to come.
"We will announce the future organization at the end of the year with Jean Todt, as usual, but the strength of the company lies precisely in the stability of its men, in the exceptional skill of its technicians, engineers and the entire team, both in Sports Management than in production. The revolution, which I often hear about, we leave to your imagination".
Jean Todt, CEO of Ferrari, also does not fail to underline the exceptional nature of the results:
"A week ago, very few, even among those present, would have bet on being here to celebrate the drivers' title won by Kimi Raikkonen in his first season as a driver for the Ferrari Marlboro team. This result testifies to Ferrari's mentality, which can be summed up in: never give up and always believe in it no matter what. We had lost the World Championship in 2006 at the last race due to reliability problems: this year we had difficulties in this sense, but we thought about it. After the reorganization of Ges, following to the choice of personalities such as Ross Brawn and Paolo Martinelli to seek a different philosophy of life. It is doubly nice to be able to celebrate both World Championships today, after a difficult season characterized by many unpleasant episodes".
The CEO also recalls that Kimi won six Grands Prix, and Felipe won three, achieving six pole positions throughout the season. Obviously there is no lack of reference to the now sadly known story of the spy story which took everyone a bit by surprise.
"I would never have expected the betrayal on the part of one of our men, who for personal reasons decided to pass on information, but even less would I have expected the opposing team (McLaren ed.) to accept this information. However, in life you reaps what you sow and we have sown well, they less so".
Happy. A little dazed, because he still doesn't understand a word of Italian. But excited. Happy to have given all those fans who cheer him such great joy. Kimi Raikkonen, do you realize you are on top of the world?
"Now I am aware of it. But above all I understood what it means to win with Ferrari".
"This is a unique team. Mechanics who know how to work hard, who never give up, people who never stop believing for even a moment. At a certain point we knew we had little chance, yet we never gave up. And in the end we were rewarded. Not to mention the fans".
Do they deserve a separate discussion?
"They give you shivers. Here everyone shouts in Italian, I don't understand. But I realize how enthusiastic they are. I'm happy to have won a world championship after so many years in Formula 1. And above all to have done it in my first year with Ferrari".
It will be difficult to repeat.
"It's not for sure. 2008 could be simpler. In the meantime I won't have any chemistry problems. Now I've settled in, the team has understood my way of driving. And next year there will be no more traction control which should make it more fun. I started like this, with the pilot who did almost everything, who had fewer electronic aids. It was 2001: it was reinstated during the championship and overtaking immediately decreased. Now they can return, because the possibility of error on the part of the pilot increases. And winning races will give more pleasure".
So he is already a candidate for a second world championship.
"I know I can get it, but it will still be a battle. There is great anticipation for the new car, I hope it is as competitive as the one that won me the title. But I don't underestimate my rivals, who will still be close in terms of performance".
It would be nice if Alonso at least left McLaren and got out of the way.
"I don't know what the Spaniard will do, but there will certainly be four of them competing for the World Championship. Me, Massa and the two McLaren drivers. It will still be a close fight".
Speaking of McLaren: you drove for them for many years, how does the spy story explain? And the boycott against Alonso? Favors for Hamilton?
"I know their working methods well and in a certain sense I can be surprised. They had never made certain mistakes with me. But now their situation interests me little. Or nothing".
Have you thought of a special dedication for the World Championship?
"To the team. She was exceptional".
The large red heart, the two banners that remember the things that matter most on the planet of Maranello, the Ferrari Pride and the words World Champions. It's a wild party, also because it's unexpected. He is not wrong, Jean Todt, when he repeats:
"Seven days ago, before the start of the Brazilian Grand Prix, no one would have bet on our triumph. Many pieces had to go in a certain place. It wasn't easy".
Instead, the puzzle was miraculously completed and now Kimi Raikkonen, in front of 30.000 enthusiastic spectators, was crowned with great fanfare, king of the World Championship, in his first year wearing the red tracksuit. The Finn is almost moved by the many applause. And the president Luca Montezemolo is also radiant, who had banged his fists on the table in the hardest moments, who had always invited the team not to give up, but who perhaps not even he imagined such an epilogue.
"Our strength is stability, we won because we are a team".
Concept of cohesion, group, creativity. But also a clear message for those who, especially in the event of defeat, feared new revolutions.
"Our men are very good, the basis remains this, also for future years, for future successes, because let's be clear, we will try again next year too, we want to win both world championships again, fifteen drivers' titles, fifteen manufacturers are few, or rather, not enough yet. The leaders don't need to change, let's leave revolutions to the imagination of others".
Words for those who predicted chain torpedoes among Jean Todt's closest collaborators, in reality all confirmed. But also phrases that in a certain sense close the door to a return of Ross Brawn, someone who has finished his sabbatical, who would come back in a hurry, but who doesn't want just any job, but the coveted chair of Jean Todt. The French centralizer, leader for more than fourteen years with thirteen World Championships won, was almost tempted some time ago, but then Brazil arrived, new strong emotions, and now he confides:
"Days like this give you motivation for another ten years".
It is therefore difficult to think of possible reversals. At Mugello, with clogged streets and fans who only leave at night, there is the current Ferrari celebration, which will probably also be the future one. Of course, the past cannot be forgotten, it always makes the heart sink, Michael Schumacher, both as master of ceremonies in the prize-giving ceremonies of customer races and as man of the starting line in the parade with the four Formula 1 cars, always gets plenty of applause, but without the slightest intention of a change of heart or an invasion of the field. If he drives the Fxx, a luxury prototype, he says:
"Getting on the track always gives you emotions".
But if you misunderstood, he clarifies:
"I will never return to Formula 1, I will no longer be a driver. I've done my time, we can't even talk about it".
Better to be a simple fan.
"All these people for Raikkonen? It doesn't surprise me, Ferrari is a legend".
The only discordant note, which hovers over the red heads like a ghost, is the appeal presented by McLaren, which will be discussed in Paris on 15 November 2007. The usual Jean Todt, the most pragmatic of all, calls for calm.
"No one will be able to take away what the track has given us, but let's wait a little longer before abandoning ourselves to the most unbridled joy".
Wise caution. However, it is unlikely that the FIA will take the title away from Kimi Raikkonen. Luca Montezemolo avoids the discussion, but sends transversal messages.
"Congratulations to Ecclestone on his birthday, I know he is a Ferrari fan. And we respect Max Mosley, even if we don't always agree with the Federation's decisions".
But this time it will have to be, otherwise who will tell the 30.000 fans. At the risk of swallowing, without saying a word, another announced flaw, the single control unit, directed by a McLaren associate, and all the data of the various cars transmitted to the English team, this time in a legal manner, not with a spy story. Montezemolo would not want great physical, human and psychological violence:
"But I was ordered to keep quiet".
Better give Felipe Massa a pat. He is getting married on November 30th. Double party, from Mugello to San Paolo. From altar to altar.
"I like Alonso and admire him, for this reason I was sad and disappointed because, for no reason, our relationship was not positive. And not because he didn't try. I thought that Fernando would be an example for me and that he would show me how to do things".
This is what Lewis Hamilton writes. The British driver from McLaren has only been in Formula 1 for a year but he has already had the opportunity to be talked about, on and off the circuits. The Anglo-Caribbean driver could have been the first to win an F1 World Championship on his debut, but the pressure played a bad trick on him and at the last race the dream faded in favor of Kimi Raikkonen. In a season full of twists and turns, there was still a lot to tell and Hamilton decided to have his say. In November, in fact, his first biography will be released: My Story. Previewed by the British newspaper The Sun. The young driver tells his version of a tormented season and the conflicting relationship with his teammate.
"I'm sure that Fernando wasn't happy that I was going so fast right away, nor that I was attracting all this attention. As soon as he arrived at McLaren, he didn't expect to be put under pressure by the second driver. I've always admired Fernando, and I'm sorry for that too that our relationship has never improved".
Hamilton describes himself as a good guy, a good teammate and, in his opinion, only the Spaniard's attitude did not create a good professional relationship between the two. In the biography, Hamilton retraces the different moments of his clash with the two-time World Champion, explaining how even the McLaren-Mercedes team principal, Ron Dennis, had asked him to make an effort to try to warmly welcome the Spaniard to the team . The problems arose in the month of June, coinciding with the United States Grand Prix, Alonso began to insinuate the possibility of favoritism on the part of Dennis for Hamilton and there everything suddenly changed. Without a doubt the crucial point that pushed the two to the definitive breakup arrived in France:
"Someone told me that Fernando, who had finished seventh, had commented positively on the fact that the Ferraris had beaten me because that way I wouldn't get all the points. That for me was my worst nightmare".
Then came a further clash in Hungary due to Hamilton's belligerent attitude. Dennis tried to piece together the report:
"In Turkey we met to make peace, but in the end I said to Dennis: I try to talk to him, but I don't stop being who I am and I'm certainly not willing to lose my concentration to make him happy. I only focus on my dream".
The war continued at Spa. The start, in Lewis Hamilton's opinion, showed Fernando Alonso being too aggressive towards him.
"At Spa-Francorchamps Fernando made me go off the track, from there it was clear that anything could happen. If he wanted to be aggressive, I could be aggressive too".
The end of the season was certainly sad for the English driver who will try to make up for it next year, with or without Alonso as a partner. Hamilton says he is a simple guy, without major complications and does not understand Alonso's hostility towards him:
"I think I'm an easy person to live with, I don't hold a grudge against anyone and I told him that if he didn't want to talk or have a decent working relationship with me that was on him. This wasn't a good thing, but I felt that I could have been strong and aggressive without taking unnecessary risks. However, it's a shame that things ended like this".
Friday 2 November 2007, Fernando Alonso and McLaren Mercedes divorce. The driver and the British team agree on the early termination of the contract which would have expired in 2009. Alonso will not have to pay any penalty. The Spanish driver had a rather troubled season: between the spy story with Ferrari and McLaren's favoritism towards Lewis Hamilton he found himself challenging the team several times. And it is not surprising that after the separation he explicitly says:
"It's no secret that I've never felt at home here".
The terms of the divorce were negotiated between Thursday evening and Friday and this morning by the Spanish driver and his manager, Luis Garcia-Abad, at McLaren's headquarters in Woking, England.
"After a meeting between Fernando Alonso and McLaren by mutual agreement, in the interests of both parties, it was decided to end the collaboration relationship. The consensual separation had not been discussed before now, because it was believed that a such an argument could have seriously damaged the performance of the team and Fernando in the 2007 World Championship. Both parties believe that this was the best decision".
In the press release published on the McLaren website there is also Alonso's version.
"Ever since I was a child I always wanted to drive for McLaren. But sometimes things don't work out in life. I still think McLaren is a great team. We had ups and downs during the season, that made it all more complicated. It's no secret that I've never felt at home".
The Spaniard also returns to the difficult coexistence with Hamilton:
"There has been talk of favoritism within the team, people say a lot of things when you are in the heat of the competition. In the end, I always had the same opportunities to win. Today's decision allows everyone to think about 2008. Thank you to all the partners and sponsors I have worked with this year, I wish you all good luck".
For his part, Ron Dennis, number one of the Woking team, states that:
"Fernando Alonso is a great driver but for some reasons the relationship with McLaren Mercedes didn't work out and in the end we got to the point where none of us could find a way forward. We wish Fernando our best wishes for the future. We all believe that the joint decision to part ways was the best thing to do and we will now continue to focus on the 2008 World Championship".
Michael Schumacher returns to the track as a test driver for two days, Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 November 2007, in the official tests in Barcelona. But when there is a name like his involved, someone who has risen to the top of the world seven times, talking about a reserve pilot is more risky than ever. A scene seen many times, but of which we had become somewhat accustomed, given that until 24 October 2007 the German had no longer devoured kilometers with the Ferrari since, at the end of 2006, after an exciting race in Brazil, had decided to retire. In Fiorano, during the first celebration for Raikkonen's world title, a bit of nostalgia must have surfaced. You see a Ferrari in front of you, not just any car, but the F2007 World Champion, you are Schumacher and what do you do, don't you try it? No sooner said than done. Fiorano is the ideal track, the car comes out of the pits and the German starts riding it again like in the good old days. A little emotion, some subtle thrill of pleasure, the past returning, but it must not be enough. At least not for someone like Schumacher, who asks to try again. And so the Ferrari plan came into being, combining pleasure (the German's eagerness) with profit, which always exists when a champion like him is involved. 2008 will bring a revolution in driving. Goodbye traction control, those electronic aids that facilitated the pilot's role, all cars will rely on a single control unit, homologation can create problems, it's better to adapt in time. We need to try the new thing as quickly as possible, even with the old car, the F2007, if necessary. Raikkonen can do it, who started his career without traction control, but he's on holiday, he's celebrating the world title, why disturb him? Massa, who has practically never tasted this revolution, can do it, but why not resort to the old Schumacher, a retired hero who is not at all rusty, who without traction control took home a lot of grand prix? Yes, they think at Ferrari, using the super consultant Michael is a good idea, in two days he can push hard, vent his passion and give the team a lot of interesting data. Not only that: now there are these two days, also useful to make it clear that Schumacher is a man in red, he will never be able to go to McLaren in Alonso's place, but nothing prevents us from repeating the experiment in the future, at the beginning of 2008, perhaps already with the new car. Moreover, it is the spokesperson herself, Sabine Kehm, who makes it clear that it may not be a one-off.
"Schumacher has a lot of experience with Formula 1 without electronics. He will be useful to Raikkonen and Massa".
Precisely what Ferrari hopes for, also paying attention to an important detail, the impossibility of a comparison in the times achieved with Raikkonen and Massa. This is an F2007 without electronics. Different from the one that raced in the World Championship. While waiting for Schumacher to push hard again, another wait should vanish in the next few hours. The signing of the contract that will bind Alonso to Renault appears imminent, even if the French team reiterates that it has no announcements to make soon. According to the Spanish press, a group of sponsors would have moved to finance the return of the former World Champion to the Briatore team. Movistar, Banco di Bilbao and Mutua Madrilena (ready to leave McLaren, with which however it has an agreement until the end of 2009) have reached an agreement to join forces and put 62.000.000 euros on the scales, a figure that it would be used to pay Alonso's salary (25.000.000 euros) and relaunch the world championship ambitions of the French machine. The only hitch would concern the Banco di Bilbao, incompatible with the Dutch group ING, the current main sponsor. Here too it would be a matter of making a choice, as on the duration of the pilot's contract. Renault wants a two-year deal, Alonso would like to have an option to free himself at the end of the first season. The Spaniard holds firm. And he'll end up winning. And speaking of the French team, Renault is now under accusation, guilty of having stolen industrial secrets from McLaren. A very serious accusation, which in practice will force the representatives of the Enstone team to appear before the FIA World Council on Thursday 6 December 2007. For its part, the French team says it is ready to collaborate and assures that it has nothing to hide.
Judging by this year's results (only one podium, a misery for the reigning World Champion team) it seems rather incredible. In all cases the Federation appears determined:
"Representatives of the team were called to respond to the accusation that Renault, between September 2006 and October 2007, in violation of article 151c of the International Sporting Code, came into possession, without authorisation, of documents and information confidential belonging to McLaren-Mercedes".
But what would Renault have stolen? Above all, the drawings and essential data relating to the dimensions of the McLaren car, as well as details relating to the fuel system, the gearbox, the oil cooling system, the hydraulic control system and an innovative suspension element, used by McLaren in 2006 and 2007. In short, a heavy picture, which if proven would lead to very harsh sanctions for Briatore's team. And this could even compromise the ongoing negotiations to bring Alonso back to Renault. Renault for its part guarantees maximum collaboration.
"We have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. We have always acted with maximum transparency".
The French team then underlines that it has been collecting a dossier on this matter for months and has presented it to the FIA.
"We have always been completely transparent with the Federation".
Flavio Briatore's upcoming wedding will certainly not be spoiled by this spy story appendix. The general director of Renault is convinced of this and, in this period, is super busy, divided as he is between the supervision of his own wedding (on the preparation of which Elisabetta Gregoraci, his betrothed, is concentrating), the Alonso affair (with the concrete possibility that the former World Champion returns to the team) and the planning of the 2008 season. Just a few days ago Briatore said:
"Having a bad season means nothing. Ferrari had a bad year in 2005 and like us, they concentrated on the single-seater. The result was a very competitive next year, as it will be for Renault in 2008".
Best wishes for the future, but the present seems to be taking a different turn: have you received the call from the Federation?
"Yes, and I can reassure everyone. I guarantee we are not worried".
Well, yet they say bad things: you copied McLaren.
"We are not afraid".
That's what they also said to McLaren at the beginning of the Stepney-Coughlan affair. Then we know how it ended with Ferrari. How will you defend yourself?
"We at Renault have been cooperating ever since the story emerged. In all locations".
However, it did not prevent the hearing. And now you will have to answer Max Mosley for the espionage charge.
"I repeat: we have nothing to hide and nothing else to fear".
Will this be the defensive line you will hold on December 6th at the FIA Council in Paris?
"Certain. And I add that we have always been completely transparent with the International Federation".
This time, in court, she won't get away with one of his proverbial jokes.
"And in fact I don't think there will be any need: we have always acted with maximum transparency. There will be no teasing from me".
Understood. One last thing, what do you say about Alonso?
"Nothing. For once I'm keeping absolute confidentiality”.
At the same time, the revolution had already taken important steps at Ferrari a year ago. Goodbye to Michael Schumacher, the driver of five World Championships, greetings to Ross Brawn, the fine strategist. But now it is definitively accomplished. Because Jean Todt, the undisputed boss for fourteen and a half years, is leaving the Gestion Sportiva, the part of Ferrari that deals with the grand prix, the man who with his organization gave Maranello thirteen world titles, seven constructors and six pilots. The Frenchman does not abandon Ferrari, he remains firmly in the company as CEO, he will continue to have supervision of the Sports Management, as he has a lot of say in all Maranello's activities, but from January he will no longer be the main point of reference on race weekends. His place is taken by Stefano Domenicali, a great regulations expert, born in Imola 42 years ago, in Ferrari since 1991, protégé of president Luca Montezemolo and very well regarded by Jean Todt himself. Domenicali represents the most painless succession possible and in some way allows Jean Todt to complete his project, that idea that he had in mind for some time and which should have materialized already twelve months ago, to slip away in a gentle way, get out of the trench, focus more on of the company from its headquarters, leaving its heavy legacy to a manager who grew up in Ferrari, matured under its shadow, perfectly integrated into the way of working that has given birth to so many successes in recent years. The moment of the handover is propitious, because Ferrari is fresh from two world championship triumphs, the World Constructors' Championship, won by trampling on the ashes of the spy story and the great political battle with McLaren, and the Drivers' Championship with Kimi Raikkonen, in reality still sub judice (on Thursday in Paris McLaren's appeal against the failed disqualification of Nick Heidfeld, Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg will be discussed, drivers who, if excluded from the ranking of the Brazilian Grand Prix, would give the World Championship to Lewis Hamilton), but which the FIA, through its president Max Mosley, has been considering assigned for weeks. The moment is the right one, because the new, more Italian Ferrari (already in 2007 the operational arm, while retaining Todt's first-person direction, had changed profoundly) has demonstrated that it knows how to win, facilitating the realization of the last act. There was no point in delaying any longer, it is no coincidence that the promotion of Stefano Domenicali is accompanied by a better definition of the powers behind him, with a triumvirate formed by Mario Almondo, who has been entrusted with the Operations Directorate, by Aldo Costa, who will have the Technical Direction, and by Gilles Simon, who is given the Engine Direction. Below them, to complete the pyramid, remain Luca Baldisserri, strategy expert and coordinator of track work, and Nicholas Tombazis, the chief designer, in fact the father of the new car. The new operational arm of Ferrari is done and does not include Ross Brawn.
For months there had been talk of a possible return of the Englishman, but already after the victory in Brazil it was understood that nothing would happen. After all, Brawn, to re-embrace Maranello, has always demanded Todt's place, but for that role the choice was now directed at Domenicali. So Brawn decided to move to Honda. From Monday 12 November 2007 he will be the team principal of the Japanese team, he will have full powers, although his predecessor Nick Fry remains as general director. At Honda, in addition to the first driver, Jenson Button, he will find Rubens Barrichello. It was the Englishman himself, very close to Michael Schumacher, who explained the reasons for his decision.
"Ferrari is a perfect mechanism, it wasn't a compelling enough challenge. I prefer to return to a team in difficulty, to relaunch it. My task now will be to beat the Maranello team".
If it was a crisis that needed to be resolved that motivated his choice, Ross Brawn, 52, will not lack work, because Honda is coming off a horrible season, with just 6 points scored (all by Button) in seventeen races. All this while today his favorite driver, Michael Schumacher, returns to the track with Ferrari in Barcelona after 386 days of his retirement. Two days of testing without electronic aids in the car. Almost three hundred kilometers to satisfy your desire. But also to prove that he was still a real pilot, the man who knew how to climb to the top of the world, the fastest of all. Michael Schumacher in Barcelona, aboard a Ferrari. Not a simple remake, but a real test of strength, given that at the end of the first day of testing the German was the fastest, better than Pedro de la Rosa's McLaren, better than his teammate, Luca Badoer, on the other Ferrari, almost at the level of Felipe Massa, the starting driver, despite the fact that the illustrious test driver has a car in his hands without electronic aids, without traction control, banned in the 2008 races, with the unique McLaren-inspired control unit, as well as demands the regulation for next season. Schumacher went very fast, as perhaps, given his radiant face when leaving the circuit, not even he imagined. He toured a lot, from 9:00 a.m. at 5:00 p.m., he ate 63 laps with his usual aggressive style, setting a best time, 1'21"918, which puts him just 0.5 seconds away from the pole achieved on May 12, 2007 on this same circuit by Felipe Massa. In truth, the Brazilian, on that Saturday battle for the front row, with the tank empty had also dropped to 1'20"597, more than 1.3 seconds better than Schumacher, but no one can say how many cents the electronics, a tool that certainly facilitates driving, so the German's performance remains of considerable importance. So notable that the question arises spontaneously: is that really a pensioner? A driver who hadn't set foot in a Formula 1 car for 386 days, a long time ago between the announcement of his retirement at the end of the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix? And again: now that he has savored the taste again, will he have any intention of racing again? Legitimate questions, especially the last one, which Schumacher himself, however, immediately tried to tone down. On Wednesday 14 November 2007, after the second day of testing, he will speak at length, he will talk about his emotions, the thrill of returning, but already yesterday he was keen to clarify:
"My decision to quit is irrevocable".
He said this when arriving at the circuit, around a quarter past eight in the morning, so that no one would have any illusions.
"It's clear that I have a great desire to get back to driving, because my love for this sport has not diminished and getting into a Formula 1 car continues to be the best for me. But this has nothing to do with my choice to retire, which remains definitive".
Enough with the trenches, the front line. If anything, judging by the times, we can say that Ferrari has found an extra test driver. Because he wants to support the Maranello team that this is an impromptu test, Michael Schumacher himself, an expert in driving without electronic aids, has offered his help and it remains difficult to believe that the experiment cannot be repeated at the beginning of 2008, when it gets serious, there will be the new car on the track, and not yesterday's hybrid version, the F2007 adapted to the new rules, and its experience could prove very useful for Raikkonen and Massa (who today will have to compete with the former world champion, given that he also takes part in the Barcelona tests and will drive without electronics).