Ferrari calls for meeting to discuss future of F1

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Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has written a formal letter to the ruling powers in Formula 1, calling for a meeting to discuss the future of the sport following a “wrong turn”.

Montezemolo was quoted earlier this week as saying that Ferrari may consider its future in F1, only for the team to claim that his words had been misunderstood. It is common knowledge that the marque’s president is unhappy with the direction that the sport has taken, largely due to the new ‘efficient’ regulations, and now he is looking for firm action.

As part of the discussions, Montezemolo would like to focus on younger markets and fans, and has cited companies such as Google and Apple as being examples to follow.

The statement from Ferrari reads as follows:

“Ferrari has had Formula 1 coursing through its veins for over half a century and that’s why it has decided to make a move to turn the sport away from the wrong turn it appears to have taken.

“The Maranello marque has decided to do this through the means of a formal act, which is a concrete proposal, in the form of a letter from its President Luca di Montezemolo to the Formula 1 rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone and to Donald McKenzie, the president of the company that owns Formula 1.

“It is not an ultimatum, nor a threat, but a proposal to call together all the key players in the sport to sit down around a table and come up with new ideas that will see Formula 1 continue to set the benchmark in motorsport, on level terms with global events such as the Olympics and the football World Cup.

“The President wants to see a collective brainstorming from the group to act for the good of Formula 1. Contributions from all areas are of value; teams, sponsors, promoters and media, so that the key values of Formula 1 can be reestablished. President Montezemolo would also like to see other high-end players invited, those who are currently not involved or only partially so; new media, social networks and colossi such as Google and Apple.”

“Formula 1 has to be based on technical innovation, research and development, but this must all be done with sustainable costs and above all, must be moved forward as part of a product that can put on a show. Because it is the show that draws in the commercial partners, the sponsors and, above all, the fans, who are the real end users of the Formula 1 product.

“Finding the right mix of these ingredients will be vital for the sustainability and the future success of our much-loved sport.”

Montezemolo was highly critical of the new regulations that saw a greater focus be placed on efficiency, including a downsize from V8 engines to V6 turbocharged power units. In Bahrain, he called the new F1 “taxi cab racing”, only for the on-track action to be some of the most thrilling in recent years.

Formula 1 has been known to be adverse to non-profitable activities, such as investment in social media which – despite being highly valuable – does not provide an immediate return on investment. However, if the sport is to attract the new, younger generation, it might be in its interest to heed Montezemolo’s words.

That said, the on-track action is certainly still keeping fans glued to TV, with the 50m fall in global viewership largely coming as a result of the change in broadcasters in France and China.

If Ferrari was dominating the sport in the same fashion that Mercedes currently is, it would be interesting to see just whether Montezemolo would be so vocal about its future.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”