Ferrari president sees recovering F1’s “lost charm” as his “duty”

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As Ferrari continues to search for a way back to the front of the Formula One grid, its president, Luca di Montezemolo, continues to criticize the new direction of the sport in 2014.

In a recent interview with German magazine Focus, Montezemolo says that the technical regulations have transformed F1 pilots into “taxi drivers” – and goes a step further by saying that if series boss Bernie Ecclestone doesn’t act, he will.

“The need to do something to recover the lost charm of Formula One is urgent,” Montezemolo declared. “If [Ecclestone] doesn’t, I’ll do it myself. I see it as my duty.”

In Montezemolo’s mind, the quieter V-6 engines and other regulations such as fuel flow limits have done severe damage to the spectacle of F1.

“They must save fuel and tires instead of being fast,” he also said to Focus. “The teams have to decide how much fuel they’re using and how many tires are wearing out.

“Before, it was the best man winning in the best car. Now, the viewers – the ones in the stands and the ones in front of their TVs – no longer understand.

“As it is now, we must do something. Otherwise, Formula One has no chance.”

But with this, one can’t help but wonder if Montezemolo’s repeated critiques of the current formula (which includes calling for a meeting to discuss the sport’s future) are starting to wear thin.

As our own Luke Smith muses on this subject, the on-track product doesn’t appear to be the biggest problem with F1 fans; instead, it’s matters such as double points for the season finale and standing restarts in 2015 that have raised concerns.

Meanwhile, Ferrari continues to languish behind Mercedes and Red Bull in a distant third place in the Constructor’s Championship – and that position’s far from settled as Williams, Force India and McLaren are not far behind them.

And that leads us back to a well-worn but still valid question: If Ferrari was wiping the floor with everybody like Mercedes is right now, would Montezemolo be as loud with these criticisms as he has been?

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”