AUGUST 27, 2003
A crisis in Italy? Or a crisis in Japan?
There is panic in Italy at the thought that Ferrari, for so long the national pride and joy, is losing its way in Formula 1. The humiliation of Michael Schumacher being lapped in Budapest is still sinking in and the reaction to it has been harsh. But Ferrari has long ago stopped being influenced by the media as it was in the bad old days of the 1980s.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo says that "Hungary must never be repeated" but adds that "I know that I can count on a team which has always reacted without panic in difficult times, working flat out to win. I know we have the best driver in the world in Michael, who still leads the championship. We ask our technical partners to put in an extraordinary effort to respond to the strong competition in order to be as competitive as possible. It is a crucial moment for Ferrari on the eve of the last three races of the season. In Monza I want to see a return to winning form for the Ferrari-Bridgestone tandem."
The message is very clear although Jean Todt, the managing director of the sporting department, has been defending Bridgestone.
"It would be very unfair to give all credit to one tire company or to say that it's because of another tire company that we don't do well. I think Bridgestone have been focusing more on developing the tires with us because we are probably more the point of reference for them, and probably the other tire company has more points of reference. But I don't want to say that that is an advantage or disadvantage. It's just like that. We have a lot of tires to develop with Bridgestone and then we will know where we are. I think it is too early to say that the season is over for us."
Ferrari has a long and lucrative contract with Bridgestone but some of the smaller teams have been trying to convince Michelin that it should supply them with tires next year.
"The problem is that Michelin will not take any more teams," said one team principal.
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