MONZA, Italy (AP) — Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo dismissed reports he is set to leave the Italian team, claiming he is prepared to stay in charge until 2017.
Talk of Montezemolo’s possible departure has dominated the paddock at Monza ahead of Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
“I’ve seen the hue and cry of the past few days, I found it excessive,” the 67-year-old Montezemolo said ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session. “I’m here to work. Today, tomorrow, the upcoming months.
“In March I told the shareholders and especially the people at Ferrari, who I’m very close to, that I would be available for another three years. If there is then anything new, I myself would be the first to say so.”
Speculation was rife that Montezemolo was set to quit Ferrari to become chief executive of Italy’s national airline Alitalia.
“Alitalia? I hope to take it (a plane) tomorrow afternoon,” Montezemolo quipped.
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was delighted with the announcement.
“I’m happy that Luca’s staying,” Alonso said. “I have had a nice relationship with him in these five years. He always cares a lot about the atmosphere in the team, about the relationship with all the members of the team, especially the drivers.
“He’s very important for the team. He told me Thursday night that all these rumors were not true. There’s no better news.”
Montezemolo first joined the Italian team in 1973 as Enzo Ferrari’s assistant and has been president for nearly 23 years.
Under his leadership, Ferrari has won eight constructors’ titles — including six successive ones between 1999 and 2004 — and six drivers’ championships
However, it has seen a slump in results in recent years and last won the constructors’ title in 2008.
In a bid to turn things around, Stefano Domenicali resigned as Ferrari team principal in April and was replaced by Marco Mattiacci amid the team’s worst run for nearly 20 years.
However, Ferrari has still not won a race since Fernando Alonso’s victory at the Spanish Grand Prix more than a year ago.
“We’re working on closing a year which represents a historic record in terms of Ferrari’s financial results,” Montezemolo said. “With Mattiacci we are working on the reconstruction of the racing team and I see some positive signs, which are nevertheless small and not enough.”
Montezemolo also said he doesn’t think F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will carry out his threat of dropping Monza — one of the sport’s historic circuits — when its contract runs out at the end of 2016.
“Monza is unique,” Montezemolo said. “Here there is a great atmosphere, I don’t think there will be any problems for it and I will talk about it with Ecclestone.”
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