Bernie Ecclestone has hit back at Luca Montezemolo’s criticism of the Singapore Grand Prix as a “circus”.
Is this just a bit of tit-for-tat between two of the most powerful men in F1, or signs of a deeper tension?
Last week Luca di Montezemolo poured scorn on the first ever Singapore Grand Prix. saying:
When we race on tracks where staging a circus or something else would be better, anything can happen, because the spectacle is supplied by the Safety Car. This is humiliating for F1.
At the time I put the remarks down to frustration at how the team had let a one-two slip through their fingers in an embarassing pit-lane blunder involving Felipe Massa. But Montezemolo reiterated his claims a few days later:
On Sunday in front of the TV I felt like I was at Disneyworld. Let’s hope that at Singapore in 2009 they’ll do fashion catwalks, Disney parades, or something else. But certainly not F1. If this is the future of racing, we are sorted. I didn’t like Valencia, we’ll make ourselves be heard.
Ecclestone’s stinging retort to the Ferrari boss mocked the Italian team for its shambolic performance during the race:
If the Ferrari president is right about the Singapore Grand Prix being a circus then we have to be grateful to him for providing the clowns.
And he criticised the controversial traffic lights system used by Ferrari to release their drivers from the pits, which also caused trouble for the team at Valencia:
If it’s a matter of turning a switch, which I am led to believe is how it works, then why not stick with the ‘lollipop’ man of old? Why do you want to have some other piece of technology that can go wrong? It’s over the top.
Let’s not forget how well Ecclestone knows how these things work: he was team boss of Brabham in 1982 when it reintroduced modern-style refuelling stops before they were banned in 1983.
When Montezemolo says “we’ll make ourselves be heard”, presumably he means Ferrari, and not the new teams’ association FOTA. McLaren’s Ron Dennis, like many others in F1, heaped praise on Singapore. And the track today claimed over a record Paddock Club attendance of over 4,000 – a strong indication that it is boosting F1′s appeal for sponsors.
It seems Montezemolo is in the minority on this one. If I were in his position, my first stop would be the offices of Max Mosley, whom Ferrari supported throughout the sadomasochist sex scandal earlier this year, to suggest that safety standards on street circuits perhaps need tightening up.