Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says he signed Fernando Alonso a year earlier than expected to accelerate the Scuderia's return to competitiveness.
The Italian, speaking to the press at Ferrari's annual Christmas lunch last week, indicated that with Felipe Massa still recovering from injury, and the 2009-specification F60 having proven less than spectacular, the team urgently needed a driver who could drive the development of a car. He added that he considered Alonso, rather than Kimi Raikkonen to be that person.
"Besides hazy regulations, our car in 2009 wasn't up to the level of competitiveness we needed," Montezemolo was quoted as saying in Gazetta dello Sport. "I was afraid that Massa wouldn't recover. After his crash we have focused on the 2010 car. Kimi had trouble working with the team, but my judgment on him is positive.
"In order to make a leap forward, however, we needed someone able to communicate with the team, Alonso will do that. When Stefano Domenicali, who I trust very much, talked to me about him three years ago, I told him we had to bring him here.
"Alonso was supposed to race with us in 2011, but after Massa's crash we decided to bring that forward, after learning that he wasn't involved in the Singapore scandal."
In an exclusive interview with AUTOSPORT last week however, Raikkonen indicated that he suspected the reason he had left Ferrari a year early was financially, rather than performance related.
"I think when there is enough money involved, you can always change anything! I think it's a lot to do with Santander coming in. Probably they made some deal. I don't know..."
Montezemolo also revealed that he believed major changes were required in the way F1 is managed and that he hoped that the new FIA president Jean Todt would usher in an era of cooperation between the sport's governing body and the teams.
He proposed relaunching and restructuring the sport so that it can move on from the political strife of recent years. "We need to set up a table where to bring proposals in order to relaunch in a big way," he said. "We must also think about a new engine from 2013. Bernie Ecclestone? In no sport there is a 50 percent commission on business deals. We come from a Max Mosley administration to forget.
"We seriously considered abandoning F1. Some have, as a consequence of dead-end policies. Now we have new teams with paying drivers, but how many teams will be at the start of the first race? Looking beyond 2012, we'd also like to win at Le Mans, or at Indy.
"Todt? He has the competence and the capability, he must discuss and change many things, and I expect him to do it. The 2010 championship will be very interesting, as long as we win it!"