Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says that Formula 1 needs to find answers to its problems as soon as possible if his Maranello-based team is to stick with the sport for the long-term.
At the end of a year when Ferrari came the closest it has ever been to quitting F1, in the wake of the row over cost cuts and future rules, di Montezemolo has again warned that the Scuderia is seeking further improvements over the next few years. Ferrari is currently only committed until the end of 2012 and di Montezemolo has hinted that only big progress by teams, FOTA and the sport's commercial chiefs will be enough to turn F1 into how he wants to see it.
"I want F1 to improve between now and 2012, when we sign a new Concorde Agreement, and if not we will have motivation somewhere else," he told selected media during a Christmas media event. "I have been to Le Mans and I was impressed. We cannot accept huge gaps between drivers and the press and public. In the past, the pits was full of good-looking girls, now it's like a concentration camp. And we need to overtake!"
He added: "There are a lot of answers needed. We need good people at the FIA. [FIA president Jean] Todt is a good person and knows F1, and I'm sure his priority is to recreate a different dialogue and atmosphere. Bernie [Ecclestone] is coming to the end of his career, but I am sure he will look ahead. And FOTA has been very useful. There needs to be a strong triangle between the three parties."
Di Montezemolo thinks that F1 needs to undertake a wholesale rethink about what it is doing, rather than small tinkering of the rules to try and improve the show.
"First we have to decide where we want to position the product," he said. "I think it needs to encompass extreme technology, performance and research. Secondly, we need to save costs without losing the appealing elements. Carbon brakes, for instance, are impossible to use with road cars and we can accept a standard gearbox without losing F1 characteristics.
"Not being allowed to have Felipe [Massa] test a car, for me, is against the very nature of the sport. For the moment, I understand, but it's not the future. Thirdly, to replace manufacturer teams with teams that I don't know if they will be ready or in what condition, I don't think is best."
Di Montezemolo believes some of the cost-cutting regulations, like the current testing ban, have gone too far. "Years ago we could test every day, now not at all," he explained. "You need a balance. It's like in Italy, one day the doctor is smoking while he's doing an operation but now, if you smoke in the street, you're killed. We need something in the middle.
"We also need to look at the show. I'm not making strong points here, but is it right to run in Europe at 2 or 3 o'clock on a summer afternoon? I don't know. In soccer they play at 4 or 5 p.m., or at 8 or 9 p.m. Is it right that we have two-hour races? Maybe they are too long. These are things we need to discuss.
"Should we have such expensive tickets? Today a young boy with his girlfriend can fly around the world for less than attending the Monza GP in the best seats. Is that right? I don't want to be arrogant or presumptuous, but I want to have professional instruments to look into it.
"I can accept if some manufacturers have left the sport, but I think F1 at the beginning of the 2000s has been the best in terms of the public and spectators, with new venues and promotion and investment from the car manufacturers."
Di Montezemolo does have one reason to be optimistic about the future, though. He thinks the arrival of Todt as FIA president will be good news for achieving what is needed without the political confrontation that marred recent years. "Together with Bernie, I'm the oldest guy in the paddock and we share a genuine passion," he said. "Now the FIA opens a new era, thank God, even if I have to say that Mosley did a very good job basically for safety. But after what happened for the past two years, with the polemics, manufacturers leaving, unpredictable judging decisions, thank God there is fresh air."