Thursday 18th December 2008
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has claimed that he wouldn't sign Lewis Hamilton if the World Champion was offered to his team.
In a set of remarks that are bound to be interpreted as a psychological ploy to unsettle Hamilton and boost the confidence of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, Di Montezemolo insisted that signing Hamilton would not improve his team.
"Lewis Hamilton? Let's make this clear: he's a great driver, able to get within a whisker of the title in his first year in F1 and winning it on his second," Di Montezemolo told The Daily Telegraph. "However, with all due respect, I wouldn't change him with Felipe Massa."
"Kimi Raikkonen came to Ferrari and won the title. If Massa didn't win it this year it's our fault. It would have been normal for him to win it, but he didn't because of our errors.
"Felipe is extremely popular, for the man he is, for the great driver he's demonstrated to be, and for the beautiful way he lost this championship."
Later, in a separate interview with The Times, Di Montezemolo was more complimentary about Hamilton, although he remained insistent that he wouldn't sign the Englishman even if he were available.
"I think he is a very, very good driver," he told the newspaper. "Last year Hamilton was fantastic. He can pay a little price last year because of the pressure and his lack of experience. But I think if he will continue to drive a competitive car, he can enter the history of Formula One.
"Regarding Ferrari, of course I would like to have a driver like Hamilton, like Alonso. But that will be in another life, because in this life I have Michael, Kimi and Felipe. Maybe in two years I will tell you something different, but at the moment I am very, very happy. And don't forget Felipe won the championship until 15 seconds to go - he won more races than Hamilton. But there is no question that Hamilton deserved to win, particularly in light of what he lost last year."