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by Tim Beissmann

Ferrari has defended its entire Formula One team following an enraged rant from an Italian politician.

Italian Northern League party minister Roberto Calderoli said Ferrari’s strategy at last weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was “demented”, and called for the head of Ferrari chairman, Luca di Montezemolo.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso led the drivers’ championship by eight points before the final race of the season, and held a 15-point advantage over eventual winner Sebastian Vettel.

Mr Calderoli was highly critical of the team’s decision to bring Alonso in for a pit stop after just 15 laps, putting him back in the pack and in a position he could not recover from.

“Ferrari has managed to lose a championship already won,” he told reporters after the race.

“We are ashamed of this insane strategy and di Montezemolo is guilty. He should get out of Maranello immediately so he does no further harm to Ferrari. By the evening, we expect his resignation.”

Ferrari vice president, Piero Ferrari, overnight reacted with a statement on the team’s website, saying he was “astonished and saddened” by the minister’s comments.

“It has never happened in my entire life at Ferrari that politicians intervened during good and bad moments in our life in motorsport, and I want it to stay like this,” Mr Ferrari said.

“But if we want to have a look at how much Ferrari has done for Italy’s image around the world, then I can only say that it is definitely much more than certain politics have done.”

Mr di Montezemolo echoed his vice president, but was slightly more personal in his reply:

“When the statesman Calderoli will achieve in his life one percent of what Ferrari has done for this country in terms of industry and sports, then he’ll deserve an answer,” he said.

In related news, Toyota has ended its agreement with embattled Spanish F1 team HRT.

Toyota Motorsport announced that “all cooperation with the Hispania Racing Formula One team has been terminated and will not resume” after HRT failed to meet contractual payment obligations.

The announcement clearly caught HRT off guard, who responded: “Hispania Racing is very surprised about Toyota’s press statement … and this matter will be a subject of further clarification.”

HRT recently signed a deal to use Williams team gearboxes for the 2011 season.




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