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Luca di Montezemolo: 'Fernando Alonso's season? 8 out of 10'

By Ben Wyatt, CNN
November 19, 2013 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Luca di Montezemolo gives Fernando Alonso "eight out of 10" for 2013 season
  • The Ferrari chairman at Alonso appeared to clash earlier in the year
  • Di Montezemolo refuses to blame the tires for Ferrari's struggles in 2013
  • Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is the final race of the 2013 season

Mugello (CNN) -- Their relationship may have become fraught during the 2013 Formula One season, so just how does Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo rate the efforts of his star driver Fernando Alonso?

"A good eight out of 10," Di Montezemolo told CNN as he reflected on a season where Ferrari has played second fiddle to the all-conquering Red Bull team.

The Ferrari chairman resorted to "tweaking" his Spanish driver's ear earlier this season after the double world champion appeared to criticize the team's F138 car at July's Hungarian Grand Prix.

But any tension between the two seems to have eased, with Di Montezemolo awarding Alonso the eight mark for his performance this year and comparing him to some of Ferrari's greatest ever drivers.

"I think he's really a very, very good driver," Di Montezemolo told CNN ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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"I've been with drivers like Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher -- fantastic -- but Alonso in the races is really fantastic.

"Alonso has been also very good in the races to understand when was necessary to push and when it was necessary to calm down to save the tires."

Managing the tires proved difficult for most of the drivers on the grid in 2013, with the exception being newly-crowned quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel.

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With the Red Bull maestro taking the checkered flag at each of the last eight grands prix -- a record-breaking run -- Alonso has been left 145 points adrift of the German driver and in second place with one race left in the season.

Alonso's cause has not been helped by a series of events which led to the sport's official tire supplier Pirelli ditching their 2013 rubber and reverting to the set it produced for the 2012 season.

However, Di Montezemolo refused to blame the tires for a run which has seen Ferrari fail to win a race since May's Spanish Grand Prix -- "I never like to use the word 'excuse'" -- preferring to focus on the success the team enjoyed in the opening rounds of the championship.

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"The first half of the season we won two races, so Ferrari was far more competitive," explained the 66-year-old. "This is a fact ... when the tires were changed we paid a big price.

"I don't like the formula in which a driver has to be careful not to destroy the tires."

While happy with the performance of Alonso, who will be partnered by Kimi Raikkonen in 2014 when the Finn returns to the team with which he won the drivers' title in 2007, Di Montezemolo was unable to contain his disappointment with the progress the team has made off the track.

"Why I am not happy this year is that we haven't been able to develop the car after a very good start of the season," he said. "So that was our problem."

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The 2014 season will see a raft of rule changes, most significantly the mandatory use of a 1.6 liter turbocharged V6 engine which incorporates energy recovery systems.

KERS, which stores up energy created while braking to provide cars with extra power, is an energy recovery system which is already used in the sport.

"I am very happy to change rules, because I don't like formulas which aerodynamic means 90% of the performance," said Di Montezemolo, who hopes Ferrari can capitalize on its wealth of automotive design expertise.

"We are not building aeroplanes or satellites, we're building cars.

"Engine, gearbox, suspensions: these are also crucial, particularly for us, because - as we said - our experience in F1 means to transfer technology to our cars."

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