Luca di Montezemolo says Fernando Alonso had convinced himself he would never win a championship with Ferrari before he left the Italian team at the end of 2014.
Alonso joined McLaren for 2015 but endured the Woking team's worst season since 1980 as it struggled with the returning Honda package. By contrast, Alonso's replacement Sebastian Vettel claimed three victories and was Mercedes' closest competitor as Ferrari bounced back from its winless 2014 campaign.
Though Vettel and Ferrari's resurgence last year led to questions about whether Alonso had made the wrong choice, the Spaniard had spent five seasons at Maranello without a championship despite near misses in 2010 and 2012. Former president Montezemolo says the Spaniard had lost all faith in Ferrari's ability to deliver him a winning car and let that be a factor in his protracted contract negotiations in late 2014.
"I had the feeling that Fernando had got it into his mind that he could never win with Ferrari," Montezemolo told Motor Sport Magazine. "And that if he was in a Mercedes he could win with one hand, and this was very demotivating for everyone."
Montezemolo, who left Ferrari during the same period, still rates the Spanish driver as the best driver in the world on Sundays. However, he says Alonso's clear lack of motivation in late 2014 made the signing of Vettel a logical choice, and one which had been recommended six years earlier by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
"I believe Alonso is probably the best driver in the world even today -- certainly on a Sunday. Maybe not in qualifying, where I think [Lewis] Hamilton and Vettel are maybe faster over one lap, but in the race he is unbelievable -- a machine. But we needed motivation and it made me think we needed for the future.
"I recalled that when I was trying to convince Michael to return with us after Felipe's [Massa] injury in 2009 he was saying, 'the guy you need for the future is Vettel'."