Ferrari F1 boss Stefano Domenicali has been in Madonna di Campiglio, explaining the team’s strategy for the year ahead and looking at the challenges ahead.
The team has recently announced a new technical structure with two groups: one concentrating on 2013, and one on the 2014 project, which will involve a great deal of work because of the new engine rules that are being introduced.
“The size of each group will depend on the situation in the World Championship,” he said. “We will readjust the balance as the season goes on, based on how the World Championship is going. I really hope that we will find the right balance so that we will figure in the World Championship and win! I am sure that some teams will abandon development on their 2013 cars to concentrate on 2014. Ferrari is the only team that does everything in-house and so it is very different for us, but it is important to give back importance to those who produce engines. At the moment 90 percent of the performance in F1 is based on aerodynamics and so the change in the regulations will rebalance engines and chassis technology, which is very important from a manufacturer’s point of view.”
Ferrari has been recruiting heavily in the aerodynamic department, which clearly indicates that this was where the team feels it was losing out in the past.
“We have new blood in the aerodynamic department,” Stefano said. “Both in terms of creativity and methodology and it has helped us to go this way.”
The team has also announced the hiring of Pedro de la Rosa, a driver with very valuable experience in simulators, notably in his years with McLaren, which has long been seen as the team with the best simulation capabilities. The hiring of the Spaniard is a clear sign that Ferrari feels that it was week in this area as well. Despite this Ferrari continues to campaign for more testing.
“Our goal is to increase the amount of testing allowed,” Domenicali says. “We have already started talking about this and we have to go back and talk some more.”
Domenicali says it is particularly important to have more testing given all the innovations that will be seen in 2014, to ensure that any major problems with the engines are spotted early and not with only a month to go before the start of the season.
Looking back, Domenicali says that 2012 was an interesting season from a sporting point of view.
“We fought to the end of the championship and that was extremely intense,” he said. “To finish second twice in two years hurts but although three years may seem like a lifetime when you look back in history we see others who have done the same and more. Red Bull is a strong competitor and it took them a long time to get there but that is how it is. We want to win and defeats help you to grow.
“It is important we are competitive from the start of the year. We have to avoid the situation we had last year when we had to expend resources to catch up.”
The team is rebuilding its wind tunnel in Maranello at the moment and to avoid potential pit falls it is concentrating the work for 2013 in one of the Toyota wind tunnels in Cologne.
“We started developing the 2013 car in the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne,” Domenicali said. “And we will continue to use this for the whole of the programme so that we do not have problems correlating one tunnel with the other. That is more efficient and effective. The new Maranello facility will be ready in the summer, which means that we will have the maximum state of the art technology available for 2013.”
Domenicali said that the team is very happy with the progress made by Felipe Massa in 2012.
“The most difficult period of his career is behind him,” he said. “After the summer break he was the driver we wanted. I was under a lot of pressure last year to make a change but I thought it was important to wait and I consider that it was the right decision. He has been with Ferrari long than any other driver in the modern era and he was keen to get the level of performance that he wanted for us. It is very good motivation for Fernando to be pushed from inside the team, in a positive way.”
Domenicali confirmed that Rob Smedley will be staying on as Massa’s engineer this year.
When it comes to the opposition, it is obviously still early to start making predictions, but Stefano says that he is underestimating no-one.
“You can make analyses on paper,” he said, “but you have to be careful. I prefer to consider all my opponents last year as being our competitors. There are surprises every year. We will have different tyres so we will see. I consider Lewis Hamilton to be one of the strongest drivers in F1 but the Mercedes team has had a difficult last year. I think it will be one of our strongest competitors but as the rules are really an evolution of last year there are not going to be major changes. We have some interesting changes in areas where we were not efficient in the past, in particular the aerodynamic effects of the exhaust.
Stefano also says that the team company is not looking to create a “dream team” such as Alonso and Vettel in the future.
“Such things can exist if they are well-managed and things goes well,” he said, “but it is not our goal. We have to maximise the performance of the team and having all number ones can be more damaging than positive.”
Domenicali was asked about the lack of Italian drivers in F1 and said that Ferrari is primarily interested in the best talents rather than the passports involved. However he said that Ferrari continues with its young driver programmes, saying that one has to patient and allow the youngsters to develop. He said that more testing would obviously help this.
One of the most interesting elements of the conference was regarding Jules Bianchi and rumours that Ferrari is working hard to get him into a race seat at Force India.
“We are looking at solutions for him,” he said. “To enable him to move forward and show his value in F1, but there is no further information at the moment.”
Domenicali said that being the head of Ferrari F1 is “a privilege” and that the role has negatives and positives.
“You do not do this job if you want an easy life,” he said. “I am always under pressure but it is not a problem. I can handle it.”