Domenicali: "Annoying races? Let's not react emotionally" -- The team is already at work at the paddock in Melbourne. Melbourne, 23 March - For only the second time since it first hosted the Australian Grand Prix in 1996, Melbourne's Albert Park...
Domenicali: "Annoying races? Let's not react emotionally" -- The team is already at work at the paddock in Melbourne.
Melbourne, 23 March - For only the second time since it first hosted the Australian Grand Prix in 1996, Melbourne's Albert Park circuit is not staging the opening round of the championship. In 2006, the race was number three on the calendar, to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games being held in the city, and this year, the street circuit is Round 2. Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro comes to the Antipodes on the back of a solid one-two finish in the opening round in Bahrain, which will be good for morale, given that for the past two years, the team failed to score a single point in Melbourne. The Australian Grand Prix was first staged in 1985 at the popular Adelaide street track and the Prancing Horse recorded just one victory there, courtesy of Gerhard Berger in 1987. Melbourne brought more success, with a string of four consecutive wins from 1999, when Eddie Irvine took his maiden F1 victory, followed by a trio of Michael Schumacher wins. The German won again in 2004 and Kimi Raikkonen stood on the top step of the Australian podium on his debut for Ferrari in 2007.
Ferrari starts work in the temporary track facilities on Tuesday, all the team having flown back to Italy after Bahrain. Much of the car preparation work was carried out at the Sakhir circuit, which is the usual procedure for races outside Europe and particularly pertinent in this case, given that space is at a premium in the Albert Park paddock. Work space will be even more limited this year, with the arrival of two new teams on the entry list. Nevertheless, the area inside the swipe gates is popular with the teams, making up for what it lacks in facilities, with the charm and atmosphere of what is the only paddock left on the calendar that features grass lawns outside the team's offices and hospitality areas.
Even though the cars have spent the past ten days in their packing cases, the engineers in Maranello have been working hard on all aspects of car performance, including analysing and resolving the concerns over high engine temperatures seen in Bahrain. The engine situation will have to be managed, taking into account there have already been two changes. However, the engines taken out during the Bahrain weekend were not actually broken in any way and can therefore be used again during the season, even though only in free practices.
Apart from this, the Scuderia has already stated that it aims to move car development forward at every grand prix and the two F10s here in Australia will indeed sport a few minor updates, because, with the top end of the field so closely matched, one or two tenths of a second per lap can have a significant impact on the finishing order on Sunday afternoons. After the season opener, many pundits and fans complained the race was boring, but as Gestione Sportiva Team Principal Stefano Domenicali pointed out, "I would be perfectly happy with that if it means the Scuderia will finish first and second in every race!" However, on a more serious note, he added, "it is much too early to jump to conclusions and we should not react in an emotional way. We must wait and see how the races evolve throughout the season and then, the subject can be studied calmly, based on sufficient evidence."
Relief was probably the strongest feeling among the team on the flight home from Bahrain, because although the car and drivers seemed competitive in winter testing, there are no guarantees that testing form carries through to the racing. All the same, the final result was not as straightforward as it seemed on paper and, in performance terms, the Red Bull might have had the edge, while it is clear that McLaren and Mercedes are close to the top. For Ferrari, racing in Melbourne is always a pleasure, as the team can rely on plenty of support from the crowd, partly because there is a large Italian community in the city. For real race fans, the weekend probably offers more track action than any other Grand Prix, with a whole host of support races which give the fans real value for money, creating a real buzz over the four days. As was the case last year, the weekend timetable is shifted a few hours later than usual, with qualifying and the race taking place in the early evening. This presents no specific problems, although it means Sunday's post-race preparation and packing has to be even more hurried than usual to meet the freight deadline, as the Malaysian Grand Prix will be only a matter of days away. However, with the race having slipped from first to second the calendar, Melbourne will be slipping gently into fall, so it should be cooler than last year and with an higher chance or rain. If that happens, it should at least address the perceived notion of boring racing!