Ferrari presented their new hierarchy at their annual Wrooom press meeting at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy today. Stefano Domenicali, sporting director, and new technical director Mario Almondo held their first press conference to explain their new roles, that of Michael Schumacher, the driver hierarchy and the innovative new car due to be launched on Sunday at Maranello.
The pair both joined Ferrari on the same day in 1991 and now find themselves at the forefront of the team's 2007 campaign, under the direction of team principal Jean Todt. But asked if Todt would be at all the races, Domenicali said "I can confirm that he will be at the tracks but maybe not right from the start of the weekend. He is still managing director, he is still the boss. I will continue to work and maintain relationships with the governing body, the staff and be chief at the race tracks and head of our own tracks such as Mugello."
Almondo, meanwhile, may not be at all the races, and certainly won't have nor want such a high profile role as his predecessor. "I am the technical director, but this is not to be confused with the task undertaken by Ross Brawn, who was the chief at the track as well. However, that task will be undertaken by Luca Baldisseri.
"I'm going to avoid the overlap that Ross had. My role will be different and I'm going to decide what my presence will be. Preparation is important, so I may be at some Grands Prix and not others."
However, the pair were able to enlarge on the potential contribution from outgoing former champion Michael Schumacher. "Michael is part of Ferrari, part of its heritage," explained Domenicali. "He knows so much, the key moments in races, for instance, when things change. He knows what it means to be a driver. As an advisor to Ferrari, he can do what he likes, but the decisions will only be taken by the specific people who are responsible for certain areas."
Almondo went on to explain that "meetings which will include Michael have been programmed all year, on technical issues, so that he can interpret the feelings of a driver. We have a new technical organisation which will be helped by Michael Schumacher. We are developing technological aids which will allow him to contribute to tests, even if he is not present, and during meetings and at Maranello." However, Domenicali confirmed that there are no plans for him to drive the new car - for the time being.
Asked if Ross Brawn might come back, Almondo said "the last time I spoke to him he was fishing in Argentina. Our approach is that there's always a role for outstanding people in our team. He will always be considered part of the team, but it's up to him to decide exactly what his role will be. It's a question for Ross, not for me."
Domenicali once again confirmed the driver hierarchy, explaining why it was important that certain factors were alternated between the drivers. "They will be treated on an equal basis," he said. "Both want to show themselves to be Ferrari drivers and competitive drivers. But for instance, the T-car will be prepared for the drivers alternatively, and the same applies to which driver choses when he is going to pit first. These are the only two factors which may change during the year."
Almondo was unwilling to talk too much about the new car, explaining that all would become clear when it's launched at Maranello on Sunday. However, he did say "it is an innovative car. Our competitors are strong, so we have had to work on the aerodynamics, the suspension, on materials and I think we have a good starting point. We have tried to interpret the regulations as best as we can, and have gone into possible developments with Shell, as well as a new gearbox. Yes, there are a few major technical novelties, not overall, but strong, intelligent extremely technical novelties in the car, things that have not been done in the past."
Domenicali explained that the team is in its second year of a five year arrangement with Philip Morris, AMD are continuing, and there is support from the Mubadala financial corporation from Abu Dhabi. The car's colour scheme is slightly different, while the drivers will carry the Italian flag on their shoulders, an initiative from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. The car is expected to test for 19 days prior to the start of the season.