Felipe Massa: "We hope the car is going to be 100 percent reliable at the start"
Madonna di Campiglio, 10th January 2008 - It was the turn of the drivers to address the press today at the Wrooom Ferrari and Ducati press ski meeting at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. Both drivers will be taking to the snow during the week, and racing against Michael Schumacher tomorrow, but for the moment, Felipe Massa covered subjects from married life to his future racing prospects.
"Last year was very good," he began, "and it ended with a very nice celebration for the championship and my wedding, a really special day for me, so I was really happy."
But is he under more pressure this year? It was a mixed reaction. "I don't feel any pressure. It's going to be more or less the same, but we were under pressure to win because we had not been winning for two years and we won. We continue to have the pressure to be in front because we won last year, so the pressure is going to be the same. When you race for a team such as Ferrari, you are always under pressure but one thing is to do your job and even if what people say, it's what counts when you drive. What counts is the mentality of the team."
That mentality also affects Felipe's view of the arrival of Stefano Domenicali as team principal. "I've known Stefano for a long time already. I've known him since the first day I went to Ferrari. Jean Todt is still there and will be part of the team this year. Stefano will operate to different rules, just as Jean has done until now. But Stefano has great potential. In the past, Ferrari has changed people but the mentality has always been there, it's the same mentality as a group."
Felipe was also asked how he develops as a driver. "A driver always learns, especially as in Formula One the regulations change by year; maybe tyres change, and the electronics change, so there is always something to learn, so every year there is something new, which means that we start again from scratch every year. This is because of the regulations. We also will have to focus on what we did wrong the previous years and what we did right, and draw experience from that for the new season, improving on what one didn't do right the previous years."
So what worries him about the car in 2008? "Well, the starts are going to more human, let's say, because you don't have the electronic control so you have to do the electronic control for the car at the start. So at the start, the driver is going to count more. Up to last year, the technicians did the starts for us, in a way. Now all of us are going to have the cars on an equal basis - it is going to more fun for us.
"In terms of traction control, let's say we have to take over what the electronics did in the past. That doesn't mean that it's going to be something from another planet, we simply have to learn and be softer on the pedal. I see that the lap times are more or less the same as against lap times with traction control at the end of the season. So it hasn't been that difficult to come to grips with the new regulations.
"These regulations are going to lead to some changes in how we are going to have to tackle the car for a start, for traction control, but also how we are going to have to drive the car during the race, because if you one is too aggressive, you may destroy the tyres more quickly. So I think that during the races, we are going to be a bit more careful so without traction, we are going to have to drive a bit differently so as not to wear out the tyres. Of course we have to learn this, we have to learn to optimise this."
Reliability, it seems, is also at the forefront of Felipe's concerns. "We have the new car and we're going to have see how reliability it is. Last year we lost many points due to problems with reliability which ended many races, so this year, this season, we're working a lot on the car to understand if problems exist so that we can start the championship with a car that we hope is going to be 100 percent reliable.
"As for extracting performance, OK, the car is new, there are many new things in it. Personally I think the car is going to be ready just before the start of the championship, so we have to develop the car, even if in Jerez should the lap times not be that far from the lap times of the last season, that's going to be that we are working on it for quite some time.
"The numbers we have seen, the data in the wind tunnel are positive but of course we have to see what the others are going to do because even if our data is incredible, if others go faster then perhaps they have improved more than us, they have worked more on their new car, so we are going to have see this on the race track and we are going to have some conclusive data with the first race of the championship."