Stefano Domenicali: “We will fight race by race”
After the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, the Formula 1 circus pitches its tents at the Nurburgring for another of what were known as the Grandes Epreuves, the events that formed the backbone of the calendar, the German Grand Prix.
It is two years since the race was last held in the Eifel mountains as the German round now alternates between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim. 2011 marks the fifty eighth running of the German GP and although that figures lags behind England and Italy, this will actually be the seventieth Formula 1 Grand Prix held on German soil, which puts the country ahead of the rest, thanks to the number of years it hosted not only its national race but also the European and the Luxembourg GPs. Scuderia Ferrari won this race 20 times, a record in its history, for a total of 50 podium places (13 times 2nd, 17 times 3rd.)
Last year at Hockenheim, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa delivered a one-two finish which signalled the start of a championship fight back for the Prancing Horse. A year later, the Scuderia arrives in Germany on the back of its first win of the season. “That victory in Silverstone was an important moment in this season, made more so as it was also linked to our first victory sixty years ago with Gonzalez on the same track,” reckons Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. “We know that Ferrari cannot be happy with winning just one race so far this season, but it was important for the morale of everyone in the company to make sure that everyone feels the pleasant atmosphere that comes with being successful. I never considered a season without a win. Don’t forget that in the last eighteen years, Ferrari has always won at least one grand prix per year. Eighteen years is a lot and I don’t think that other teams can claim this sort of result.”
For Pat Fry, the team’s Chassis Director, that win was the first he has experienced since assuming his new role within the team. However, it was not the fact that it happened in his native England that made it important for him. “The country did not matter, it was how difficult the Silverstone track was for us,” he said. “Having closed the performance gap through Canada and Valencia, tracks that suited our car technically, Silverstone was a lot more challenging. However, I have to say I could sense a special feeling, a passion within the team that I had not experienced before. The main satisfaction was that it was great to get a victory in Silverstone after all the hard work of the past four months trying to close the gap and it was gratifying to see that it had paid off. It does not change our approach for the next few races. What that win does is show that we have understood our problems and we are working in the right direction. We will continue to develop the car as quickly as we can and each step we make improves our understanding, which is important as it also impacts on work for next year’s car.”
On the Tuesday after Silverstone, work in Maranello stopped briefly as President Montezemolo convened the staff at the Fiorano track to congratulate everyone for their efforts in delivering the first win of 2011, but it was but a brief pause and since then, work has continued at a frenetic pace to improve the performance of the 150º Italia for the rest of the season. Germany is the first of two races in the space of a week, with the following Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix signaling the start of the long summer holiday which includes a period where F1 regulations dictate that all work related to car development must stop.
“We have a few more updates coming for this weekend at the Nurburgring and then one further update for Hungary the following week,” revealed Fry. “We are keeping the pressure on to develop as much as we can before the summer break.”
We are keeping the pressure on to develop as much as we can before the summer break
Analysing the challenges of the Nurburgring, the Englishman sees some similarities with his home race. “In a way it can be compared to Silverstone, in that it has long duration corners, even if they are more medium speed than high speed. Trying to find a balance through those corners is a little bit more difficult as it suits our car less than the brake-turn-accelerate type of circuit like Canada and Valencia. In terms of tyres, we will have the Medium and Soft again, a sensible choice for this track and one which suits our car well.
However, the last race showed we are making progress in adapting the car to all tyre types. Earlier in the year, in Barcelona for example, we struggled on the Hard tyre, but we have made improvements and our qualifying pace on Hard tyres in Silverstone was a match for others.” Silverstone did not produce the overtaking festival we have seen at some of this season’s races thanks to the arrival of DRS and this is another area where Fry thinks Nurburgring could present a similar picture. “We cannot be certain until we have run the cars on track, but at the Nurburgring, the DRS zone involves following someone closely through the high speed corner onto the back straight which will be a little bit of a challenge for drivers to get within the regulatory one second gap to the car ahead before they are allowed to activate the system. This means the degree of difficulty should be similar to Silverstone rather than somewhere like Canada or Valencia.”
We don’t have to look at the classification, but instead make sure that our performance is always at the highest standard
With half the season gone, Stefano Domenicali is characteristically honest about the Scuderia’s showing: “For the first three months of the season I would give a negative score to Ferrari for its performance. But I would say the last part of the first half of the year was better because, although we only took one win, we were competitive enough to have won more, but for various circumstances. So I would score it slightly higher, maybe a bit more than the average, in the hope that the second half of the season will be higher still.” As for any championship aspirations, the Team Principal prefers to focus on racing rather than mathematics. “We don’t have to look at the classification, but instead make sure that our performance is always at the highest standard race by race,” he affirms. “We know of course that this is difficult because the competition is extremely strong. Then, we will see later on what will be the outcome of the championship. But at the moment we will just fight race by race.”