Alonso's verdict on the 2011 changes
Madonna di Campiglio, 13 January -- In his first press conference of the year, Fernando Alonso also talked about the new technical and rule changes that will affect the 2011 cars. "They will certainly be more complex to handle on the part of the driver because we will have more operations to carry out," explained the Spaniard. "There will be the return of KERS and the new adjustable rear wing, even if the front wing won't be adjustable any more. You will need to find the way to adapt and find the right mechanisms for the buttons to avoid losing the correct concentration for driving. The simulator gives us a big hand with that, allowing us to do intensive training on this aspect.
"Will these changes help overtaking? I hope so. For years changes to the regulations have been brought in with this objective but they haven't always worked. We're crossing our fingers but I think that between KERS and the adjustable rear wing there will be enough difference in speed to be able to overtake a car you're fighting. These changes have been brought in after meticulous work on the part of the Technical Working Group and I believe they will work. Will we have to be more aggressive? It depends on the situation: if you just need a place to win the title then there's no need."
Another change will be the Pirelli tyres that Fernando has already tested for two days in Abu Dhabi last November. "The first feeling is positive," says Fernando. "But we will know more at the next tests, those will be very interesting. I will certainly have to change my driving style a bit. The unknown remains the wet tyres, that we haven't yet had a chance to try."
In 2009 the introduction of KERS pushed many drivers into a hard winter and slimming routines. But this year the minimum weight of the car has been increased to 640kg, meaning the weight of the driver is not so crucial for the effective use of ballast. "I haven't lost much weight yet, partly because last week I had to interrupt my training because of a small muscle contraction in my leg," explains Fernando. "For the start of the championship perhaps you will see more of a weight difference. This year we will have to pay even more attention to physical and mental preparation because of the calendar. For example we will have trips that are physically demanding such as Australia-Malaysia-China, with the last two races on successive weekends. If you arrive in Malaysia at 80% one week later you risk being at 50%."
On the issue that the new rules could make the result of qualifying less important for the result of the race, Fernando was very cautious. "It's possible, because overtaking should be less difficult. But qualifying, the start and the first corner will remain decisive moments. But it's too early to make a real prediction: we will have to see how things go in the first races to have a more precise idea."
"We know where to improve to be perfect from March to November"
Madonna di Campiglio, 13 January -- A new season is beginning but there's no avoiding a return to the one that's just past -- all the more so as it finished with such an intense sporting event as Fernando Alonso's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"In the second part of the year we made an extraordinary recovery then, at the last race, we didn't manage to win the title," said Fernando. "Certainly after the race you can say that decision was wrong and we should have acted differently. But at the moment that we chose to come into the pits it seemed the right move to us. Now we can stand here and say the degradation of the soft tyres evolved in a surprising manner and that we could have stayed on the track until lap 30 but it's easy to say that now. The truth is that, as I've always said, even if they seem predictable words, you win and you lose together. If it's true that you learn more from defeats than victories it's also true that for me 2010 was a success. It's no longer worth thinking about Abu Dhabi: one minute more given to this means a minute less to dedicate to this year's work.
"At the end of every season you do an assessment: we know that there are areas where we must improve while seeking to keep up our strengths," added the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver. "We lost so many points in the first part of the year and we know that we will have to be perfect from March to November to win. We've made some changes inside the team that I'm sure will help improve things -- as you have to do in every field, not just sport. I know Pat Fry very well, having worked with him at McLaren, and I think that he can be a big help to us."
"A challenge with Valentino? Who knows... :-)!"
Madonna di Campiglio, 13 January -- If Valentino Rossi and Ferrari have known each other for a while, the contact between the new Ducati rider and Fernando Alonso is more recent. "We got to know each other better last year at Maranello when Valentino came to collect his Ferrari," said the Spanish driver. "He's a very nice guy and as a rider there's not much to say: he's won nine world championships and he's the best in the history -- and, perhaps the future -- of motorcycling because it will be very difficult to repeat his results. He's loved all over the world and that is another virtue: the passion that Vale arouses is like a tenth world title. A challenge between us? I can't say anything certain but perhaps at the end of the season, in December, there could be a surprise: on two wheels, four wheels or however many wheels that people would like..."
Massa on what's new for 2011: "Changes in the right direction"
anuary is the month of physical preparation for the drivers. This year at Wrooom they're talking about that even more than usual given that the cars will again have KERS, with all that this system brings in terms of additional weight for the car. "Compared to 2009 the situation is different because the minimum weight of the car has gone up," explained Felipe Massa. "Two years ago every ounce could have an influence while today there's a bit more margin. Anyway, I believe I'm one of the lightest drivers, if not the lightest: let's say I will always pay attention to avoid gaining weight -- but without going over the top."
2011 will offer innovations other than the return of KERS, from Pirelli tyres to the new adjustable rear wing. "I think that these changes are going in the right direction," said Felipe. "We will certainly have more buttons on the steering wheel and we will have to pay a lot of attention -- for example with the buttons to activate KERS, which you don't use all in one go but at different parts of the circuit according to the track and the moment. As for the rear wing, we won't be able to make a judgement until the first races."
"I've always been under pressure"
Felipe Massa's career has always been characterised by pressure. When he took his first steps in the Italian Formula Renault Championship Felipe knew that he would have to win to secure the budget necessary to complete the season. In Formula 1 the Brazilian driver has always had very strong team-mates, such as world champions Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Jacques Villeneuve, and he's always had loads of pressure on his back. Countless drivers have been rumoured to be on the verge of taking his place at Ferrari.
"I've always felt pressure in my career -- indeed I'm the first to put pressure on myself," says Felipe. "You notice external pressure but it's much less important. What counts is what you show on the track, inside the cockpit of the car, and how the team makes you feel -- and I feel the faith and respect that Ferrari has for me. I like reading that they speak well of me, I certainly don't deny that, but I think that's the same for everyone. What counts is that I know, if I have a car that suits my characteristics, that I will be able to battle for the title.
"Montezemolo has spoken about having my brother driving in certain races last year? But he'd already spoken about brothers the year before -- that time it was Kimi's!" joked the Brazilian driver. "I know that last year things didn't go well but now we have to look to the future and do well this year."
"The team believes in me"
elipe Massa is now the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro veteran. Since the farewell to Luca Badoer, the Brazilian driver is the man with the longest service for the red team. Under contract with Maranello since 2001, Felipe is now in his sixth season as an official Ferrari driver.
"My target for this season is simple: to win races and to fight for the title," said Felipe. "I know that things didn't go well last year but that is the past. I believe I can return to fight for the crown and I have nothing else in my mind. I am happy to start the year here at Wrooom: it's a very enjoyable week. As I've now been coming here for so long, I've also learnt to appreciate snow, something that we Brazilians don't see very often. I've always enjoyed skiing because I did in on water when I was young. Here I've also learned how to do it on snow."
On the causes of his difficulties last season, the Brazilian driver explained: "I was never comfortable with the tyres, in particular the front ones. I didn't manage to adapt my driving style to those tyres, which were very different to the ones from 2009. That took its toll, especially in qualifying and when the available compounds were the hardest ones. There were never problems with motivation, not even after a difficult weekend like Hockenheim. Fernando was better than me but I know my potential and I know that the team believes in me. In the past I've always had very strong team-mates, like Michael and Kimi, but I'd never found myself in a situation of not being comfortable with the car, as I had in 2010. The critics? They haven't hurt me, what troubled me was not having the results I wanted."
Alonso on Massa, Massa on Alonso
There's an unwritten rule in Formula 1, as in all motor sport -- your main rival is your team-mate. The Alonso-Massa pairing became a year old right here in the snow of 'Wrooom' and it was logical to ask each driver his verdict on the other.
"I have a great respect for Fernando: we have a good relationship, we work very well together and there are no problems at all," said Felipe. "It's clear that I want to be ahead of him but that is normal. In 2010 I didn't manage it because I wasn't comfortable with the tyres but I hope to battle with him this year: I'm perfectly prepared for that. We will have the same treatment, as has always been the case at Ferrari. I feel very focused and have faith in my chances."
"I have an excellent relationship with Felipe, better than what people want to see from outside," said Fernando in turn. "This week we're here to ski together and in the evening we play poker, which says a lot. We do everything that two team-mates and two professionals must do, also because we need each other. For example, in the 15 days of testing that we have available before the start of the championship we will have to divide up the work. Each of us will have to give 100% to help the team develop the car, beginning or completing the work of the other, depending on the programme. We will have to be practically one driver made up of two different people."