Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro takes to the pistes at Campiglio
Madonna di Campiglio, 12 January -- The sun came out again on the slopes of Madonna di Campiglio today, which meant the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro drivers were treated to a great day's skiing. They are here at a resort known as the pearl of the Dolomites to take part in Wrooom, the Philip Morris International Media event, which this year, for the twenty first time, gets the Formula 1 season underway. Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Jules Bianchi, Giancarlo Fisichella and Marc Gene tackled some of the most demanding runs and then had lunch with their opposite numbers from the MotoGP Ducati Marlboro Team, in one of the typical mountain chalets.
Tomorrow morning, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso will take part in their first press conference of the year at the Wrooom 2011 headquarters.
Domenicali: "Abu Dhabi is the past, now there is a great desire to fight back"
There was a vast number of questions during a three-hour, marathon media session, what with a press conference and TV and radio interviews that constituted the main part of Stefano Domenicali's day at Madonna di Campiglio.
There was no way the 2010 season could be ignored, especially the way it all ended in Abu Dhabi. As usual, the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Team Principal had a very reasoned approach to those events. "Everyone reckons that it was all down to Abu Dhabi and the mistake made there, but the truth is that the championship was lost in the early part of the season, when we failed to pick up the points that were within our grasp. At the final race we missed a decisive penalty shot, but as is the case in football, the best thing to do is to take another one immediately, to consign the mistake to history, even if it does not wipe out all the good work we did earlier. I clearly remember that, at the start of the summer, no one would have bet a single Euro on our chances of challenging to the end, but then we all know how it turned out. Now, throughout the team, there is a great will to do well and to put behind us this bad end to a season which was nevertheless a positive one, especially the second half, when we put on a great show of concentration and determination in what was definitely not an easy situation."
"From a personal point of view, I can confirm that I did consider that it would be the right thing to do as team boss, and therefore the person ultimately responsible for every decision, to hand in my resignation, but I also told myself that it would be the wrong decision," continued Domenicali. "Sure, in the days immediately after, I felt downhearted but then that changed with the support I got, first and foremost from President Montezemolo, but also the thousands of messages of support that came from all over, from partners to fans which only served to sustain my will to react. Apart from that, there's no point crying over spilt milk, as all it does is goes our opponents an advantage."
"Just one target: to win both titles"
When a new season starts you take a glance at the one that has just finished but, above all, you give targets for the new one. That's up to the chief and for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro since 2008 that job has gone to Stefano Domenicali, who has begun his 20th year at the Maranello company. The stage for this announcement is a year older: Wroom is now in its 21st edition.
The Ferrari team principal said: "In 2010 we just missed out on the drivers title with Fernando Alonso and we came third in the constructors championship. The target for 2011 is as easy to say as it is hard to achieve -- it requires taking one step forward in the drivers championship and two in the one for the teams. These have to be our targets because we are Ferrari. To manage it we want to have a car that is super-competitive and reliable from the very start. We know that we will have to be perfect, including in how we react to all the events that can crop up in a race weekend -- because when the opponents are so strong and numerous this is what you need if you aspire to win."
The new car will be presented on January 28 at Maranello and then, weather conditions permitting, it will immediately be used for some promotional shots at the Fiorano circuit. The car will have a livery based on the new logo that will adorn all the sporting activities carried out by Ferrari this year. Then it will begin the 15 days of pre-season testing allowed by the regulations on February 1 at the Cheste circuit in Valencia. The first driver at the wheel will be Fernando Alonso, who will hand over to team-mate Felipe Massa on the third day.
"The car that you will see at the Maranello launch will be very different from the one that makes its debut on March 13 in Bahrain," added Domenicali. "We will continue to develop the car up to the last available day, as we believe the other teams will."
The Valencia test will also mark Pat Fry's debut in his new role of head of race track engineering -- one that he holds in addition to his existing title of deputy technical director. Domenicali explained: "For a while we were thinking of improving the team in certain areas so this decision was not taken on impulse after what happened in Abu Dhabi -- if anything it was just brought forward. Pat will have the responsibility of running all the track activities both technical and relating to the drivers. To do that in the most effective way, together with the race engineers, he will also have the support of the tools that will be available and improved by a new technical body that we have created: the Operations Research department, which will be headed by new arrival Neil Martin. This department will also have the job of improving the integration between simulator, wind tunnel and technical office. There will be no other changes."
"Alonso and Massa, two winning drivers"
This is the second year that the Ferrari line-up is made up Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa and Stefano Domenicali has every faith in his drivers. "Fernando showed, especially in the second half of the season, that he is an extraordinary talent, but that was hardly a surprise and we start from that baseline again this year," said Domenicali. "What was very pleasing was seeing how quickly he integrated himself with our team and the added value this brought was exceptional. Felipe had a difficult season, but I am totally convinced that he will know how to react in just the right way, as he capable of doing. In fact, he has often been under pressure and in these situations, he has delivered in a way that surprised many people. He is a total professional, who has grown here with us and we can count on him: I expect him to be motivated to the maximum. We want to have two strong drivers capable of winning: that is what you need if you aspire to winning both titles. As usual there is no hierarchy at the start of the season as that is determined by what happens on track."
One journalist, evidently keen not to miss the slightest opportunity to bring up the subject of team orders yet again asked Domenicali if, with hindsight, the decision taken at Hockenheim had been the right one. "It has to be said that I don't like this line of reasoning, because it is one thing to make a decision on the spur of the moment and another to do so with hindsight, having taken stock of the situation. Having said that, I think that in Germany, the team -- which means the management, the engineers and the drivers -- made the best choice. I am pleased to see that, in the end, the ban on team orders was repealed: they have always existed and there has just been a clarification aimed at providing greater transparency. If something prejudicial should happen, there is article 151 of the Sporting Regulations to right any wrongs, as there has always been."
"Tyres and KERS very important in 2011"
This year's Formula 1 season features several technical and rule changes, from the return of KERS to the arrival of Pirelli as tyre supplier, from the abolition of the double diffuser to the adjustable rear wing. This is what the Team Principal of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro had to say on these and other topics. "As far as tyres are concerned, the results of the first test we ran at Abu Dhabi last November are positive and clearly it will be very important for the designers and race engineers to find the best balance of the car. Furthermore, I feel we will go in a different direction to last year, with tyres maybe exhibiting greater degradation which will make for more changeable racing, which itself will make grid position less significant in terms of the final result. At the moment, the real unknown concerns the handling of the cars in the wet, but we can expect it to rain at some point during the fifteen days of testing, so we should get a clear picture of the situation."
The kinetic energy recovery system makes its return after the absence of a year, which one could describe as a sabbatical and Ferrari will be able to count on the experience gained in 2009. "We hope it could constitute an advantage, at least in the early part of the season," commented Domenicali. "We have continued to work on this system, trying to improve it especially in terms of weight, even if the rules regarding its useage have remained unchanged. The costs? I have read some figures, but what I can say is that one has to look at how they were calculated. For example, as far as Ferrari is concerned, the costs relative to research and development are down to us and are not passed on to our customers."
Other hot topics included the moveable rear wing and the 2013 engine rules: "In recent weeks there have been some clarifications from the FIA, but clearly until it is actually used on track, it will not be possible to give an overall assessment of this system," said Maranello's head of motorsport activity. "As for the engines of the future, the decision of the FIA World Council clearly set out the design and obviously, we are already working on it, because time is pressing. It is not the solution in terms of the split we would have preferred, but we respect the decision. However, we have to analyse the costs carefully, taking into account that today in Formula 1, there are four companies supplying all the engines and, in the current economic climate, we have to be cautious and make sure no one pulls out, which could put the system under pressure, before getting preoccupied at the thought of new arrivals. One priority that needs to be considered is the sound of the engines as it's important for race fans should not be underestimated. Let us not forget that if Formula 1 ought to have a link to industrial production then Ferrari is on the front row on that topic, but we also have to take into account the unique values that are dear to our hearts."
"No interest in polemics, we keep ourselves to ourselves"
t wouldn't be Formula 1 without gossip and rumour and even this early into Ithe season, it is on the agenda. The stone that created ripples on the pond this time concerns the spending limits imposed by FOTA on the teams for 2010 and allegations from some quarters that one team, Red Bull, overspent. Asked to comment on the matter, Stefano Domenicali had this to say: "I don't like commenting on the others and I won't do it on this occasion either, as you can well understand. All I can confirm is that we have respected the limits set out within FOTA. I believe this agreement represents a very important result which came on the back of significant efforts, particularly from the bigger teams. It will be discussed in the forthcoming meetings and if it transpires there have been any violations of the agreement, which by the way can have no repercussions in sporting terms, given that the Resource Restriction Agreement is a private one drawn up by the teams, then FOTA in any case has the power to intervene."
This year, the Ferrari Team Principal is no longer the vice president of the teams' association, but he had this to say on its future: "In some areas, great strides have been made and I think FOTA must continue working in this way. Then there are other areas that need clearing up and if they are not, then it would be better to rethink the principles that are the basis of this association. Let's not forget we are coming up to the time to start the process of renewing the Concorde Agreement, which currently runs out at the end of 2012."
Someone who asked a question regarding Helmut Marko's recently published comments that Ferrari might have some plans for a shopping trip at the home of Red Bull, managed to extract an astute response from Domenicali. "First of all, I want to congratulate Red Bull for winning both titles on merit. I don't think it's worth commenting on this matter, especially as I'm not in the habit of going to the supermarket....Joking apart, engineers always move in small circles within the limited number of Formula 1 teams and so I don't see anything strange in the fact that Neil Martin has joined us, especially as we receive so many letters from engineers who want to come and work here in Maranello. It is something that is very pleasing because it signifies that we are still a great attraction and that there is a desire to experience what it is like to work at Ferrari. The Red Bull spirit? I don't know it, because my entire career has been spent with the Reds. What I can say is that the spirit we have here is something unique, exceptional and special. It's not just me that says it, but all sorts of people who come to work for us from other teams, or those who leave us to take on a new challenge elsewhere, drivers, engineers and those who do any of the other jobs in Formula 1."
"Good luck, Vale!"
For years now, "Wrooom" has witnessed the cohabitation of two symbolic Italian institutions on two and four wheels. This year, there is an even stronger link between the two, as Valentino Rossi has experienced sitting at the wheel of a Ferrari Formula 1 car and in Philip Morris, he shares the backing of the main sponsor, so he is an ideal link between these two worlds. "Valentino and I have known one another for many years, so I cannot let this opportunity pass without wishing him the very best of luck as he embarks on this new adventure," said Stefano Domenicali. "He faces a major challenge, both as a rider and as a person and it is right that he be allowed to concentrate on this, just as we are concentrating on what we have before us. We will be delighted to see him on track on 3 July, when he takes part in the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, one of our circuits."