Madonna di Campiglio - Ferrari gearing up for 2012 season

Berthold Bouman, F1 correspondent

During Ferrari’s annual Wrooom days, a Press Ski Meeting organized at Madonna di Campiglio, a ski resort in the Italian Dolomites, it was time for Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali and Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo to look back at the past season, but more important, to look forward to this season which will kick off on February 7-5 with the first of the pre-season testing days at the circuit of Jerez, Spain.

Of course host Luca di Montezemolo was the first to welcome his guests, “This is always a very nice event and I want to congratulate the organizers and the truly stupendous location. I wish you all a happy new year: the only thing I ask is to have a competitive car, that’s all.”

Luca di Montezemolo
Luca di Montezemolo

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

He also announced the launch of the 2012 car, “We will launch the new car on February 3 in Maranello and my hope and that of all our fans is to have a car that is competitive right from the start.” And he added, “It will be an interesting championship, with so many world champions taking part. Our two guys, Felipe and Fernando seem in great form and everyone else is working flat out on every detail.”

Ferrari Team Principal since 2008, Stefano Domenicali agreed and added, “Clearly, this will be a tricky year, but that is part of any sport, even more so when one looks at the environment in which Ferrari operates. There are expectations that need to be managed as well as possible and I am well aware that the emotional aspect is very important in a team like ours.”

But he admitted that the emotional aspect would not change his approach, “We will not get over-excited if things go well, nor will we be down if we have some difficulties, especially at the start, because we know this is going to be a very long season. We must stay grounded and calm, maintaining our motivation and concentration.”

Domenicali and Montezemolo about the 2012 Ferrari

“The new car? Different, not particularly pretty and we hope, quick!” is what Domenicali answered when asked about Ferrari’s 2012 contender. “It’s definitely different, because it represents a clear break with the past in terms of the design philosophy. It’s not that pretty, because the shape defined by the technical regulations does not leave much scope, but, and this is what counts really, our hopes are that it is at the very least quick!”

Stefano Domenicali
Stefano Domenicali

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

Montezemolo agreed and told the media, “Domenicali said the car would not be pretty? I’d like it to look lousy: I say that provocatively because I want it to be a winner, reliable but also “simpatico” in the sense that it knows how to win with a smile!”

Pretty or not pretty, Ferrari is this time confident they can fight for the victory right from the start of the season, but Domenicali also warned Ferrari might not be the fastest team during the pre-season testing days, “To really understand the hierarchy we will have to wait for qualifying in Melbourne: we must always bear in mind that the times one sees from testing are not always what they seem. At Jerez and the two Barcelona tests, we can get a rough idea but nothing more.”

Montezemolo puts the future of his team in the hands of Fernando Alonso, and commented, “I believe he is the one to ask if this [2012] car will be quick or not. Because the fact he is quick is a certainty and maybe the question will be asked of him in Jerez after he has done the first kilometers at the wheel of the car to see what it’s like.”

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

Also an interesting development is the new reactive ride height system the Reds apparently have developed, according to several media, Ferrari has asked the FIA to evaluate the system and are hoping it will be approved.

Domenicali mentioned it is a system that should give more stability under braking, and is in fact a similar system that Lotus have developed and was recently approved by the FIA. Therefore it seems that once again the start of the season will be dominated by a new innovation, like the now banned blown diffuser, and it is also very likely, just as last season, teams will protest and contest the legality of such a system.

Ferrari on their FOTA departure

Montezemolo was also asked to comment on Ferrari’s departure from the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA). “I think that as in life, there are moments in which one gets on well with others and times when one feels a need for change,” he replied.

“We wish to continue playing our part in Formula One in a constructive manner, looking to the future of this sport which is still fantastic and part of our life. I refer, for example, to technology, to the need to reach out to a younger audience, to the need to maintain close links between racing and the manufacture of road-going cars, to young drivers and the need to give them the opportunity, through testing, to show their potential,” referring to Ferrari’s still unfulfilled wish to lift the in-season testing ban.

After Ferrari left the FOTA there have been speculations that the Italian team might already have sealed a new Concorde deal with Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone, Montezemolo denied this but also said during the meeting at Madonna di Campiglio, “Without wishing to cause any upsets, I think Ferrari has the right, thanks to its history, to have its say in an autonomous fashion, on the future of this sport.”

“No one works with the team like Fernando does”

Again the words of Domenicali when he described the past two years with star driver and double World Champion Alonso. The Spaniard joined the Maranello-based team in 2010, and won the 2010 season opener in Bahrain for Scuderia Ferrari, again a strong reminder the 30-year old driver has been blessed with extraordinary race talents.

Fernando Alonso, Luca di Montezemolo and Felipe Massa
Fernando Alonso, Luca di Montezemolo and Felipe Massa

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

“Fernando has had two extraordinary years with us, coming within a whisker of the title in 2010 and improving also last year when despite having a less competitive car, he managed to maintain a very high standard in terms of performance,” declared Domenicali. “I was very impressed by the way he lived his life with the team: he is a person who can really motivate others and he can often be found in the factory, working with the engineers.”

Like Montezemolo, Domenicali also puts the fate of the team in Alonso’s hands, and praised him for his determination and dedication. “I believe Fernando has shown a great confidence in us at a time that was far from easy when, in the first part of last year, he decided to tie himself to us for many years,” he said, referring to the long term contract the Spaniard signed early 2011.

Of course, Sebastian Vettel will be Alonso’s main rival this season, but asked who was the better driver, he replied, “Sebastian had an amazing [2011] season, both in qualifying and the race, being able to count on having a car that was equally extraordinary. However, I believe Fernando is the best, although the German comes very close.”

And then there is of course Felipe Massa, who had a disastrous 2011 season and could not keep up with Alonso, and is now under even more pressure to deliver. Massa has had many warnings from Ferrari, and 2012 will be a decisive season for the Brazilian. “He has alongside him a driver of the talent and personality of Fernando: rather, this must be an opportunity for him to improve still further: at the age of 31, which he will reach in a few months, everything is still possible for him,” Domenicali said.

Montezemolo was also clear about Massa’s future at the team, “I have told Felipe to prepare well, both mentally and physically and I hope he finds a car that is better adapted to his driving style, maybe with the softer tyres.”

Fresh blood

Ferrari also signed up two new engineers, Steve Clark who previously worked for Mercedes, has joined the team as Track Engineer. He in fact replaces Chris Dyer who was ousted after the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as he was held responsible for the wrong strategy that cost Alonso the title. Clark will be in charge of Alonso’s race engineer Andrea Stella, and Massa’s race engineer Rob Smedley, while Clark himself will report to Technical Director Pat Fry.

Ferrari’s new Track Engineer Steve Clark
Ferrari’s new Track Engineer Steve Clark

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It was also confirmed Hirohide Hamashima, former Technical Director of the Japanese tyre company Bridgestone, will join the Scuderia as well. “He will head up a new project focusing on an in-depth assessment of an area crucial to performance, which is the interaction between the car and its tyres and he will also be our technical link to Pirelli,” Domenicali said at Madonna di Campiglio.

Montezemolo explained his point of view, “It is worth while allowing a bit of fresh air in, with an injection of a new mentality and culture, strengthening areas in which we have the greatest need to increase our levels of competence.”

The future of Formula One

It will be an important year according to Domenicali. Not only for Ferrari, but also for Formula One, as the current Concorde Agreement ends on December 31, 2012.

“Clearly this is a very important year and we are all aware of that,” said Domenicali. “In the coming months, talks will get underway on the future of the Agreement as we are still in discussion, especially with the bigger teams, despite the fact we have left FOTA, on the subject of cost reduction, discussions where Ferrari has always been at the forefront.”

One of the reasons Ferrari left the FOTA, was that no agreement about the RRA (Resources Restriction Agreement) could be reached with the other teams, and Ferrari therefore decided to take matters into their own hands.

Ferrari is ready for 2012
Ferrari is ready for 2012

Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

But all is not lost and Domenicali explained Ferrari’s dilemma, “One must bear in mind that the RRA is still in force: what still needs to be established – and this something we are looking at in these days – is if we should abide by the first version, signed in 2009, or the one drawn up in Singapore in 2010. The first one envisages very severe spending cuts for 2012, the year it should run out, while the one signed in Singapore has a revised figure and is valid right up to the end of 2017.”

The start of the season

This time, Ferrari is determined to be competitive right from the start of the season, the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, scheduled for March 18. In 2011 Alonso finished fourth, and Massa seventh during the race in Australia. Ferrari had to wait until the British Grand Prix early July before they could score their first victory, and the team wasn’t really fighting for the title and they therefore concentrated on scoring another victory, but it was not to be.

Domenicali about this season, “We must think about one thing only, having a good start to the season and then later on in the year, we can begin to think about the future.”

Montezemolo certainly sounded a bit more convincing, “The world championship title? We came very close in 2010, a long way off in 2011 and we want to win it in 2012. That’s easy to say, but harder to do, but we have an extraordinary sense of determination to get it done!”

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Fernando Alonso , Luca di Montezemolo , Felipe Massa , Sebastian Vettel , Bernie Ecclestone , Steve Clark
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes
Tags alonso, bouman, domenicali, featured, ferrari, madonna di campiglio, massa