Jean Todt expressed the mixed emotions of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team after Sunday's first and third places in the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park where Brazil's Felipe Massa claimed not only his first pole position but also his first...
Jean Todt expressed the mixed emotions of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team after Sunday's first and third places in the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park where Brazil's Felipe Massa claimed not only his first pole position but also his first win. "We were obviously very pleased about the first pole position for Felipe, the first win for Felipe with Scuderia Ferrari and he drove a great race."
"But we are obviously a bit disappointed because we had the potential that could have allowed us to be first and second," continued Todt, "but due to the safety car it probably made our race more difficult. It did not help Michael. So we had the potential to be first and second, and we finished first and third."
The Ferraris were running first and second when the safety car was deployed 14 laps into the 58 lap race. All the front runners headed for the pits for fuel and tyres, including both Ferraris, but as Felipe Massa was leading teammate Michael Schumacher, the World Championship contender had to wait in the pit lane while his teammate's car was worked on. Schumacher lost 11 seconds which allowed championship leader Fernando Alonso to overtake him while he was stationary in his pit.
But the team had little option in this matter, explained Todt. They couldn't have swapped the order in favour of Schumacher. "When the safety car is on the track you cannot overtake. You just cannot do it. Overtaking with the safety car is forbidden. That doesn't mean we would have done it, but we couldn't. I think there would be five times more people at this press conference if I had asked Felipe Massa to let Michael through. That would have been the event of the race weekend. So I am sorry for you that we did not change the order in the pits!" he joked.
With four races to go, however, there was good news and bad news from Turkey, explained Todt. "In the Constructors' championship, today's race allowed us to get closer because we are now minus two points, and we were minus seven. In the Drivers' championship we are two points further back; we were minus 10 and now we are minus 12.
"Saying that, we had a demonstration that our car was very quick during the weekend - first row, first and second quickest time during the race and we had very strong Bridgestone tyres. So I am convinced that we still have a chance to fight for both championships."
"It will depend what the others (principal rivals Renault and Fernando Alonso) will do as development," continued Todt, "what the tyre situation will be. We know we have a good development programme but we don't know the development programme for the others. We know we have new tyres to test, new compound and new construction. I don't know what the others will have to test, so time will tell."
Todt again paid tribute to race winner Massa. "After 14 races he is third in the championship, and he did not score 62 points by winning the race. He had 52 before the race, he now has 62 after he won. He was already third in the championship, so for those with open eyes he is a good driver. It was a very good weekend for him because he had his first pole and his first win, so he will probably be even more dedicated to help the team to fight for both championships - even if he was already well dedicated. He is a very good team player.
"I have a feeling he is a new champion. For me it is good to judge a driver when they are not winning. To judge somebody when you have some problems is probably more demanding, but more rewarding as well. I confirm that I always had the feeling that Felipe was a very talented driver. That is why we contracted him a few years ago and we are very happy to have him with us."
Ferrari now go to Monza to test, followed by the Italian Grand Prix, where they will also announce their 2007 line-up. As ever, Todt wasn't saying anything about the future line-up, but he was asked whether the constant speculation all season about drivers has been unsettling for the team. "No, it is like step by step. Before it was another thing and after it will be something else. I know that to do the job you need to create interest. So once one interest is over then you have to find another one, and it is fair. It is fairer if it does correspond to reality, sometimes."