You wouldn't normally think of Ferrari team principal Jean Todt as being an optimist. A realist, definitely, so his words of hope after his team's worst performance for many years in their home Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday should surely be taken...
You wouldn't normally think of Ferrari team principal Jean Todt as being an optimist. A realist, definitely, so his words of hope after his team's worst performance for many years in their home Grand Prix at Monza on Sunday should surely be taken seriously.
Asked if he was concerned that tyre supplier Bridgestone, unable to find a competitive solution for most Grands Prix this year, might not find the answer during the coming off-season, Todt replied "concerned, yes, we are concerned. But I would prefer to answer this question at the end of the season. There is so much going on, that I still feel the possibility of finishing much stronger at the end of the season."
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has called for a final win this season, and as the chances of winning either the Drivers' or Constructors' championships recede after five years or phenomenal success, Todt is not hopeful for the immediate future, the Belgian Grand Prix next weekend "It will be difficult. This year, for the first time for many many years we did not score points here at Monza.
"Let's say we are not expecting a miracle to be in a better situation at Spa. But then it may rain, because it does happen very often but again, there have been so many races when it hasn't rained... Maybe Bridgestone was by far the best in a rain situation - not damp situation - a rain situation, but things may change. I don't know."
The solution will maybe come later, at the Brazilian Grand Prix in three weeks time. That may bolster attendance figures plus the presence of Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa, soon to be Ferrari drivers past and present. Certainly the crowd was poor at Monza, 20 percent down. Was Ferrari's poor performance to blame?
Todt couldn't sure. "Probably part of it. I don't know. I don't have any evidence that it's the only reason, but probably part of it, yes." But he admitted that they had hoped for better than the tenth and twelfth places in which they finished. "We were expecting better. And we are disappointed. Unfortunately the best we could have hoped for was finishing seventh of eighth."
But Todt says that "it's a job, at least as far as we see it. You never stop fighting. The day you stop fighting you do another job but as long as we will do this job we will fight and anyway, if we want to invest the current negative tendency you must not stop fighting. So every time, even by fighting, if you don't see it on the lap time, on the results, you learn something and by learning, you improve the situation. It takes more time than we wish it would take and more time than we thought it would take."
Todt was also asked about the speculation regarding a potential driving team in 2007 of Kimi Raikkonen, currently with McLaren, and motorcycle ace Valentino Rossi. "I'm very focused on what will happen in Spa," said Todt, "even if I said that I think it will be difficult, the last three races, and then next year when we will have Michael and Massa and we definitely want Michael to stay in Formula One. As long as Michael wants to be in Formula One, he will have a Ferrari available to him. But Ferrari will move forwards.
"I signed an extension of five years with Shell at Imola so Ferrari is very strong, commercially, talking with our partners, and we want to be strong at all levels, so when we need to apply for different people in the team: drivers, engineers, team principal, we will try to find the best available."
As for his own, much discussed future, Todt said "you know my contract with Ferrari is until the end of 2006 but as I've said very often, when I joined Ferrari in July 1993 it was initially until the end of '95 and then '98, 2001, 2004, 2006 so sooner or later we will or we have already speak about the future.
"Without talking about my contract, I'm very much involved with Ferrari's continuity. I always said it's much easier for me because I know that I would not have any kind of similar experience anywhere else but at Ferrari, so I really hope that Ferrari will have among the best people as we have now for the continuity of Ferrari."