Stefano Domenicali leads the Ferrari team into world championship battle next week for only the second year. The jovial 43 year old is the modern face of Ferrari, the man who has maintained the team at the highest level of competitiveness despite the departures of Schumacher, Brawn, Todt, Byrne and Martinelli.
Today in Gazzetta dello Sport he gives an interview which shows the team’s state of mind going into this campaign. Main rival McLaren is behind, but for how long? BMW and Toyota are a new threat and of course the Brawn team have a head-start, but Stefano thinks their diffuser is not within the rules. He hopes the FIA will clarify the legality in Melbourne, that all the teams will act responsibly and that the result won’t be decided in a court after the race.
But the most interesting part is what he says, and more importantly what he implies, about his driver, Kimi Raikkonen.
“He seems motivated and thinner, apparently by three kilos. He knows that for him, as a driver and as a Ferrari man, that this will be an important season. He’s bright enough to understand that.”
And important for Ferrari to evaluate his future? “Most certainly.”
You don’t need to be a genius at reading between the lines to get what Domenicali is saying here. A repeat of last year’s performance would signal the end of Kimi at Ferrari.
In contrast, here’s what he says about Felipe Massa’s ‘state of health’,
“Very good. He’s totally matured as a driver. A year ago he set off with doubts hanging around him, now he’s going into this championship to win it. And he can do it.”
The interview was done by Pino Allievi, the veteran Gazzetta writer who broke the story at New Year about Alonso signing a Ferrari contract for 2011 with a clause for 2010 if Kimi underperforms. Here he makes no reference to Alonso. He doesn’t need to. It’s very clear what the situation is from Kimi’s point of view.
Other nuggets of note; Domenicali considers the points U turn last week “embarrassing”.
He says, ‘I fear Ross Brawn because he is a smart guy. We know his strengths and we know in what areas he can make a real difference.”
His greatest fear for the season is unreliability, “We’ve paid for that in the past. Also understanding how to manage the tyres, because in qualifying you’ll always use the softs, but in the race there’s a bigger difference between the two types. Then we also have to develop the car without any [track] tests.”
He flags up two things which will influence the racing this year; the raising of the pit lane speed limit to 100km/h, which will make pit stops faster and the freeing up of safety car rules ( you can come in when you want).