Stefano Domenicali, the team boss of Ferrari, has been hosting a summer break version of the Wrooom winter sports event which has traditionally prefaced the start of the F1 season.
Some important messages have come out of this event and from the Ferrari website at the same time. These are principally an insight into his and Ferrari’s thinking on drivers for the future and the strategy for making sure they are competitive in 2013. But he has also said quite clearly that he doesn’t think that Lewis Hamilton will drive for Ferrari at any stage.
First the drivers: “For the Ferrari of the future, I believe the right combination is to have one well established driver with great experience, alongside a talented youngster on the way up, ” Domenicali says on the Ferrari website.
This is interesting for a number of reasons. He seems to have been discussing this in the context of whether Ferrari would ever run two young drivers, but nevertheless it indicates the direction that their thinking is taking, vis a vis who to partner alongside Alonso for the next five seasons. Felipe Massa has this year and next year and then Ferrari may well be looking for a younger driver, one would imagine ideally from the Ferrari Driver Academy. Jules Bianchi is a high profile member of the FDA, but many in F1 are surprised by his struggles in GP2. Sergio Perez is another young driver Ferrari have their eye on.
Ferrari doesn’t run rookies. the closest it has come to that is Massa, who was schooled at Sauber and did a year as a Ferrari tester before getting a race seat.
The upside of having a young driver alongside Alonso is to prepare the succession, but he’d have to be very good and very consistent because points towards the Constructors’ championship are vital and McLaren and Red Bull have two driver capable of scoring the points.
On Lewis Hamilton, Domenicali says that he still sticks to his view, a common one among experienced people in F1, that Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel are the three standout drivers at the moment, and nothing Hamilton has done would put him off signing him if the circumstances were right. But he says that he cannot see a place for Hamilton at Maranello,
“I am pleased he said ‘never say never’ on the subject of Ferrari, in fact it is logical that everyone aspires to come to Maranello sooner or later, given what we represent in the history of this sport.
“Having said that, I don’t think the question will arise, neither in the short nor in the long term, ” said the Ferrari boss.
The other point of note is that he has flagged up Ferrari’s intention to develop the car until September and then ‘focus on next year’s car’.
The rules don’t change much from this year to next so many teams plan to run developments in the second half of this season which have carryover to next year.
“At the start of September, we will concentrate solely on next year, because we have already defined all the updates for the 150° Italia, at least up until mid-October. Sure, if something was to change, then we would react accordingly,” he said.
“The more time we can spend on the wind tunnel the better. Because for sure what I really want to avoid is another difficult winter like the last two years.”
Although he believes that Alonso will score more points from now to the end of the season than any of his rivals, he’s being realistic.
I’m sure Vettel will be delighted to hear this, as if McLaren take a similar view, then Red Bull will be able to do likewise and throw more effort at 2012, so one hopes that McLaren will keep pushing the development button to the end of the season.
Ferrari’s plan will have been specified by new technical director Pat Fry and agreed by Alonso, who can see that this year, unlike last year, there is only the slenderest of chances to close the gap and catch Vettel.
Nevertheless he said this week at the Wrooom event that they cannot give up on 2011, “We are Ferrari and we have a moral obligation, especially for the millions of fans spread around the world, to always think of the maximum goal. We can’t ever say we will tackle eight races without having the championship in the back of our mind: we will always have an eye on the title, at least until there is no longer the slightest chance. Of course we must start winning and we have to hope that Vettel makes a few mistakes or has some problems.”
Problems with the wind tunnel which was scaled up from 50% to 60% models hurt them last winter, but these are now resolved and they are getting good results.
Ferrari need a good car straight out of the box next season in order to challenge for the championship. Their comeback this season, like last, has been impressive, but they want to be the pace setters from the outset next season.