Ferrari’s annual Wrooom event is underway at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy. This is a traditional pre season media event at which the team and management give their thoughts and assessments on the sporting and political year ahead.
I went last year, but this year had to decline, as I have to be at the Autosports International Show in Birmingham tomorrow for the BBC.
Today saw conferences from team boss Stefano Domenicali and a brief appearance by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.
Montezemolo has been quite vocal over the winter about many things and today reiterated that Ferrari is ready to play its part in shaping the future of F1 despite withdrawing from the F1 Teams Association,
“We want to play, in a constructive way, a role to look ahead in F1,” he said. “I think F1 is fantastic, it is our life. This year we have celebrated 60 years, so I think we are allowed to push in a constructive way to look ahead.
“We have to look ahead in terms of technology, we have to look ahead in terms of young public, in terms of transfer of technology to the road cars because we don’t do satellites or aeroplanes.”
Domenicali said several important things. First he denied that Ferrari had done any kind of special deal with Bernie Ecclestone nor that one had been offered by the 81 year old billionaire. When Ferrari and Red Bull quit FOTA in December there were suggestions that they would succumb to a large financial package to sign up to a new Concorde Agreement, but Domenicali said no,
“In the next few months we are going to start talking about the renewal of the Concorde Agreement,” he said. “We do not have other offers around. We have not seen any offers, and no proposals have come, so in the forthcoming days we are going to start talking to see if we can meet around the table and discuss the future of F1.
Domenicali said that Ferrari has been in discussions with the other three top teams, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren, about resolving problems over the Resource Restriction Agreement, the subject which split FOTA. More meetings are scheduled for next week as the teams prepare to negotiate a new Concorde Agreement, to replace the one which expires on December 31st this year,
“Clearly this is a very important year and we are all aware of that,” he said. “It is equally clear that there is only one offer on the table, given that no alternative solutions were ever established. 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.
“Furthermore, one must bear in mind that the Resource Restriction Agreement 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 key point is to understand if this is an important tool for the future,” he added. “What should happen to those who do not abide by the rules: today, only a financial type of penalty is planned, but we need to decide if it would not be better to think also of something on the sporting front and, in that case, who should decide the outcome.”
In other Ferrari news, the team has hired highly experienced operations engineer Steve Clark, formerly of Mercedes, as head of race engineers. They’ve also hired Hirohide Hamashima, one of the faces of Bridgestone Motorsport. “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,” said Domenicali.
Hamashima is well known and trusted by Ferrari, the Scuderia had a very tight relationship with Bridgestone in the mid-2000s, the dominant years for the team.
One of Ferrari’s weaknesses since those days has been the way it struggles to make best use of use the harder compound tyres when it has to set the car up at races to operate on two compounds, as it does under current F1 rules. It has taken them some time to find a solution for this and Hamashima is the most experienced person imaginable for this job, although he doesn’t have knowledge of Pirelli compounds, he does know many of the Pirelli engineers very well as they are largely ex-Bridgestone people.
It was also revealed that the new Ferrari will be launched on February 3, a few days ahead of the first test at Jerez. It will be shaken down that same day at Fiorano.
The $10 million question is, will it be fast enough? Ferrari admitted it was guilty of being too conservative in recent years and it’s clear that they’ve taken a step in a new direction for 2012,
“It’s (the 2012 car) definitely different, because it represents a clear break with the past in terms of the design philosophy,” said Domenicali. “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! I asked our engineers, as far back as last summer to look into every little nook and cranny of the rules to push it to the limit, but up until we see the other cars we will not know if we have taken it to the limit or are within it.”
On Thursday, the drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa will speak. Massa is under pressure from the management after two lacklustre seasons, “We need to be realistic, this is a crucial season for him and his future,” said Domenicali.