Despite Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali’s suggestion last month that Michael Schumacher’s experience with slick tyres could be very useful to the team as they prepare their challenge for 2009, I see that Michael Schumacher said recently that he will not be driving the new F60.
Schumacher, who turned 40 last month, has been a consultant to Ferrari ever since his retirement as a driver in 2006. He has driven as a super-tester on several occasions since then, but with restrictions on testing so severe now, he has decided that the work should be left to the race drivers.
Schuey, who has yet to define his role with the team for 2009, told the Koln Express, the local paper of Cologne, near his home town “The winter tests are very important. Especially given the ban during the season. It’s a preparation for the whole season. As I see it, it’s up to the race drivers to do the work, not testers. I’m speaking to Ferrari at the moment to see whether they see it the same way.”
It’s amazing to think just how different this situation is from when Michael was driving. In the late 1990s and early 2000s he spent over 200 days away from home in a year, with promotional activities, races and tests. The testing element of it was huge, often up to 20 days before the start of the season, and then two or three days in every week following a Grand Prix.
Ferrari committed a lot to testing because they had a special budget from Bridgestone, rumoured to be around £20 million per season, to carry out tyre development tests. Of course they would test all manner of new things on the car at the same time. It was quite a big advantage to have budget, two test tracks (Fiorano and Mugello) and unlimited test days.
It’s one of the reasons McLaren invested so heavily in simulation technology in the early 2000s, because they did not have the same luxury with testing as Ferrari. Now that investment is paying off massively as they are miles ahead and it’s Ferrari who are playing catch up in that area.