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Ferrari boss – It's a make or break year for Kimi
Ferrari boss – It's a make or break year for Kimi
Posted By:   |  23 Mar 2009   |  1:26 pm GMT  |  63 comments

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).

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Thanks James for the info about the pit lane speed limit increasing - I hadn't spotted that anywhere else. I'm really looking forward to Melbourne, it feels like more of a journey into the unknown than it has done for as long as I can remember


I think it will be a big year for DNF's all around really. First the reliability aspect, all of these cars are all new rather than evolutions as before. Then there is the new technology, KERS, movable wings, etc.

But finally for me, the biggest failure will be the drivers.

There is so much more scope for them to mess up now, the wider front wings has been well documented before (especially if the cars are travelling closer together) but also the grip is lower, and we're still without TC.

Also, with KERS and the movable wings, it is often going to be the case that you're heading down the straight doing a few MPH more and those braking points are going to fluctuate so much more than before.

I expect to see a lot more overtaking attempts go wrong (and dives down the inside that go wrong often take both drivers out). So, I think it's a season for the wise old heads rather than the hot heads.


Hi james,
How will we be able to hear your commentary? I love your style of commentating. If you are not part of live TV commentary team then i suggest you to commentate live through internet. Please reply. Please do something otherwise i promiss i will not watch F1 this year.


saqib javed


When you pay a guy $30 million a year, you are quite within your right to expect at least $20 million worth of performance.

They were definatley short changed last year. I know that the car did not suit Kimi the same as it did for Massa, but a top driver should be able to either drive to the strengths of the car or develop it to taste.

I think ferrari are saying "look we know that your commitment to F1 is not in the same league as Michael, we are fine with this.....so long as it does not manifest itself on the track...you have had your year off, now get back to work"

Kimi will be Kimi, no matter what Ferrari say...if he has another bad year and Ferrari goes the Alonso route, I doubt that Kimi will give a "expletive deleted". He has already said that he is not in this for the long term.

I think by the begining of the Eurepean races we will know which Kimi has turned up.


Ferrari would be stupid to sign Alonso, as we know for certain he is only the second best, if that. The Spanish press may be wishing it happens, Santander may have switched over to try and sweeten the deal, but are the Scuderia going to take a driver so obviously psychologically flawed who cheated and blackmailed his previous team when it became apparent that a Rookie was faster ?

Much is going to happen in 2009, peoples opinions of racs will rise and fall, during and after the season, if Vettel, Kubica or even Glock or Nakajima has a stellar season it could all look very different in 8 months time.


The pit lane speed limit changes are interesting- I'd not heard anything anything about that until recently, what with all the other more noticable rule changes. With quicker pit stops and the bigger performance gap between hard ans dost tyres can we expect to see more varied pit strategies?


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).


Pit stop strategy is the most tedious thing about F1. Will be glad to see the back of refuelling next year.

Real racing happens on the track, not in the pits.


Kimi's position has been so well publicised/discussed over the last year, it seems a bit unnecessary for Domenicali to give Kimi another 'berating' like this in public.... does it really all need to be said again?

Think they are right to fear Ross, but doubt the Brawn team in racing trim will have the set-up or drivers to seriously contend for the WDC/WCC this year.


Think much will depend if the car design is tailored to Massa or Kimi. Last year it seemed in favor of Massa.

I know this isn't exactly on topic, but can teams use KERS on race starts? Is it allowed to precharge the system? Is it useful to use it to get to the first turn quicker?


"A year ago he (Massa) set off with doubts hanging around him, now he’s going into this championship to win it."

And this year, Kimi's the one with doubts hanging around him, so does that mean he's going to end up fighting for the Championship?

Kimi's said that he likes the 2009 car better than the 2008 car, because it's more like the cars he used to drive...

I feel that 2008 was a blip (as was 2007, even though he won it). With the 2009 aero rules making qualifying less of a determining factor than race speed, I think that Kimi will be back in the Driving Seat. It seems the bookies think so too.

Let's just hope that Ferrari can sort their reliability out. It was shocking last year!


"He flags up two things which will influence the racing this year; the raising of the pit lane speed limit to 100km/h"

When did this happen? Another rule snuck through!


How sure are you that the Alonso to Ferrari story is a done deal. We've heard these confirmations for years, how sure are you that this time it is true, should we take it as gospel?


James, it has to be a mistake. Speed limit of 100 km/h in quali and the race is here for some time... Article 101 of last year's regulations...

btw: What Stefano says about Raikkonen means only that his problems last year were not only in brakes and quali tyre temperature. He indeed had/has motivation issues.

From what I know Kimi is really cool guy but he really hates everything about formula one except holding steering wheel of car travelling at 300 kmk/h. But formula one is not only about that and if he doesn't want take it as a whole package then it is maybe really better if he will go... 🙂


This is going to be an important year for Kimi no doubt. But I do not understand the lots of criticism towards him. He has had many very, very strong and competitive seasons, he has proved his exceptional speed and abilities, never criticized any of his teams, not even when McLaren let him down so many times. He has had one week season since 2000 (still finished 3rd supporting his team mate in the last couple of races) partly because of the car's worries with the tires. I still remember Alonso being all over the place in Canada with his McLaren, crashing out in Japan etc. No one has an error-free career in F1, not even Schuey. I think he was in his peak form during the Macca years, but he has so much raw speed and talent that with the right motivation he still can be the man to beat. Hope he will react to all of the critics on the track soon.


JA writes: Yes, the new sporting regs just came out recently:


Safety car unfairness appears to have gone.

Keith, stop moaning about strategy. It's a great added twist. Anyway you'll have it all your way next season when refuelling is banned...then you won't have to think any more, just watch !!


Hey! What happened to my post?!?!


These regulations were pubslished after WMSC vote on March 17th. It includes 'winner takes it all' system.

Also, as I said, speed limit didn't change did it? It was 100 km/h last year, just check out last year's regulations.


I can draw a few conclusions from this:

1.Ferrari want Kimi to be sacked in order to be able to sign Alonso.
2.Ferrari rather want a more inferior teammate next to Massa, so Massa can have all the preveledge to fight for the title.
3.They do like Massa more than Kimi, waiting for a chance to sack Kimi, for example if Kimi again fails to deliver this season.

Nr. 2 would be a good option from Ferrari's point of view. Seeing how Hamilton won the title, without having Alonso on his side.

Having Alonso as Massa's teammate could only get more worse then the Mclaren-issue back in 2007. It's like Hot-hot(Massa-Alonso).

Sure, Kimi is payed too much compared to Massa, but hey, I'm sure they can do a pay-cut? I mean it's not like Kimi will faith in them.

Buttonfan Norway

I will actually miss refueling,strategy is very exciting to me. With fuel stops gone, we won't see as many brilliant Ross Brawn decicions!
how fun is it to watch people at speeds ala trulli in singapore?


maybe his boss should remember he did win in 2007.So he's a bit layed back and he's not schumacher but come on they give him the right car and he'll win.I hope he shows just how good he is and leaves them all in his dust.I stefano spent as much time on fixing the stuff ups last season pitstop problems,refuelling rigs,etc there wouldn't be any talk of kimi.Remember schumi had a shocking 4 years and todt backed him the whole time lucky he didnt have stefano as a boss or we would of missed all the great years of schumi.


I am with Keith. All routine pitstops should be banned. Only one mechanic should be allowed to work on the car at a time so that punctured tyres can be replaced or problems fixed.

Bernie wanted a medals system to promote racing. Apart from the technical regs the biggest obstruction to racing taking place is that if one driver is behind another he has a team of statisticians working out the best strategy to get him past at a pit stop. I couldn't car less if Ferrari or McLaren has the best statiticians or statistical analysis software. Take away pit stops and the guy with the steering wheel in his hands has to go and take the position. That is racing.

I keep hearing people saying how great pit stops are. How many people can list their 5 favourite pit stops? How many youtube clips are there of great pit stops? Anyone can name their favourite overtaking moves. There is a reason why youtube is full of clips of Dijon 79 and why 30 years after the event these clips get hits every day.

One year at Imola Schumacher went from 12th to 2nd by overtaking one car on the track. The rest of the time Ross Brawn had him running on an empty track. That is time trialing or sprinting. It is not racing.

Look at Gilles Villeneuve's drive at Jarama 1981. That is magnificent race driving. Put pit stops in that race and he is fifth after the first stop and would have been lucky to have finished in the top ten as the car was rubbish.

Max wants to cut costs so lets cut out all the invisble expense that goes in to needless pit stops and give the fans a couple of test days back.

We need to get rid of routine fuel and tyre stops and get back to racing.

Mari el Yunny dos Santa

How can any true F1 fan have anything agaisnt pitstops? Plenty of the major events in 21st century F1 have involved pitstops...

Massa in Singapore/ Valencia 08
Hamilton in China 07
Pile up Canada 08
and so on...


James I can catch RAI broadcasts!
Please tell us more about your work with RAI this season,timetables etc.
Will you be speaking italian there?


Hope kimi shows what he is worth. He looks realy motivated and if Ferrari want to support him he will become 2009 champion I have no doubt. This 2008 story is confusing to me. I wish i knew what realy happened with him last year.


I'm not sure having your boss undermine you a week before the first race of the season is a particularly encouraging event for a driver, but I suppose they know Kimi better than I do, maybe he needs a kick up the behind to get working.

I'm on the fence about refueling, on the one hand it's possible that it will create more track action through tires going off etc. but on the other you lose the (sometimes) unpredictability of strategies.

Also, if you think that strategy has no place in motor racing then you're mistaken, it is after all a team sport.


As I've said before, I think Kimi needs to work at his all-round game. Passing, defending, technical knowledge etc. He's so fast when on song, but Massa now has the better skill set.

I had long been a fan of banning refuelling, but I'm not so sure now. For a driver to be able to use his speed to win the race, he can have extra avenues with fuel strategy. It's another facet of a driver's performance as well as the team's. Hopefully drivers can still show thinking-and-driving ability with tyre strategy, but I do wonder..


dont you guys remember how much you moaned in 2005 when there where no tyre changes.


there won't be any more twists with regard to pitstop if they agree to have all the information such as qualifying fuel loads, pit stop predictors, fueled to finish indicators... this is the only way to make pitstops anymore boring than they already are (except that farcical year where tyre changes were not allowed but refuelling still was) and will increase the people not challenging on the track as they know when their competitors will pit.

i think no refuelling next year is a mistake - all they need to do is change slow down the rate that fuel comes out the nozzle tho so that it's more of a penaly, and teams can then decide whether to run without a pitstop or not.


Kimi had the chance to blow Massa into the weeds last year - after a difficult 2007 Felipe undoubtedly went into the season with doubts about what he could achieve. Yet after four races or so it was Kimi who was struggling, and by the end of the season Massa was easily the better Ferrari driver while Raikkonen seemed to be clambering out of wrecked cars more often than was strictly necessary.

The battle for supremacy at Ferrari will be more psychlogical than anything else, and I have a feeling it will be settled quickly. If Raikkonen can't get ahead early on, and stay ahead, he will find it hard to catch a motivated and hungry Massa.


I have a question for you James, about the KERS system and when people can use it.

Can they use it in qualifying?

If they can it would seem like the front 2 rows of Melbourne will consist of the Ferraris and the BMWs.

I cant see anywhere anything that says what type of laps the KERS can be used, just "once per lap", and qualifying is a "lap" so why not then?


What is the drive behind the refueling ban? Is it to promote on track overtaking or to cut costs or what?

I would have though these days that they'd want to push the green angle, have the cars have to meet a certain MPG or so.


KERS has to be allowed during qualifying, otherwise the lighter cars that aren't carrying it will have an advantage. Does anyone know how heavy an average KERS system weighs?

Oh rumour has it that pit lane speed limit has been increased to allow the Ferrari mechanics to run that bit faster after their car to retreve there refueling equipment!


F1 is (or has been in years gone by) a tactical sport where watching the racing is just one thread of the over all enjoyment ... other threads have included watching teams work before and during a race, technical developments, race/driver/team tactics, pit-stops and pit-stop strategies, etc.

Some people find these threads boring, but I don't: they add to the rich tapestry of the sport.

I would like to see more gutsy racing and drivers overtaking each other, but that is unlikely to happen when we spend Saturday putting cars in speed order ... they aren't suddenly going to be in a different speed order on a Sunday if nothing significant about the cars is allowed to be changed between the Saturday and the Sunday.

Limiting the pit-stops will:
(1) force drivers to drive heavier and more unwieldy cars ... which MIGHT help overtaking.
(2) force drivers to take more risks and actually try to overtake on track rather than playing safe and trying to pass in pit-stop strategies only.

As with anything, only time will tell if we will get better racing or not. For me, the things that needs to change if we're going to see more overtaking are reduced aerodynamic downforce and shaking up the grids so cars aren't in speed order.


I loved the lack of tyre changes in 2005.

One thing people should consider is if you ban refuelling you instantly ban race fuel qualifying. We need proper 12 lap qualifying back. Watching Senna preparing to go out for his final run was more gripping tham most sessions have been since.



No mention of Renault/Alonso in the above article, James. Does that imply that you think they're not in the frame this season?


Is one flagging one the news front?

Whats this i hear about Ron and Flav trying to blackmail Bernie into giving them (owed I believe) money?

Followed by Good old "Bernie the Bolt (some may say dolt these days)" calling their bluff and firing off to the press with the effing this and efiing that smoking gun bit?

Come on my man, dish the juice!

(And only three days to go to the start, Wahey!)


Its an odd numbered year, and you know what? Kimi always fly's, in those years - 05 (In my book the true champion) 07 (Finally won the title, in his first year at Ferrari) 09 (Hopefully the world champ, for the second time!)


Interesting point!
34.1 Each car will be deemed to be in parc fermé from the time at which it leaves the pit lane for the first time during qualifying practice until the start of the race. Any car which fails to leave the pit lane during qualifying practice will be deemed to be in parc fermé at the end of Q1.
Between these times, other than when cars are returned to the parc fermé overnight, the following work may be carried out :
- charging and / or discharging of the KERS energy storage devices.

"Until the start of the race" includes the grid so yes they may have KERS topped up or pre-loaded in case they are not able fully to charge it on the reconnaissance lap whilst warming the brakes.


Hi James, i usually like your work here and at the ITV. I want you to know that you have made a huge mistake in your article from today at the ITV website.

You have totally forgot to mention Renault!! Hope you edit it and let us know how you rate the team and Alonso´s chances this year.


so what happens after sunday if the race turns into a procession.The pole sitter wins 2nd is 2nd etc the only change is the usual crash's which thins out the field does that mean max was wrong and do we have to go through a whole season as before.
my predictions are:
1.Kers will cause more damage thans it's worth
2.Brawn not to be as fast as first thought , ala bennetton 96.
3.Mclaren to be up with ferrari etc by end of weekend.
sounds pretty much like last year. The more things change the more they stay the same


I really enjoy your blogs. As a big Massa fan, I really think this could be his year. He's improved so much and i think the frustration of 08 will be produce a positive 09.

I know you probably favour Hamilton, but i just think Massa's incredible, the way he pushed Raikkonen aside, the way he can admit he needs help (schumi), he never shows any arrogance, his qualifying speed and his dignity.

I was just wondering if you agree. I could really do with some help.
Why does everyone seem to think Massa will struggle because slicks are back and they produce oversteer???
I think there is no evidence to show he will. He's mega quick at high speed tracks like Turkey, Bahrain, Spa which i'm told cause cars to oversteer. Didn't he win in Bahrain 07 with a great middle stint on scrubbed tyres (oversteer)??

Why will his critics not leave him alone???




Raikkonen did no more testing than anyone else....?


Thanks 4 the reply james,

I just have just 2 questions for you.

How can Raikkonen get so much testing when there is a ban on it?

What are your plans for the future?


I an assure you I don't favour Hamilton. Sadly that was the perception among many of my detractors during my commentary days, because the ITV show featured him pretty heavily so I got it in the neck. But I take a balanced view. The only driver I admit to having a bit of a soft spot for is Alonso, because he's a great racer and a great character, quite misunderstood, especially in the UK and in my view he's the best out there.


I think they can use KERS on the start. So the start could be exciting in Melbourne, especially if the Brawns are on the front row.


We had no tyre changes in 2005 and the number of passes plummeted. Drivers were afraid to lock up and ruin their tyres and their race. I'm not sure banning refuelling will necessarily work either. If you have no scheduled pitstops, you are going to be more paranoid about trying to pass and damaging your front wing or something. You cannot alter your strategy because there is none to alter. All I'm saying is, they banned tyre changes and everyone thought that was going to be the dog's bollocks, and it was rubbish. Most people were so relieved that Schumacher wasn't winning that they didn't notice about the lack of on-track racing that season. Banning a strategic variable and making everyone do the same thing will not necessarily increase passing. Boxing, tennis, football, rugby, cricket, all have a strategic element, why shouldn't F1?


"Is one flagging one the news front?"
I think it might be the 20+ hour flight and associated post-flight sleep that is the cause.


Steven Roy - spot on. Agree with every word.


I agree. I'd like to see no refuelling and tyre changes only allowed for punctures/safety/wet races. That would force the action to take place on the track when there's no upside to a pitstop in a dry race.


Alonso is only the second best? did Alonso cheat and blackmail his previous team? In my opinion, he didn't. Also I remember an interview in F1 Racing where James suggested that Lewis received the best strategy when Fernando was there.


Likewise question:

Can they use KERS on the actual race start?

Is it allowed to precharge the system on the grid?

Is it useful to use it to get to the first corner quicker?


James, I have heard rumours that the use of KERS as a "push-to-pass" button may not materialise, because it is more efficient for teams to use the extra horsepower throughout the lap, getting better corner exit speeds, than it is to use it in a single short burst on the straights.

What is the current state of KERS? Is there any information on how the teams will be using the system?


Yes they can use it in qualifying. In Melbourne I guess they will hit the KERS button as they exit the final corner onto the straight. This will give a boost of around 5km/h on the straight.


As and when, John and yes it will be in Italian.


Keith, have a sense of humour, please - I don't think that people who disagree with me are thick. But I do think that the strategy side of F1 adds an extra dimension to the sport, without it next year, watching F1 will be a more one dimensional experience, that's all. It may turn out to be miles better, who knows, after all the teams now have the same tools for planning strategies so they all do more or less the same things. But on the odd occasions when they don't it's really quite cool.


I can draw one major conclusion and that is that Ferrari and especially Domenicali are trying to draw attention away from the fact that they have failed to give Kimi a decent car since he joined and their reliability and pit work have been shocking, to say the least.


then you won’t have to think any more,

I had respect for your difference of opinion until I realised you think people who disagree with you are simply thick.

Another commenter below writes that without refuelling strategy: "we won’t see as many brilliant Ross Brawn decicions". Well that's far enough if it's his point of view, but I disagree.

Watching a bespectacled chap on a pit wall working out when his driver should stop and take on petrol is no more interesting than when I do it myself in my car. I'd rather watch a race.


I don't think the old safety car rules were "unfair," they were the same for everybody, after all. If you got caught out, you should perhaps have carried a bit extra fuel "just in case." It's not as if anybody expected races at Canada or Singapore to pass by without a safety car, is it?

I agree with you about refuelling though. It's a shame it's being banned - imagine what the last few years would have been like without refuelling, with overtaking on-track impossible anyway! Now that's worth a "Yawn."

lower-case david

searched all the pink bits, couldn't find anything on the new Safety-Car GPS/Telemetry/SECU/Timer scheme.

the individual countdown timers indirectly indicates the speed a driver should maintain in order to get to the pitlane in a safe fashion, but it is not clear, is that a minimum time only (i.e. a maximum speed)?
can drivers go slower ... shall we see the return of stacking. teammates creating gaps ontrack to allow both to be serviced without queuing.

(the published regs still only talk of the 10 car lengths gap when behind the SC, but that was with the pitlane closed.
but now, before forming up, how slow is going to be deemed too slow? if you are sticking to your timer and the guy in front is slowing, can you pass him, SC boards and yellow flags not withstanding?)

me personally, i wouldnt mind just a bit of occasional stacking ... i hate to see the whole field piling into the pits all at once, all those full-lock steering angles, dodgy releases, two by two races, and mechanics legs


OT: Could you please elaborate on Schu's shocking 4 years? Do you mean the attempt to run Ville off track in '97 or something else?


really??? a podcast would be great!!!! :-), James are you going to do a ranking of where you think the teams are before the first race of the season, as i would love know what you think of red bull chance for the seasonfor a win or even the drivers winning the championship. Also if you don't mind me asking, why does the FOM (Formula One Management) take down video's of full races down from youtube? cause if you don't have say the 2005 Japaneses grand prix recorded on video or dvd, there seems to be no service to watch old grand prix, I would love to hear your opinion on this, even though its slightly off topic 🙂


JA writes: Saquib, The short answer is, you won't! I'm not doing live commentary this year. I have a number of jobs, one of which is working for RAI TV (Italy), so you might catch me there if you can receive RAI, otherwise I'll be doing newspapers (Financial Times), websites (this one and my usual stuff on ITV-F1.com) and a bunch of other things. There will be video content and podcasts here on JA on F1 quite soon.

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