I’m sitting in Melbourne airport in the departure lounge waiting for a 1am flight to Kuala Lumpur. I’m not alone, there are plenty of F1 people milling around, rather bleary eyed waiting for the plane. Ferrari are on the flight, along with some French and English journalists, a few photograpers and others. It’s an eight hour flight and it will be tiring, but it’s not a bad flight to catch as it gets in to KL at 6-30am, so you don’t lose a whole day travelling.
I was rather surprised at the check-in to see Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali with both of his drivers, travelling as a team. I was quite impressed actually, I’ve not seen that before. I don’t know whether it’s just circumstance or whether there is some kind of edict that they should be together. Ferrari as a team has always been good at sticking together to travel, not for them the private jets for the senior management, there are no obvious signs of hierarchy. But the drivers are not normally a part of it.
Felipe Massa, his wife and his manager were together, while Kimi Raikkonen had one of his Finnish mates with him, the pair with their distressed baseball caps worn at an angle, making cracks in their own private language about people they saw, laughing like teenagers.
It was a shocking weekend for Ferrari, with reliability once again the problem. They also have to catch up to Brawn or hope that the appeal against the diffuser succeeds. I’m hearing that they have two parallel development programmes going, one with a copy of the new ‘double decker’ diffuser and with a new gearbox, the other a development of the car they have. McLaren are also flat out building new parts and they will be flying out packing cases full of kit to Malaysia this weekend. Both teams are chucking money at solving the performance crisis.
I’ve also heard of teams who were about to lay off staff from the aerodynamic department, who have delayed the move so that they can accelerate the development of their own ‘double decker’. It rather makes a mockery of the whole cost-cutting mantra we were hearing over the winter! Brawn has got the big teams on the run.
I bumped into Jenson Button twice today, at lunch and dinner. The Melbourne race winner was in a very relaxed mood, hanging around near the beach, just savouring the moment and looking forward to the next. He enjoyed a long lunch with his new girlfriend Jessica.
He was saying that his main emotion before the race was excitement, rather than nerves. He struggled to control the excitement, but now that he has the win under his belt he knows he can start to build momentum. He has to capitalise while the big teams are down.
He feels that the Red Bull is the biggest threat at the moment and certainly until Vettel crashed into Kubica, he had kept Jenson honest. Jenson added that the tyres were quite tricky on Sunday, especially towards the end as the temperatures dropped, but the Red Bull seemed able to stay in touch. I wonder if it will be able to on Sunday.
It is such a graphic illustration of the fact that in F1 you really are only as good as your car. Jenson was not a tosser last year, although he struggled with motivation at times and was outperformed by Rubens Barrichello.
He has the car to get the job done and the team has developments in the pipeline for Barcelona. He should have his nose well in front by then.