Stefano Domenicali

Domenicali cautiously confident

Maranello, 12 February – “Go quickly but be careful,” was the imprecation from the chancellor Antonio Ferrer to the coachman Pedro as he urged him through a crowd in the famous Italian novel by Alessandro Manzoni, “Promessi Sposi.” The same caution laced with realism and confidence in his team has characterised Stefano Domenicali’s approach to the coming Formula 1 season.
“I am always cautious, not through a fear of saying what I think, but because I am well aware how quickly things change in this sport,” said Scuderia Ferrari’s Team Principal. “In Jerez, we saw the F14 T get off on the right foot, responding well to changes, while the basic data corresponds to the parameters established in the wind tunnel and there were no bad surprises. Clearly there is still much to do because it’s impossible to start with a perfect car in a season featuring so many changes. The start of the championship will be full of unknown quantities and it is far too early to make any sort of prediction. I think we will start to understand a bit more only at the last Bahrain test. My optimism is based on the fact we know which areas need working on: caution is always a good approach, but that doesn’t mean the people working on this project lack the commitment or the will to show our competitors how well we can do things at Ferrari.

“I have to say that what pleased me the most was the attitude of the team,” continued Domenicali. “Everyone is united in tackling the problems and in trying to resolve them, aware that the challenge ahead is both demanding and exciting.”

Since last September, a lot has been said about the Ferrari driver pairing for 2014, which for the first time since 1953, sees two world champions sharing the same red garage. “It was a rational choice, based on the need to have an expert driver pairing, with the one aim of it doing well for Ferrari. I hope the track will show that it was the right choice,” explained Domenicali. “How will we manage them? Decisions are always carefully considered, but they always have the same aim, which is that the sporting decisions are taken to reach the team’s goals, as the interest of the team always comes before all else. Decisions we have taken in the past have always been reached in this spirit.

“I have found a more mature Kimi, more closely knit to the team. He comes to Maranello almost every week to work with the engineers,” added Domenicali. “He knows his worth and he knows what team he has returned to and what challenges he will face, having a world champion like Alonso alongside him for whom he has respect and he will have to adapt to working with him. Fernando is extremely intelligent and has managed to stay ahead in whatever car he has driven. He has an ability to interpret the race and to read it in an amazing way and I think he will make the most of the new regulations, which will require some stages of the race to be managed in a different way. We feel close to him partly because it was such a long time ago that we decided to invest in him.”

2014 is a year of major change for Formula 1 from the technical point of view with the introduction of a brand new type of power train. After the first test in Jerez de la Frontera, influential voices expressed concern for the immediate future of the sport and Domenicali answers them with his usual realism: “In this situation, it’s best not to rush to draw any conclusions, and play into the hands of those scaremongers, as a propensity for self-destruction serves no purpose. Every time there are changes, there are discussions, which is natural. We have only had one test so far when there were never more than four or five cars on track at the same time. Let’s wait until we see all 22 together before saying that everything’s gone wrong. Once a path has been chosen, one has to move forward in a constructive manner. If after a certain period of time we see that an element of excitement is really missing, such as engine noise, then we can see how best to react. Personally, I don’t think this aspect will keep people away from the racetracks. We should be more concerned with the Grand Prix event as a whole and we need to find a strategy to attract youngsters to our sport, which today has a hardcore of fans aged between 35 and 50. We need to get back to having the car seen as an inspirational theme and not just as a means of transport, which adds nothing to our existence. At Ferrari we want to put a lot of effort into this aspect, as shown with initiatives such as getting the public to name the Formula 1 car, or the on-line photo competition, “snap your passion,” which will see four winners come with us to the final test in Bahrain, an initiative that has attracted a lot of attention, especially with youngsters.”