Maranello, 3 September–Before the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the Scuderia Ferrari Technical Director James Allison met up with some journalists. Here are some of his responses.
Q: There’s a lot of talk about the power unit, with the engine getting most of the blame. Is that really the case? What is lacking in the F14 T?
A: Mainly, we are behind our rivals Mercedes in terms of power, but also when it comes to aerodynamic downforce. It’s difficult to split the blame in percentage terms, as it’s the car as a whole which is not competitive enough. We need to work on every aspect, it’s not just a question of the engine or just the aerodynamics, but also the suspension and the systems. Every part of the car has to be improved so that it can become more competitive next year.
Q: What stage are you at with the 2015 car?
A: We have taken most of the key decisions relating to its design and we have chosen the path to follow to find the performance in the coming months. At the start of the project we made choices as to which areas we have to work on to end up being competitive. We have decided on the architecture of the car and in the coming months we will work on its performance based on the decisions we have taken.
Q: Will a lot change?
A: It will be different in every area.
Q: Fernando has said he is working on renewing his contract. How important is it for you to have a driver like him?
A: A team like Ferrari always needs first class drivers and that’s always been the case. We have always had champions of the calibre of Fernando and it will always be the aim of this team. Having said that, having a driver like him is a big advantage because his ability is beyond question. And to this one can add the fact that he has an in-depth knowledge of the company, which makes everyone’s job easier.
Q: What’s the realistic target for Monza with this car?
A: To find the realistic target for the F14 T at Monza, one has to look at Spa-Francorchamps, as the characteristics of the two tracks are similar, although in Monza, the engine maybe counts for a bit more and the aerodynamics a bit less, so in Monza we can expect a similar level of competitiveness to Spa. We have improved a few things since the last race, but the others will have also made progress and so it’s hard to see the hierarchy being any different to what it was at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Q: Of the remaining tracks, is there one where one can hope for a bit more, to get a win this year?
A: One must be realistic. At every track this season, we have seen a significant gap, usually over a second, to the Mercedes. So I believe they must make a major mistake for us to have a chance of winning. To do so, even with some luck, would be great for all of us, however our aim is to concentrate on improving the car to come to every track with a more competitive car than at the previous race. We must try and get the maximum performance out of every weekend and certainly we can say that in the last two or three, we have improved our car, as can be seen from the fact that both drivers have been more competitive compared to the start of the season and I hope that continues. But, we will need some luck to win.
Q: After the mistake on the grid in Spa on Fernando’s car, are you working with Mattiacci on a change of approach and working method?
A: Yes, we are all working together to maximise any opportunity that comes our way. Having said that, our car’s reliability has never been a weak point, I think we have finished more races than anyone else. We have never had to retire with a technical problem linked to the car in the race and generally, our team at the track is one of the strongest ever seen in Formula 1. It’s a team that doesn’t make many mistakes. At Spa we had a technical problem which helped us find some aspects linked to the way we are organised that can be improved; to be specific, the difficulty in bringing in the equipment we needed to solve the problem in a matter of minutes.
Q: How much ground can you make up in 2015, taking into account that only 48% of the engine can be changed? Is catching Mercedes a realistic target?
A: It’s true you can’t change every part of the engine, but the regulations say the majority of parts that can make a difference in terms of performance on the engine are still free. The 48% is not a binding figure and can be misleading compared to what are the real opportunities to improve the power output of the power unit. The way is completely open when it comes to the rules.
In fact, our problem is not the rules, it’s the time needed to close such a big gap. Therefore we must make the most of every available minute from now to the final moment before the homologation date, which is 28 February 2015. But as I said at the start, it’s not just the engine which has to improve, the chassis needs to also, as does the suspension and every part of the car. I don’t know if we can close the gap in just one year. We are trying, but as Mattiacci said, we are also looking at the medium to long-term future, not just the short term. He wants to get this team back to being ahead of all the rest and to have it stay there for many years. Having said that, we are working as hard as possible for next year, to have a much more competitive car. At the same time however, we are establishing the basis to make Ferrari the benchmark team in Formula 1.