Maranello, 4 June – After the first four races of the year, the talk is always of the start of the European part of the season, but in among the seven races that are still run on the Old Continent, there is one brief and entertaining interlude that sees everyone head across The Pond for the Canadian Grand Prix. It’s a long-time fixture on the Championship calendar and a very popular one too, with Montreal hosting the race for the thirty fourth time this year, out of a total of 44 races held on Canadian soil.
After a poor showing in the last race, this weekend’s seventh round of the world championship will be a very important one for Scuderia Ferrari. “The Monaco GP was not an easy weekend for the team,” admits Team Principal Stefano Domenicali. “Since then, we have been working hard; first of all studying all the data to see why we had not performed as expected and from that point, we have been looking ahead, setting up the cars in the completely different configuration required of Montreal, as we go from the highest downforce track of the year to the one where we will use the least downforce of any track we have visited so far this season.” In the case of Massa’s car, this involved building it around a completely new chassis, following his accident in the race. Choosing the best set-up for the cars also took into account the fact that Pirelli has chosen its Medium and Supersoft compounds, while the tyre manufacturer will also be supplying two sets of a new Medium construction to each driver to evaluate in free practice. “Of course we also focussed on the problems we had with reliability, which absolutely had to be resolved,” adds Domenicali. “What is sure is that the team is completely motivated and we are determined to regard what happened in Monaco as an isolated incident.”
Therefore when assessing the prospects for the F138 at the semi-permanent track on the Ile Notre Dame, just outside the Montreal city centre, Domenicali prefers to take an optimistic view. “Looking at the first six races overall, our car has proved to be strong with very good characteristics in the majority of cases, even if, at times, other teams have proved to be faster. I think the Montreal circuit should allow us to exploit those strong points such as braking, which is a key factor at this track, so let’s hope that works in our favour. However, on the other hand, we must ensure we keep working on the areas where our car is not yet where it should be.”
The Canadians cannot be described as “arriviste” F1 fans as the early races in the mid Sixties already drew big crowds, but it’s fair to say that their enthusiasm for this European form of “auto racing,” as they like to call it this side of the Atlantic, reached new levels when the mercurial Gilles Villeneuve came on the scene. Indeed the venue for this race is named after him. At the time that Gilles was racing, our current Team Principal was just a fan from the town of Imola. “As a kid, I was part of the crowd at Imola, a circuit that played its part in the history of Formula 1 and when I was a schoolboy I would get work helping the organisation at the circuit,” recalls Domenicali. “But I remember Gilles as a great driver, a great personality and a man of passion who was always able to inspire and enthuse all Ferrari fans and everyone who followed Formula 1 at that time.” Last year, Ferrari organised a special tribute to Gilles in the thirtieth anniversary year of his death and son Jacques drove one of his father’s cars at Ferrari’s Fiorano track. “I remember Jacques as the man who beat Michael Schumacher in Jerez to take the world championship title in 1997,” says Domenicali. “He changed during the time he was driving, because I think at first he wanted to appear to be something he wasn’t, because of the weight he carried on his shoulders of being his father’s son. But as time went by, he began to realise that was normal and something of which he could be proud. When Jacques drove his father’s Ferrari last year, the most emotional aspect was to see all the mechanics working on the car, those who used to work with Gilles and to see the car itself being driven once again. It gave us a glimpse into what the atmosphere of our sport must have been like at that time.” It was a completely different era back then, but Domenicali sees one constant factor: “Formula 1 has changed in terms of the technology and the working methods and that is normal, but when one talks about Formula 1 in the Fifties or in 2013 the one constant is that one is still talking about Ferrari.”