Ferrari working day and night

An initial assessment after the first races outside Europe

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By Olivier Ferret

24 April 2012 - 10:34
Ferrari working day and night

This evening the last of the team will head back to base after the back to back races in China and Bahrain. After such a long time away, it’s good to be home and back with one’s nearest and dearest: it is all the more appreciated at this time of sadness at the death of a colleague and in many cases a friend, Matteo Vignali, who passed away suddenly yesterday morning. There were few dry eyes at the Sakhir track yesterday nor in Maranello today at the factory and many will be in Sestola tomorrow afternoon to say a final farewell to Matteo. One has to move forward because grief like this is part of life, but the work of a Formula 1 team and in so many other walks of life in fact, imposes incessant demands with no chance to pause for breath. That’s even more the case for a team that is in a hurry to make up the gap that has grown to the best, and that applies to the Scuderia in this first run of races this season.

“A first cycle of four races came to an end yesterday and so we can make a very early first assessment,” said Team Principal Stefano Domenicali to ferrarif1.com. “Clearly we cannot be happy with the way our season began but, after the winter tests, we knew the first four races would be very tough. We managed to limit the damage, especially in the Drivers’ championship, in which Fernando Alonso is fifth, just ten points off the leader. However, it is equally clear that now we must step up a gear, right from the next race. Our engineers are well aware of this and are working day and night to give our drivers a much more competitive car than we have seen on track in these first four races.”

After Fernando’s fantastic win in Sepang, Shanghai and Sakhir proved less satisfactory for the Spanish champion who had to settle for a ninth and a seventh place. “In both races, Fernando gave his all and managed to get all the potential out of the car,” continued Domenicali. “The team worked well: honestly, if when setting out for Melbourne, it had been suggested we would be in this position with one of our drivers, I would have struggled to believe it. Felipe has also reacted in a positive fashion to the initial difficulties and I am sure the fact he has finally managed to end his scoreless run in terms of points will give him confidence for the forthcoming races. The coming days will be very important, during which the primary objective will be to push as hard as possible on the development of the car: next week we have three days of testing at Mugello, but it’s not definite that all the updates planned for Barcelona will be seen then. We must try and make the most of every minute available to us to increase the performance of the F2012.”

It is not just the short term that is on the agenda for the Scuderia in these coming weeks, as Domenicali confirmed: “We are intensifying the process of changing our working procedures in all areas and, at the same time, we are strengthening our efforts in areas where we are weakest, such as aerodynamics. It’s a long term project and one that President Montezemolo is studying at first hand and it is vital to the future of the Scuderia. Formula 1 has changed so much these past few years and we have not always been up to speed with these changes. In this area too we need to step up a gear.”

“The theme for the start of this championship is that everyone was very closely matched: the statistics show that it’s been nine years since there have been four different winners in the first four races, but more than that, you have to go back 29 years to find the last time four different cars won,” added Domenicali. “Tyres seem to be the most important factor: understanding their behaviour in order to settle on a strategy for the race and also for qualifying, as we saw last weekend in Bahrain, pinpointing the right moment for the pit stops, knowing how best to set a time on a single flying lap, based on the track evolution are all crucial elements in the fight for the top places. I expect that, in Barcelona, there will be many teams all bringing significant updates on track and we will have to do a better job than the others.”

Statistics from the last three years show that the ten point deficit is the smallest Alonso has had to the leader of the Drivers’ table at this point in the season: it was eleven in 2010 (60 for Button, 49 for Fernando) and no less than 52 last year (93 Vettel, 41 the Spaniard.) Although the F2012 has shown itself to be less competitive than the F10 and the I50 Italia when compared to its rivals, Fernando is still very much in the race for the title. Of course, the Spaniard is the first to be hoping for a step up in quality in the short term, as indeed does Felipe: it is a wish they share with “Ferraristi” everywhere and everyone at Maranello is working hard to achieve it.

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