Tombazis: We can be reasonably optimistic about the rest of the season
"A score of 6 on the report card but I’m optimistic"
This weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix signals the start of the European part of the season and more importantly, the point when all the teams run their first significant car updates of the year: in an interview to ferrari.com Scuderia Ferrari’s Chief Designer, Nikolas Tombazis, assesses the first quartet of races and looks ahead to the Iberian weekend.
“I think in general, the first results mean we can be reasonably optimistic about the rest of the season, with a sense that we can fight for wins and the championship,” reckons Tombazis. “However, if I was to score our overall performance, I would only give it a 6 out of 10 and that’s for two main reasons: one is that we are not yet quite where we want to be. In the first four Grands Prix, we were not really able to fight for pole position and that is one of our main objectives at the moment. Secondly, if you look at the actual results, even if it’s true we’ve had a win, which naturally we can be very pleased about, we have also had two very bad results where we scored very few points. However, I reiterate, that overall, we can be optimistic for the future.”
The Scuderia has had its most competitive start to a season for many years and Tombazis reckons that is down to a variety of factors. “We have made a series of changes to our approach in terms of our working practices and also from an organisational point of view. At the same time, we are improving our facilities and I believe we now also have a better understanding about how certain aspects of the car work. Putting all that together has enabled us to make a better start to the season than in previous years. However, the process is not complete and we feel we are only halfway through these fundamental changes and we continue to work on improving all these parameters, which, in the case of our facilities, includes the work we are doing on our wind tunnel. I think the new working methods we have adopted and the new structure put in place has allowed us to be more creative and this was one of the objectives we established along with Pat Fry, to reorganise the place and to give people more time to think. We identified areas where, in the past few years, we were a bit understaffed, which meant people were under pressure and did not have time to think about what could make the car go faster. It is working, but there is room to improve still further, even though this aspect has definitely contributed to the improvement in performance that we have seen so far this year.”
The first four races have taken place on race tracks each with very different characteristics to the others and added to this, the weather has thrown a full range of variables at the teams, from very hot to cold, from tropical downpours to dry desert heat. This has been challenging but it has also allowed engineers to get a view of how the cars perform in all conditions in just a few races. “The variability of weather conditions as well as the different characteristics of the four tracks we have raced on so far has enabled us to gauge our relative strengths and weaknesses compared to our competitors,” concurs Tombazis. “We have seen that we have been stronger in certain conditions, both in terms of track type and weather, than in others –this includes looking at the type of corners, whether a circuit involves heavy braking and other similar parameters. Overall, depending on the circuit, some of these strengths and weaknesses will be highlighted and therefore, based on what we have seen so far, we do not expect a constant performance level over the next few races, but rather we do expect to be reasonably competitive in most conditions.”
All this means that the Spanish Grand Prix is an important barometer of what we can expect from all the teams and what the hierarchy might be, at least for the next few races, because the Barcelona circuit provides an all-round test of a Formula 1 car’s ability. “I believe most of our competitors will have a significant number of updates in Spain, which is not surprising, as there was a reasonably long gap after the first four races,” says Tombazis. “Of course, we too have updates and naturally, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but they extend to the bodywork, floor and wings. With any new component, the difficulty lies not so much in its development but in deciding whether or not it is working on track as well as we had hoped. Therefore, by Friday evening in Barcelona, our objective is to have a clear view on what we will take forward to use in the race, in the hope of seeing measurements taken from the wind tunnel confirmed on track.”