Ferrari’s Big Day Out On The Ice

At Ferrari’s pre-season winter event, there was interesting talk from the three main men at the F1 team. Team boss Stefano Domenicalli and drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa had their own agendas. As well as dismissing talk for the moment of Sebastian Vettel coming to Maranello, there was a new arrival to the testing ranks. The men in red spoke of their thoughts and attitudes at the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort in northern Italy.

Last season’s championship runner-up Fernando Alonso spoke with clarity that Ferrari would not be in the position they were at the start of last season. Beginning the year some way off the leading men, he said it would be “impossible” to be slower than they were in Australia last year.

“We can be faster or slower [than the others] but not 1.5 or two seconds off the pace, because it was a record what we had last year. It is maybe impossible to be worse than last year, so I am confident.”

At the time, the team said the 2012 car was to be radical in its design, something which Alonso felt hindered their campaign, playing catch-up for the majority of the season and never having an edge in speed. The lessons learned from what was a spirited fight from the team’s leading driver will put Ferrari into a good position to start 2013 on a strong footing.

“The rules are continuing more or less the same as last year in terms of aerodynamics. In the 2012 winter we changed completely the exhaust position compared to 2011, and it was a little bit of a guess what we found on the car.

“But this year everything should be much more normal and we are much more confident. ”

Australia's 2012 opener did not have the planned start for either driver

Australia’s 2012 opener did not have the planned start for either driver

A large reason for Ferrari’s struggles was the wind tunnel at the team’s base in Maranello coming up with data which was not translating as expected on the racetrack. This led to less gains than were hoped but Ferrari’s allowed usage of Toyota’s wind tunnel in Germany will help, says Alonso. Ferrari’s work on their wind tunnel is hoped to be finished by the middle of the year.

“I think this decision should help us and gain consistency in the results we have,” he said.

“An F1 team is extremely complex. Aerodynamics is one of the main components, and the wind tunnel as we have said more than once had some problems during the last season.

“We had a front wing that would give us two tenths of a second [in the tunnel]. We would keep testing it, bring it to the race track and then it would go even slower.

“There were times when what we were testing in the tunnel did not correspond to what would happen on the race track.

“So simply we remained a bit behind in the last few seasons. Starting from 2013, we hope we are the ones who will innovate and we will have good correlation between what we find in the wind tunnel and on the race track.”

When asked who would be the main contenders in the upcoming championship battle, Principal Stefano Domenicalli declined to give names, instead remarking that everyone would need to be watched.

“We have to very, very careful in this field. I prefer a mental approach to considering that our opponents are as many as there were in the past season. Surprises may take place each year.

“My approach is fearing everyone and not considering anyone outside of the championship.”

Alonso and Vettel remains a forbidden partnership

Alonso and Vettel remains a forbidden partnership

A hot topic of discussion in the past year has been of Red Bull’s three-time driver’s world champion Sebastian Vettel making a move to Ferrari. Such a move would bring a German as a multiple world champion into the red throws of the Italian giants, one seen when Michael Schumacher signed for the then-ailing Prancing Horse in 1996 from top dogs Benetton. Domencalli was quick to deny that Vettel would move and that a team with two stars can be detrimental to team progress.

“We have always said, and I think that the president [Luca di Montezemolo] also declared, that a dream team is something extraordinary if it is well managed and if things work well,” he said about the prospects of Vettel being signed as a future team-mate of Alonso.

“For now, I think that this is not our goal. We have to maximise the balance of our performance of the team. We must be very careful.

“It is not just in F1 because it is true also in the world of sport. If you put all the number ones together around the table it can be more damaging than positive. So for the time being, this is not our goal.”

Massa hit the right form as he looks to recapture his winning ways of 2008

Massa hit the right form as he looks to recapture his winning ways of 2008

Felipe Massa has struggled since Alonso’s arrival to the team in 2010. Coming back from a near-fatal accident in 2009, Massa was 2008’s nearly-champion, and up until his accident, was in the form of his career. His allowance of Alonso to pass him at the German GP in 2010 was a clear signal that Massa was seen as lesser than Alonso within his own team.
The Brazilian’s head dropped and he appeared to be going out the exit door in the first races of 2012. His form pcked up, at times, dramatically so in the final races as he out-qualfied and was more than on the pace of his team-mate. Massa said that he was a change in mindset which enabled him to put in good performances and save his seat.

“It is not that the car changed that much from August in reality,” he admitted. “There was also a change from my side.”

“Even if 90 per cent of people do not want to believe in me any more, it is important that you believe so you are not good one day and bad the day after,” Massa said.

“You need to believe in what you can do. I believe in myself, I know I can be a champion, I know I can win, I know I can be what I was all my career.

“I think after you understand yourself it makes you stronger and stronger all the time.”

His form in the second half of the season made it look as though he can fight for the title again like 2008, which is his aim.

“I want to be competitive from the start to the end, I want to return to winning and also hope to be able to fight for the championship.

“I have done this in the past, I have not forgotten this.”

De La Rosa has previously driven for McLaren, Jaguar, HRT and Arrows who he started his F2 career with in 1999

De La Rosa has previously driven for McLaren, Jaguar, HRT and Arrows who he started his F2 career with in 1999

A man without a drive as his HRT team shut down towards the end of the previous calender year, Pedro De La Rosa has been signed by the Scuderia as a development driver. Bringing years of test driving experience with McLaren, it is this which the team have brought him for, working in the simulator with his fellow drivers. It is a move which will likely be the last for the 41 year-old Spaniard in F1 and will bring a prestigious curtain on a long career which began in 1999 with Arrows.

“We must anticipate problems we have and focus on simulation,” said Domenicali.

“We think Pedro is the right person to develop this type of activity. We think he is a driver that fits well within our group.”

Lastly, there was the karting race on ice in which the Ferrari drivers, both racing and testers, participate. Despite a clash with Massa on lap two which spun the Spaniard, Alonso fought back to win the first of two races, before also winning the second to win the event.

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