It’s been a busy week in Maranello. It all began with when Felipe Massa tweeted his farewell to the Scuderia, which signals the end of a twelve year saga, and continues when Kimi Raikkonen, who has already played a significant part in the history of the most successful team in Formula 1, will return, in 2014
Stefano Domenicali gave the reasoning behind the big, and largely unexpected, changes to the team of which he is principal.
Why the big changes?
Stefano Domenicali: When you make a change, it’s always with the aim of improving and that is what we are trying to achieve by bringing back to Maranello a very experienced, talented and determined driver like Kimi. For a few years now, we have been working on a refurbishment programme in all areas- our buildings, organisation, work methods – and now we have in place another building block, in the structure of the Ferrari of the future. For the first time, we will have a driver pairing made up of two world champions, which in itself is already significant, as they are the sort to always try and win and they can help each other by taking valuable points off our rivals. Having said that, we are well aware that without a competitive car, not even Superman can win. So our priority on a daily basis is always the same, namely to give our drivers a car capable of always fighting for the top place.
Will something change in the way the team is run or in its relationship with Fernando?
SD: Nothing will change in the way the team is run. Since the world began, our drivers have always started on equal terms. It’s always been that way and always will. Then, during the course of the season, if the situation is such that one driver can help the other based on the points table, it’s logical and right that it should happen. It’s happened in the past and will happen in the future, as all drivers who have driven a Ferrari have demonstrated. It occurred at the time of Fangio and Collins and more recently with Salo and Irvine, when the Finn gave up on his only chance of a win in Formula 1 to help his team-mate, as Raikkonen was helped by Felipe, before repaying the compliment and again with Felipe and Fernando. As for the Dream Team, I’m not in the habit of dreaming with my eyes open, as it’s not in my nature to do so. I would only say that the combination of Fernando and Kimi is the best one could have today in Formula 1, in terms of talent, experience, competitive spirit and the ability to move car development forward.
Some say that the Alonso-Raikkonen pairing is a Dream Team, while others reckon that it won’t work having two cockerels in the same hen house…
SD: As for the ‘poultry’ question, it brings to mind football fans who are scared of rival teams because they have so many strong forwards and so they hope they will fight each other for the ball. For anyone thinking that the choice of Kimi is somehow an anti-Alonso choice, I can put their minds at rest; at Ferrari, everyone knows the interests of the team come first and only then those of the individual. Fernando is a key asset for this team and he will be for a long time. I’m sure he is the first to be happy with a choice made to strengthen the group, because he is too intelligent not to realise that a stronger team can only be an advantage.
Other commonly held concerns about Kimi revolve around his ability to work with people in a Formula 1 world where communications are ever more important and also his talents when it comes to moving forward the technical development of the car.
SD: Some cliches refuse to die! We worked with Kimi for three years from 2007 to 2009 and we never had a problem. Sure, everyone has their own ways and you can’t expect a Finn to start telling jokes in Italian or playing the clown! Honestly, I think the combination of Fernando’s expressive and passionate latin character and the cool style, to call it that, of someone like Kimi, seems to appeal to many, including the youngsters and our partners are also in agreement with this. As for the technical side of things, not only do we know full well how much Kimi can contribute at an important time like this, when the technical framework is changing so significantly, but we also have first hand information from James Allison, as to how much the Finn has also progressed in this area over the past two years.
A twelve year era with Felipe at Ferrari is coming to an end. Can you tell us how the relationship has worked out over the past few months?
SD: At the start of the summer, we had a meeting to assess the situation and I reiterated that renewing our agreement was one of the options on the table, maybe it was even the most likely. Then came a series of difficult races, for him and for the team and in the end, we realised the best choice, for both parties, was to make a change. I think that, even for Felipe, the time had come to look outside what had become his home for twelve years and which, to a certain extent, will always be his home. You see, I saw Felipe arrive in Maranello when he was just a kid and I will see him walk out of here a grown man. Together we have lived through some great moments and some dramatic times, which has made the personal rapport between us something special. Obviously, the biggest disappointment is that I didn’t get to see him become world champion, which he almost did in 2008. That day and indeed that whole year, there were some incredible incidents which went against him. The lesson in sporting dignity he gave the world that day on the Interlagos podium and also the maturity he displayed while talking to me last night will always stay with me. I am proud to have worked with him in our team for so many years and I’m sure he will know how to do some great things outside the Maranello environment. (Ferrari)
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