Q & A with Stefano Domenicali
|By Jonathan Noble
||Thursday, October 1st 2009, 10:19 GMT
One story has dominated the Japanese Grand Prix weekend so far: the long-awaited confirmation of Fernando Alonso's impending move to Ferrari.
Team boss Stefano Domenicali met the media to speak of his hopes for the Alonso/Ferrari partnership, and to tackle some of the more outlandish suggestions about the nature of the deal.
Q. Fernando Alonso to Ferrari. How happy and how excited are you about that?
Stefano Domenicali: For sure we are happy as a team to have Fernando with our team. There is no doubt on that. But at the moment we are still focused on the season that still has three races to go, so the atmosphere here at the track is really concentrated on what we have to do to achieve the maximum result this season. Then, for sure, what this announcement means is the first step for us towards the 2010 season, which for us will be very important.
Q. How difficult a decision was it, and whose decision was it, to bring in Fernando Alonso?
SD: I think that as always, when you have to take these kinds of decision they are not always easy decisions. You are speaking of fantastic drivers, great champions, but this is the reason why we are here - and that is why we are here. It is a Ferrari decision, and I am responsible for the team. And that is it, really.
Q. If Felipe Massa cannot come back, does that leave you with some difficulty here?
SD: No, because obviously Felipe will be back in his normal situation at the beginning of the season.
Q. Kimi Raikkonen has been a great driver for you, but why do you think ultimately Ferrari fell out of love with him?
SD: First of all, I don't want to speak about him in this way, because it is not correct. And you will never hear me speak in the negative about Kimi – never. I feel he is a great talent and a great champion and he is in the history of Ferrari. Don't forget it. He won the world title, and that was one of his objectives with us. Kimi is part of our team, but you have to make decisions for the future and you have to consider a lot of things, but Kimi is fantastic.
Q. We've seen Fernando at McLaren did not work out as there were two drivers challenging for the championship. How are you going to cope with Fernando and Felipe?
SD: The same way we controlled Felipe and Kimi for the last two years. This is the way we manage the team. This is the way that drivers coming to our team have to respect the rules. So, that has happened to Felipe helping Kimi when Kimi won the title, and it has happened to Kimi when Felipe was unfortunately not able to win the title. And this will happen in case it is needed in the next couple of years, because this is the team spirit and the way our team is working.
Q. Although Kimi was a world champion with Ferrari, why did you not want to continue?
SD: I think first of all, when you take a decision like that you have to consider a lot of things. It is part of the tough decisions that you have to take looking ahead and we felt it was a decision we had to take – but you will never achieve in getting me to say something negative about Kimi. He is one of the strongest in the field.
Q. What does Fernando bring to the team that Kimi did not?
SD: These are all the things you have to consider when you take the decision. You try to put on the table the positive and the negative things, of all the options you have, and if you are taking that decision it is because we feel there are positive elements towards that kind of choice.
Q. Is this a reflection of the different attitudes of Fernando and Kimi?
SD: No, I think all the drivers have different characteristics. For sure Fernando is more Latin because he is Latin, there is no doubt about it. Kimi is Finnish and he has a different and pragmatic approach to the team. But, I would say that with regard to Kimi, he is part of the team and he has worked very well with the team. That is what I know. We know one of the characteristics of Fernando, looking ahead to the future, is someone who is very charismatic with the people working around him, but this is not a way of relating with the people. For me it is important, as a team principal, to keep the values and the principles with which the people are respected the same.
Q. How is Felipe doing?
SD: He is recovering very, very well, because he is already in the second step of his training progress. He is doing now some karting activity and everything is running very smoothly and he should be back in Europe next week in order to do some activity on the simulator and then we will see after that what will be the next step. But at the moment to make something clear, I saw some speculation that Felipe could possibly come back in Brazil, but I can exclude it categorically.
Q. Can you clarify whether Fernando has any advantage in his contract relating to Felipe?
SD: Easy, no. Equal.
Q. And, Kimi earlier implied that the reason for this decision was more commercial than anything else. Can you state if that was the case?
SD: As I said, all the things have to be put on the table. I don't think it is correct that it was a commercial decision.
Q. Apart from Alonso's charisma, what advantage has Alonso compared to Kimi?
SD: I am sorry to be asking the question again, but I will repeat the same answer again and again. When you have to take the decision, you think of the couple of drivers for the future who will suit the team in the best way that is possible. That is all I can say to you.
Q. Taking on Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren will be quite a serious prospect, won't it?
SD: First of all, I don't know if this is the case for the future.
Q. Well, let's imagine...
SD: I can imagine that it is one of the possibilities, and for sure they will be a couple of great drivers – that is without doubt.
Q. Was it one reason why you chose Alonso, or a number of reasons?
SD: As always. There is never, ever a situation where you take a decision for one single season.
Q. You mentioned in your press release some of the qualities you admire about Fernando. Is one of them his leadership ability?
SD: Yes, for sure. That is one of his main characteristics.
Q. Have you spoken to Felipe about this appointment, and what was his impression of the Alonso arrival?
SD: Of course, I spoke to him. But now he is mainly focused on the recovery, and for him it is important because it hasn't changed the philosophy and approach on our side because things will be the same, but it is natural I would say in our team now. He is happy and he is looking forward to coming back. That is the first priority.
Q. What can you do to help Felipe with his recovery?
SD: We are doing all that we can do in order to give him what he needs from our side to be ready to come back. First of all, inside we are behind him, working together to prepare the right fitness programme, then of course with the karting it is something he is doing on his own. Then we will work together with the simulator, we will work and see when it is possible to have him back in another different kind of racing car – and possibly with an F1 to do another test as soon as it is practically possible. Psychologically we are very, very close to him because we speak with him every day.
Q. How well do you think Fernando will handle a fast team-mate?
SD: You know, I don't have the elements to speak about his previous experience in McLaren. It would be wrong if I would say something on that, because I was not involved and I don't know the details. But the way that it is, the charisma he is, and he is world champion, and the personality he has will fit perfectly with the way the team will operate. I don't see it to be a problem at all, to be honest.
Q. Will there be any changes on the engineering side or chassis side for next season with regards to Fernando? Is anyone coming with Fernando?
SD: No. The talk about 20 people coming with him to the team is not the case, 100 per cent, because we have strong people enough in Maranello. I don't see anyone coming. Then the second one coming, incredible numbers about the fee being paid to Fernando – I think that is not correct to say numbers that are totally incorrect and out of this world.
At the moment Ferrari, and not only Ferrari, is working very hard to reduce significantly the cost of the F1, and that reduction is going also to the fact that the cost of the drivers is involved. So looking at the numbers being put around, the 25 million Euros – I am laughing because it is better to laugh, but it is very sad. They are totally not correct numbers and something that is not helping the credibility of the F1 business to be honest with you.