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Byrne: Kimi, Alonso are the Future

Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso would make up Rory Byrne's next Ferrari super pairing should the team no longer have access to the skills of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello

"I say that without knowing either of them personally or how they would fit into the team, but I believe they are champions of the future," said Ferrari's South African-born chief designer at a motorsport memorial dinner in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Sharing the billing with Stuart Turner, Ford's former director of motorsport, Byrne admitted that his contract expires at the end of 2006, and that Aldo Costa, designer of the yet to be raced F2005, already 'had his feet under the design desk'.

"I am there to keep a watching brief, to ensure the same design philosophy is maintained, but Aldo is the designer of the car," he added.

Byrne believes this season has seen the most sweeping changes he has experienced in a Formula One career spanning almost 25 years during which cars designed by the 60-year old have logged up 99 Grand Prix wins.

"Fundamental changes to tyre, engine and aero (dynamic) regulations mean the FIA has slowed not only cornering speeds, but straight line speeds as well, and these changes are certainly more far-reaching than anything I have experienced," Byrne said.

"When we first ran a 2004 car adapted to the new regulations we experienced a 25% drop in downforce, of course we clawed some of it back, but when you are used to scratching for percentage points, that is a very significant loss," said the qualified industrial chemist, arranged as a fund-raiser for a South African motorsport benevolent fund named after local motorsport impresario Alex Blignaut.

"I think it's fair to say last year we were never downforce limited, which meant we set up the car for maximum downforce and let engine power fight the drag. Our simulations show we have lost between half and one second due to the aero, but only after clawing a lot (of downforce) back. By the end of this year, or early next year most teams should be back at 2004 levels."

New engine regulations have introduced a strategic engine element, believes Byrne.

"Where you have sets of demanding races, such as Canada and Indianapolis or Spa and Monza, you may find teams take a 10-grid slot penalty somewhere to get out of phasing to ensure optimum engine power for them."

Speaking on 2005's tyre regulations, Byrne felt the 'full effect had yet to be felt'.

"Australia's surface is easy on tyres, so the fact that no teams suffered tyre wear problems was not surprising at all," he added. "But Malaysia has amongst the highest wear factors, so I think we will find some people will struggle towards the end of the race.

"The heat will also affect engines, so people on the pit wall will become increasingly nervous as the race wears on."

Speaking exclusively to Autosport-Atlas after the dinner, Byrne stated no decisions on the introduction of the F2005 had been taken.

"It's not a matter of one person taking a decision; it's a matter of considering all the factors," he said. "We should have a second set of comparative data (against F2004M) after next week's test at Mugello, and be in a better position to know where we stand.

"Already we know our new car is at least half a second faster, but many factors will influence the decision, not least the phasing of the engine. One thing we will not do," said Byrne, "is take a grid penalty merely to introduce the car at a specific race. So as yet no decision has been taken."

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