Q & A with Stefano Domenicali

Ferrari is under pressure after its worst start to a Formula 1 season since 1992 has left it at the bottom of the constructors' championship following the first two rounds - and now the diffuser verdict has taken away a potential lifeline for the Italian squad

Q & A with Stefano Domenicali

Team boss Stefano Domenicali met the press in China today to discuss the diffuser controversy, Ferrari's recent reshuffle, and its chances of a resurgence.

Q. How far behind is Ferrari as a result of the diffuser verdict, and how much time and money will it take to catch up?

Stefano Domenicali: For sure it will take time, because as we said that is a device that was affecting an area where the car was already discussed and there was no need for a change. But now because we need to change our diffuser, we need to change the rear of the car, and that will take time.

If we are good on that, we should be ready when we come back to Europe in Spain - that's the target. How much will it cost? A lot. Because we need to work in the windtunnel, we need to work on the design and manufacturing of the rear of the car. I cannot give you an exact amount of money today, but for sure it will cost a lot.

Q. What are your feelings about the FIA's decision?

SD: On the decision, as I said yesterday, I want to wait and see the motivation for the decision, because that is very interesting for me. I'm looking forward to seeing that. It is strange in a way, that with a cool head, such a difficult discussion, that was very long...

The perception from all the people that were there, and I wasn't there, was that it was already a decision taken. It was easy at the end, the court had to leave and in the morning straightaway there was confirmation of the decision. So it's a strange feeling, but once again I want to wait for the motivation (to be published) and see what the points are exactly, because we were quite sensitive on that and quite sure that it was not correct.

But what I want to say now is that shouldn't happen. These things should have been handled before the start of the season, in a very clear way. This is something that the entire Formula 1 has to learn. This is not good for the image of Formula 1 in any case. It can be considered as an element of a possible break in FOTA, because as you see now the tensions are quite high. This is not good because FOTA is very important for the future of Formula 1.

For sure these are points of discussion that I think we will have in the meeting I think after Bahrain, to make the situation clear. If we miss that opportunity, it will be bad.

Q. Do you think the FIA was hoping that this row would break FOTA apart?

SD: I don't want to say that. What I can say for sure is that this is something that puts all the teams in a difficult situation.

Q. What effect does this decision have on Ferrari's championship?

SD: For sure, it will be very, very difficult. I am expecting that Ross's car, and Williams and Toyota, will be flying away. We will be trying to catch up as soon as possible but the more races you take to find the performance, the more points they're going to score. We don't want to say we have already put out the white flag, because that is not our spirit. We will fight until the moment when the mathematics are not clear.

Q. This this is a terrible position for Ferrari, one of the best teams in Formula 1, to be in...

SD: I think we should be rational enough to divide this thing into two parts. One is the fact of the diffuser. The performance that you have from the possibility to work for one year in advance on that device is for sure a very important element, very important. The other point is that you can see that all the teams that were able to find time to work on a new project found better performance. These are very rational elements. But the diffuser has a very heavy effect.

On the other side, you can see that in the first two grands prix we did not perform well and did not have the performance, or reliability, and there were some mistakes. That is not our standard. What we have to do is react and go to the level where we should be. But it is important to keep rational about these things.

Coming back to the appeal, it is not a fight between Ferrari and Ross. I saw this is some headlines, but it is not true, it is not the case. The reality is that all the teams apart from those three had a different opinion on that subject. That is it, there is nothing personal. It is sad to arrive at this point.

Q. Explain what happened after the red flag in Malaysia. We saw the team preparing Raikkonen's car to go back out, but then we saw Kimi eating ice cream in the back of the garage.

SD: We had a problem on KERS. Because we had time, we tried to understand the problem exactly, but then it was a problem that was not good to go out with. That's why I can say that we will not use KERS this weekend. It is a decision that we have taken because we need to understand the system exactly from a safety point of view, and a reliability point of view. It is for sure giving us performance, but until the moment the system is safe and reliable, we cannot risk it. At this moment we need to be basic, we need to bring home what we can in these conditions and wait for the development of the new car and then see. At this stage it is really important to be basic with everything.

Q. How is the mood at Maranello?

SD: Of course we are not happy, but that's the way it has to be. We need to react, and for sure the performance of the car was not the way we thought it was, so we need to work. Even if we knew the fact that we started the car later gave the others more time to work, for sure we are not happy about reliability.

When you are in this situation you want to take some risks that you don't need to take, so from the operations point of view we did some mistakes and this is not normal. This is the reason why we are not happy, but we want to react immediately.

I know the strength of this team. I know all the people are working flat-out, and it is important in this moment to keep cool and calm. That is not typical of our environment, but this is what I want to share with all the people I work with.

Q. What are your aims for Shanghai?

SD: The aim for Shanghai is to take home the maximum that we can in this condition. We know that it is very difficult from a performance point of view to be able to win, but we need to do the maximum that we can.

Q. Did you think the diffuser was illegal, or had you asked the FIA about developing our own and been told it would be illegal?

SD: This is the what Renault's position is exactly. That's what we said. On our side, later on during the season we asked some opinions on that, but we didn't think about it because we thought it was not legal.

Q. What are the reasons for Luca Baldisserri's change of role, and is it permanent?

SD: At this stage I think that we needed to give a signal to all the team, and for sure Luca has great experience so we chose him to go back to the factory to work on the project of the development of the new car. It was essential to have his experience.

We felt that Chris (Dyer) was already able to handle the situation on the pit wall. In all organisations it is important not to mix up the responsibilities and the people who have to take the decisions. Otherwise it's like being in a democracy and in that state it's impossible to take the right decision. So that was the reason why we moved Luca from that position on the pit wall.

Q & A with Jenson Button
Previous article

Q & A with Jenson Button

Next article

Domenicali wants rows resolved quicker

Domenicali wants rows resolved quicker
Load comments
Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shakeup Plus

Unpacking the technical changes behind F1 2022's rules shakeup

Formula 1 cars will look very different this year as the long-awaited fresh rules finally arrive with the stated aim of improving its quality of racing. Autosport breaks down what the return of 'ground effect' aerodynamics - and a flurry of other changes besides - means for the teams, and what fans can expect

Why new era F1 is still dogged by its old world problems Plus

Why new era F1 is still dogged by its old world problems

OPINION: The 2022 Formula 1 season is just weeks away from getting underway. But instead of focusing on what is to come, the attention still remains on what has been – not least the Abu Dhabi title decider controversy. That, plus other key talking points, must be resolved to allow the series to warmly welcome in its new era

Formula 1
Jan 20, 2022
The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022 Plus

The Schumacher trait that will give Haas hope in F1 2022

Mick Schumacher’s knack of improving during his second season in a championship was a trademark of his junior formula career, so his progress during his rookie Formula 1 campaign with Haas was encouraging. His target now will be to turn that improvement into results as the team hopes to reap the rewards of sacrificing development in 2021

Formula 1
Jan 19, 2022
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Plus

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. JAMES NEWBOLD hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwarts

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Plus

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Plus

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021 Plus

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as STUART CODLING finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton Plus

The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls a remarkable champion

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022