Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali admits that the Italian team is not where it wants to be heading into the 2012 season, but he is confident that the situation will improve.
He denies that there is any sense of panic in the camp ahead of Melbourne.
“There is none of this, just an awareness of where we stand,” said Domenicali. “We have been realistic when communicating about the problems we have had, because transparency is part of the way I go about things.
“The lack of satisfaction comes from the fact we did not meet our technical targets and so everything refers to ourselves. Where we are compared to the others, we do not know for certain and our lack of satisfaction might also turn out to be excessive. Having said this, a clearer picture of the hierarchy on track will only emerge after the first four races.”
Domenicali defended the decision to go for a more radical car for 2012.
“We had asked our engineers for an extreme car, because without that, we would have been unable to close the gap to the best. The first configuration of the exhausts showed good potential, but it caused problems – the tyres overheated and the performance was unstable. Therefore we had to change, even if I certainly was not happy about it. We are still working on the original set up, but we will be unable to test it until the Mugello test at the beginning of May, because we believe it could give us a good performance advantage.
“Sport goes in cycles. Over the last thirteen years, McLaren has won just one Constructors’ and one Drivers’ title, Renault had two fantastic seasons and then nothing, Brawn had a one-off, Mercedes has only managed two podiums in three years and at the moment, this is the Red Bull cycle.
“In 2010, we began a new technical cycle. Important steps were taken in terms of the organisation and working methodology and here I’m thinking mainly about the areas of simulation and strategy. Aerodynamics is not yet at an adequate level. It’s not easy finding the right people, but this has to be a stimulus for those who work for us. I tell you this as someone who experienced the Schumacher era first hand and I recall how much we suffered before getting there. Ferrari will be back with another winning cycle as the basics are in place to achieve it.”
Regarding the team’s potential rivals, Domenicali said: “This year, Red Bull again starts out in front. McLaren is on form, Mercedes has taken a step forward and Lotus is looking strong, but they also began well last year.
“Toro Rosso and Force India also seem good, especially on a flying lap. So there might be some surprises at the start and then the situation will settle down but I expect everyone to be much closer to each other than in 2011.”
He admitted that there was pressure to get the job done.
“I’ve got pressure on my back, which is as it should be. I am not the one who designs the car: my task is to give my people everything they need in terms of organisation and structure. Having said that, I am very much aware of my responsibilities. There is pressure, but I feel the support of the whole team and of President Montezemolo.”
Domenicali also made some interesting comments on the RRA: “The agreements relating to cost reduction are still valid and we are evaluating if it can be up to the FIA to ensure they are respected, introducing sanctions of a sporting nature.
“Why didn’t we ask for the checks that were outlined in the agreement to be made last year? Very simple, because we did not want it to sound like an excuse for our performance. As for the Concorde Agreement, I can only say that we are moving forward. Maybe, after what happened to the ocean going liner of the same name, we should not call it this anymore…”