Normally renowned for his calm, measured leadership approach a world away from the political maelstrom that has all-too often bedevilled Ferrari in decades gone-by, Stefano Domenicali nonetheless is pulling no punches as he looks to F1 2010 – arguing that Ralf Schumacher, Nelsinho Piquet and Flavio Briatore should remain figures of the past rather than of the present or future.
Schumacher departed the grand prix scene at the end of 2007 after his move to Toyota failed to yield the hoped-for results, but following two distinctly underwhelming campaigns spent in pan-European touring car series the DTM, the German has held talks with a number of F1 teams regarding a possible 2010 comeback.
Piquet and Briatore, meanwhile, both left with their tails between their legs in the wake of the explosive 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal that very nearly saw Renault banned from the sport outright, with the former assuming the role of whistle-blower and the latter chief protagonist. In all three cases, Domenicali contends, the closed chapter should not be re-opened.
“I prefer to look to the future and find new talent,” he told Italian newspaper La Stampa
, when asked about Schumacher Jnr. “F1 should not reduce itself to a world of nostalgia. It's not right that Piquet should be allowed to return after what he did, and Briatore will not [be back] in the same capacity; people don't like re-heated soup – he will have to find another opportunity.”
Revealing that Ferrari's F1 effort is now self-sufficient after decades of hefty expenditure, Domenicali added that the likelihood of further changes to the top flight's scoring system before the Bahrain Grand Prix curtain-raiser in mid-March is high, with a proposal to reward pole position and fastest lap, and the possibility of two tyre stops being permitted in a race rather than just one.
With less than a month now remaining until the group test in Valencia at the beginning of February, all of the teams are up against it, with the Italian explaining that the refuelling ban is the major complication, with cars due to run practically empty during qualifying and then fill up to the brim for the start of the grand prix. Establishing the right compromise for tyre and brake wear during Friday practice sessions will be 'crucial', he insisted.
Going on to opine that a similar situation to the double-diffuser controversy that saw some teams begin 2009 with a significant head-start over others would be 'disastrous', Domenicali acknowledged that McLaren-Mercedes, Mercedes Grand Prix (formerly Brawn GP) and Red Bull Racing are all likely to be phenomenal competitors once more in 2010 – and that the Scuderia
has 'learned' its lesson from a harsh season that resulted in just a sole victory and 'will not make the same mistakes again'.
The 44-year-old also waxed lyrical about the Prancing Horse's new driver line-up of double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who he confirmed is now fully recovered from his terrifying, high-speed Hungaroring qualifying accident last summer – and expressed his conviction that Ferrari's fans will ultimately forgive record-breaking legend Michael Schumacher for what they have regarded as his 'betrayal' in jumping ship to Mercedes.
“My role requires me to remain rational,” Domenicali reasoned. “If for just one second I had considered myself to be the cause of the problems, I would have acted accordingly. We mustn't forget that in 2005 – which isn't a century ago – Ferrari had won five consecutive world championships, and I was amongst the group that achieved that.