Stefano Domenicali has shrugged off the notion that his head will be on the block should Ferrari fail to claim F1 World Championship glory in 2011, even if he acknowledged as the new F150 was launched in Maranello today (Friday) – the first of the new contenders to break cover – that it is 'an important and crucial season' for the team.
Domenicali has been at the helm of the Scuderia
since 2008, but aside from the constructors' laurels that year, there has been no other end-of-season silverware, and he found himself heavily criticised in the wake of the disastrous strategy call that arguably cost Fernando Alonso the drivers' crown in Abu Dhabi back in November.
As it was, it was Chris Dyer who carried the can and acted as the convenient fall guy for the error – but the general sense inside the paddock is that with the famously merciless Italian media on his back and just waiting for him to trip up, Domenicali is running out of time now to prove himself.
“It's not a problem of feeling under an obligation to win, but it is for sure the team's target and without doubt, my target,” he reflected at the launch. “We developed the F150 with one single aim, and our goal is to win [both] championships. We know that it won't be easy, but that is the target that we need to achieve.
“For sure, the season will be as difficult as it was in 2010 – maybe more so, because I'm expecting really to have more teams winning races, so the challenge will be much higher – and I'm expecting it to end at the last race again like last year.
“I think there are many very, very good teams – so I would not underestimate anyone. I'm expecting Red Bull, Mercedes, McLaren and some other teams to have some say during the year, and of course, on the drivers' side there are all the world champion drivers plus the talented new drivers who will for sure have a chance, so it will be a tough season, we know that.”
On the organisational side, following Dyer's demotion to the rank of a mere engineer from his erstwhile position as head of racetrack engineering, former McLaren man and new vice-technical director Pat Fry has assumed the role of co-ordinating the activities of race engineers Andrea Stella (Alonso) and Rob Smedley (Felipe Massa). Aldo Costa remains as technical director, with ex-Red Bull chief strategist Neil Martin charged with 'modifying and improving all the simulation tools that will be beneficial not only for the track but also for the offices in Maranello'.
As to the technical and sporting regulation changes aimed at spicing up the spectacle in the top flight in 2011, Domenicali expressed quiet confidence that they will eventually accomplish their goal of increasing overtaking – long F1's Holy Grail.
“That's the hope, for sure,” the Italian mused. “It's not easy to know if what has been done – and I'm thinking mainly with regard to the moveable rear wing – will achieve the objective, but for sure all the work that the technical people have studied was done in order to make sure that overtaking will be improved. I'm expecting at the beginning that it won't be too easy, but for sure during the season the situation will improve in that respect.”
The F150 – so-called in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification, with the country's flag visible on the rear wing – was jointly unveiled at Ferrari's headquarters by Alonso and Massa, who Domenicali states know exactly what is expected of them over the coming months.
“I briefly met them at Vrooom the other week in Campiglio,” he explained, “and I saw both of them very motivated. They realise that for different reasons, this is an important and crucial season for both of them and for the team.”