Ferrari intends to be ready to win in F1 2011 by the time of next month's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, team principal Stefano Domenicali has asserted – as he calls upon the Scuderia's
troops to apply the pressure upon early-season runaway pace-setters Red Bull Racing and force them into making mistakes.
Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso finally returned to the rostrum in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, with a feisty drive to claim third place behind Red Bull pairing Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber – in so doing, ending a podium drought for Ferrari that stretched right the way back to Interlagos last November.
Domenicali concedes that improving the form of the F150° Italia in qualifying – Alonso has begun every single outing to-date this season from fifth spot on the starting grid – is the key to maintaining the current upward progress, with the car having demonstrated decent race pace that has been compromised thus far by off-colour performances on Saturday afternoons and poor opening laps.
“Overall, we have improved,” the Italian underlines, rubbishing notions of an inherent handling issue. “If you see the gap in qualifying, we have reduced that. On race pace, too, I think we have reduced [the gap], but it was already good. The outcome of it is that we need to improve in qualifying – that's for sure the thing that we need to make happen, starting already in Spain.
“We need to work all around the car; with such a competitive situation, if you lose one area, it's difficult because the others will take advantage. For sure, the area where we need to maximise our effort is on the aerodynamic side, and in qualifying also the usage of the exhaust system connected to the floor.
“We have some ideas about where we believe is the area where there is something to work on, and this is the area where we should concentrate ourselves to improve. If you look from the outside, it's difficult to explain to anyone why in qualifying there is such a gap, and in the race you are so competitive. I think we have understood, though, and now we need to react.
“For sure, this is what I'm expecting from my people, my engineers. I think that what we have seen this weekend (in Turkey) is going in the right direction, and I'm expecting another step in that direction. What I'm saying to my people is, 'don't think that the others will stay asleep'. For sure, all the other competitors will react and improve.
“I think that this year will be a very challenging season. We have seen so many different conditions, apart from the fact that the Red Bull is always the fastest car and the most reliable, but we will see. The pressure could also be on their side to keep up that level of performance. We will try to be one of the teams that will put the pressure on them – and if there's pressure, they can make mistakes.”
Whilst recognising that the turnaround will not come overnight, Domenicali was palpably encouraged by Ferrari's form in Turkey as the team endeavours to recover lost ground, with a raft of new parts drawing positive feedback. Although he acknowledges that Monaco is 'a race where anything can happen', the 45-year-old is optimistic that once F1 2011 heads across the Pond to Montreal in mid-June, the fightback can begin.