On Wednesday I fly to England for the British Grand Prix which is more or less the halfway point in the championship and for Ferrari it will be a case of seeing if it can also be a turning point, after a tough first half of 2011.
Immediately after the race in Valencia, I flew home to Monaco and then, at the end of last week, I went to Maranello for a couple of days of meetings with the engineers and work in the simulator to prepare for the next series of races. In the simulator we were working on many different elements, looking at both the Silverstone and Barcelona circuits, including the new engine maps that are now needed to fit the regulations and other areas on the car, including evaluating new components we hope to run at Silverstone this weekend. The reason we also ran a simulation using the Barcelona circuit is that the Spanish track is the “baseline” track for all our work in the simulator. We nearly always run the Catalunya track when we want to try something new.
I like coming to Silverstone which I know well, but this year it will be a bit different as they have completely relocated the paddock to another part of the track. At the most basic level, it means we are at least going to have to learn new corner numbers to use when talking to the engineers! On a more fundamental level, this change might slightly affect strategy because, depending on the length of pit lane, it might alter the overall time, either up or down, for a pit stop. We have looked at it on the simulator, but we need to experience it for real on Friday before we can be sure. Silverstone is a very famous circuit and the British Grand Prix is always an important appointment on the calendar. It has a unique atmosphere, always with a very big and happy crowd that really loves motor racing. It is always a pleasure to see the packed grandstands and, even though I am not British, I feel motivated and get a good feeling there.
The important question is how well the 150º Italia will perform here. It is true, as many people have said, that the last three circuits suited our car well, but I expect it to also perform well at Silverstone thanks to developments we have introduced, although of course the other teams will probably have done the same. I expect we will be competitive, but we must wait and see how the car works at a type of track where, earlier in the year, we were not so competitive. The reason this is important is that, if we are competitive in England, then it confirms we have improved a lot and have reduced the gap to the other teams. We will also see how much we have improved our performance with the Hard Pirelli tyres, which we have not used them since Barcelona. We will also have the Soft tyre in Silverstone as the Option and that is a good thing, because it means we have a tyre that suits us well for qualifying and maybe for a major part of the race as well. Unless we get some typical British weather and it rains, in which case I believe we can also be in good shape, as we were quick in those conditions in Canada.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether Ferrari’s championship chances are already over this early in the season. I don’t know the answer to that, but will still tackle every race in the same way, trying to win it. Getting the first win of the season is our immediate task and then trying to win more. Only at the end of the year, should we look at the championship situation. Realistically, Sebastian Vettel would need to do a really crazy job to lose the title. But we cannot give up and this situation changes nothing in our approach, because a victory is already a very nice thing to have and some wins this year would show we have done a good job. We must not forget that improving the car and its performance can also be important for 2012, because there are not so many rule changes coming which means that the car will not change completely compared to this year. A good car now and at the final race of 2011 is already a good step forward for 2012.