Maranello - “It’s been a very long time since my last blog, for reasons you all know. I remember very well that I haven’t taken part in a Formula 1 race weekend since last 25 July and now I am just looking forward to getting back into it again. I am clear in my mind about the direction we must take at the start of the season after so many days of winter testing and from a personal view it is just great to be racing again.
“I agree with Stefano (Domenicali, Team Principal) when he says that after testing, we can claim to be front runners, but we must keep our feet on the ground, because we are facing a very long and tough championship. The competitors are also very strong, including those who were fighting for the title last year, like Mercedes, who won under a different name, then Red Bull and McLaren, but there are other teams such as Williams and Sauber, which has risen from what used to be BMW. There are even teams like Force India who grew in performance last year and we can expect these to be competitive as well. I think it will be a very tight and competitive and our job will be to steadily improve the car race by race.
“I have a new team-mate this year and although the one car test rule meant we never drove on the same day, we have got to know one another well over the winter. We worked together on the debriefs and in most cases, Fernando and I seem to have similar opinions about the way to move forward. I think things are going well between us; he is a nice guy and a great driver and I am sure we will work together very well. Once again, my team-mate is a world champion, a double world champion actually! I am fine with that and I regard it as a positive element for the team. As a driver, you don’t think about beating your team-mate, you are looking to beat all the drivers on the grid and in the championship. I think it is much better to have two good drivers in the same team as it means the team can improve more quickly, with a better direction in terms of its development. For the past few years of my career, I have always had very strong team-mates and so nothing has changed for this year.
“It will be interesting to see how the new rules, specifically the lack of refuelling, will affect the races. At the last Barcelona test, I was able to complete a full race simulation, which went well, as there were no red flags to interrupt it. The car felt strong, it was quick and consistent and the tyres worked well whatever the fuel load; heavy at the start and getting progressively lighter. It was hard to make an accurate comparison to other teams’ race simulations, as we had a choice of three different Bridgestone tyres at the test, rather than the two we will have at the races. But in general, the signs were encouraging. The most important factor was that the car ran reliably, which is particularly important in the early stages of the season. The car was also quick with low fuel, in qualifying trim. Running on full tanks is an interesting challenge: as a racing driver, you always want your car to be as quick as possible, which means a car with a low fuel load, which gives you more grip and the difference between full tanks and the minimum fuel can be as much as six second per lap, depending on the circuit. The difference is huge, like having two different cars, but an efficient car should be good in both configurations. Fuel consumption will therefore be another key factor this year. If your car is less fuel efficient and needs to carry fifteen kilos more fuel than another car, that equates to three or four tenths of a second per lap. With this in mind, we worked very hard with Shell, since the middle of last year, to improve the fuel consumption of our engine, without affecting power and reliability. Fuel strategy will also be important, because you really don’t want to finish a race and find there is still ten litres in the car, because that means you have been carrying extra tenths for every lap. It will be very interesting to see how this situation develops.
“As a driver, I don’t really mind which race is the first on the calendar, but I have to say, it will be good to kick off the season in Bahrain, as it is special to me, because I have won twice round the Sakhir circuit. However, this year, the track layout has been changed significantly, making it a much longer lap, so that will be a new challenge for all of us. The most important thing at the opening race, at whatever track, is to start in the right direction, scoring points and getting a good result.
“Not only will this be my first race in a long time, it will also be my first race since I became a father. I know that our founder, Enzo Ferrari is reported to have said that, once a driver has children he gets slower. I have to disagree with him! Just ask Michael (Schumacher.) I think you will find he won more races and titles with two children at home, than when he did not have kids. I am really enjoying being a father, as it is an incredible feeling and in fact is even more of a motivation in my life and makes me work even harder at my job. It is a positive aspect which I hope will bring me some extra luck in my career.
“Before leaving for Bahrain, I got the opportunity to take part in an event organised by our new sponsor, the Santander Bank, at the Interlagos circuit, which involved me driving the F2008, the car with which I won the Brazilian Grand Prix two years ago. Now I can't wait to get behind the wheel of the F10 at Sakhir next Friday. ”