Sao Paolo, April 13th 2009 - I am back in Sao Paolo for a few days and I have to say it’s always nice to come home, especially as I haven’t been here for about three months, a long time. I’m training and relaxing a bit but not for long because on Sunday I’m back on a plane flying to China.
Looking to take some positives from the Malaysian weekend, I think the car was a little bit more competitive, especially in terms of race pace, even if its still not easy in qualifying to find the best lap. On Friday, we had a very good run and then, on Saturday in qualifying we had a big problem to get past Q1 but that was down to different issues in terms of how we tackled the session, rather than a car performance matter.
The car is getting more competitive all the time and the F60 should have some aerodynamic updates in China, which means it should make another step forward, but we still need to improve a lot because the guys in front, especially the Brawns are very strong. We need to push and we need to try our best, but at the moment Formula 1 seems to be split into three groups: cars running the special diffuser, cars running KERS, cars without KERS or the diffuser, so it’s hard to assess what is really going on across all the teams.
On Sunday night, after a second race where we failed to score points, I said that it was not a case of everyone at Ferrari becoming stupid or forgetting how to do their jobs which caused us to have a bad weekend, but we need to be cool and calm now in how we take decisions at the track. If you are too emotional, most of the time you do the wrong thing. We need to get on the right path to taking better decisions and, since Sepang, we have discussed ways of improving the organisation of the race team, while also improving the car of course. At the moment, we are not very good in many aspects of what we are doing, but it is also true that we have very good people within the race team and back in Maranello, so we know we can react, improve and change some details. But it is important that we do not try and change everything, because if you change too much, you can make matters even worse. We know what areas we need to work on and everyone in the team is really motivated to improve, which is the most important thing.
As for the last race, it was very chaotic because of the weather. We always knew that a late start in Malaysia would be a gamble in terms of the weather and the gamble was lost I guess. When they decided not to restart the race, the conditions were actually okay for racing, but it would have been far too dark to do the necessary number of laps to award full points. Even if it looked quite light, if you were watching on TV, you have to remember we were near the equator and night time arrives like an on/off switch there: one moment it’s day, the next it’s night. The problem with these late starts is that the slightest problem with the race and there is no time to complete it.
This season we have seen the usual front runners, ourselves and McLaren, both struggling and this situation for sure is not helped by the fact that in-season testing is banned. But we can improve the car without testing, thanks to all the simulation tools available to us. Where I think we will miss the testing is that I feel there is no substitute for driving around a race track to ensure your car can run reliably. Reliability is something you can see in testing, whereas for developing the car, we can do that in the wind tunnel, because, in the past, most of the times we have brought developments from the tunnel to the track, they have worked. But this rule is the same for everyone and I don’t think it has a significant effect. I would say it is the other rules, for example those that govern elements like the diffuser and KERS that are causing the problems.
I am looking forward to China, in the hope that we finally score some points. In the past, I have come third and last year second at Shanghai and I would really like to be back on the podium again. I expect us to be maybe a couple of tenths quicker than in the first two races, which might be a help to move up the order, but we mustn’t forget the other teams are also working on their cars. We have to accept that this year, we do not have one of the quickest cars on the grid. So we need to find more performance. I like Shanghai and the track is very nice and I have a good feeling for it. I’m looking forward to bringing home our first points. Looking at the lack of points, we can take some consolation that last year after two races, I had no points, just like now, but the difference is that last year our car was a bit better compared to the opposition.
Before I joined Ferrari, I drove for a team that was not used to winning, but many people at the Scuderia have only known the successful times, so maybe I can understand better than them what it means to struggle. But I think a top team having a difficult season is better equipped to recover, so I am hopeful that we can put this bad start to the year behind us and get back on the right road.