We know we can do something good this year - Domenicali
Since June 1993, the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro organisational chart has had the name of Jean Todt at the top of the page, but this year sees a change: while Todt continues as Ferrari's CEO the role of F1 team principal is now in the capable hands of former Sporting Director, Stefano Domenicali.
Following Todt means Stefano has big shoes to fill. "There is no doubt about that and it is a difficult thing to do," agrees Domenicali. "I imagine it was also a difficult decision for my bosses to take. I appreciate this and my first reaction is that I need to prove to the people who have given me this responsibility that they made the right decision. On the other hand, I also need to show my people that I am the right person for the job. I will try and handle this as well as I can and try to deal with the pressure and let the guys work in the best possible environment. As a little boy, going to watch the racing at the Imola circuit I never dreamed I could ever be the head of the Ferrari Formula 1 team! But, I'm still the same guy as before and that will not change."
Domenicali's previous role of Sporting Director no longer exists, so how is the team run this season? "The structure of the team is that three people report into me: the Technical Director, Aldo Costa, Gilles Simon, Director of Engine and Electronics and Mario Almondo, the Director of Operations," explains Domenicali. "Then we now have Luca Baldisseri as Team Manager and Nik Tombasis as Chief Designer. And the team is basically structured around these people. At the circuit over a race weekend, my role has changed because I now have the last call when it comes to any difficult decision or any senior decision, while the sporting matters will now be managed by Luca. I will of course be on hand to input my experience if that is needed."
Domenicali is looking forward to his first race weekend as the boss of the Scuderia, but realises it is a big responsibility. "So far, I have found this role a great challenge," he says. "I feel a sense of responsibility and I am aware that I am team principal of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, which is something special. But I am trying to work without changing my approach from the way I managed my previous role in the team: that means a lot of dedication, a lot of attention to detail and to the people. I know the people I work with very well and I know I can count on them. The most important thing is that we are a team. There are no stars, we do not need stars. Our team is complimentary and that is one of our strengths that we need to maintain. I have to be sure the right people are in the right positions and that they can operate in the best way possible."
While Domenicali maintains there are no stars in the team, in the eyes of the fans, Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen are very definitely the stars of the show. "As far as the drivers are concerned, the fact that Kimi is now world champion does not change our approach to them," maintains Domenicali. "Our drivers are really great and we are very happy to have them: both very professional if also very different in character. But we have our own rules that are pretty clear and they will start with the same opportunities, with what happens on the track deciding who is fastest."
When Jean Todt joined the Scuderia, he was already a personality in motor sport: a world champion who had led teams to championship titles in several disciplines. Stefano Domenicali has grown through the ranks at Fiorano and is a younger man, so can we expect to see a different Scuderia now? "Certainly every person has a different way of doing things and it is natural that age can make a difference. But my target is simply to do a good job. I am concentrating entirely on that. I am interested in delivering results. I have a huge responsibility, because my boss - and Jean Todt is still my boss - has achieved so much that it will not be so easy for me. Of course, I will ask for his advice. I would not have the arrogance to say that I don't want to listen to anyone, especially someone like Jean Todt who has so much experience. I will discuss many matters with him and I will not be shy about asking him for advice if I feel the need. This is a strength for the team not a weakness."
One thing that does not seem to have changed along with the name on the office door, is a cautious approach when it comes to predicting the future. "I think that, as always, we need to be very careful when analysing the data from winter testing," says Domenicali, when asked for his views on the coming season. "However, our car seems to be a good one, but we need to see exactly where the others are both in terms of performance and reliability. I am pretty sure that this year reliability will make the difference, especially in the first half of the season. So I want to be cautious and not say much about this until we can see what is going on. We have a great respect for all our competitors but we know we can do something good this year."