It was a very long race - Domenicali
Kimi Raikkonen and his Ferrari engine may have survived to finish Sunday's French Grand Prix, completing a Ferrari one-two behind Felipe Massa, but it could result in an unscheduled engine change, says team principal Stefano Domenicali.
Raikkonen suffered an exhaust failure around half distance in the 70 lap race which caused fluctuating performance thereafter. Raikkonen was lucky to finish behind teammate Massa, even though he matched his teammate's time for a while before the engine worsened at the end.
This year, however, the team is lucky that it is allowed one unscheduled engine change without penalty. "I would say it is quite likely that we will have to replace the engine," said Domenicali after the race. "For sure, after such a heavy race from the middle to the end, it's very likely that we have to change it so we need to play the joker that allows us to do it."
However, the team won't know for sure until later in the week. "We will do the analysis later on and tomorrow but there's no rush to do anything more than eventually change it when we go to Silverstone."
Domenicali admitted that it will be hard to find what had caused the problem. "Unfortunately it was not possible to understand the problem and also the other difficulty is that for almost half of the race all the breaking parts were falling apart so it will also be difficult to collect all the pieces in our hands because they're somewhere around the track."
Domenicali then explained what had caused the varying performance. "If you lose the exhaust there's no more performance and then you start to have different parameters on the engine, the temperatures go up, the water pressure comes down. Everything is mixed up, of course. In a way, it was very very good and very important to finish the race with eight points in that condition."
Domenicali explained that the team felt that they had limited time at the second pit stop in which they could do anything to help the problem. "It had already fallen off. There was the cable of the lamda and we decided not to cut that because we would maybe lose more seconds, and we had Trulli pushing behind so we took that into consideration. I have to say that in terms of strategy, in terms of teamwork everything was done correctly."
How much longer would it have lasted? "The maximum the engine lasts is for two races so maybe I think it's a bit ambitious to have another race in that condition but honestly, I don't know, difficult to say. I don't want to tell lies; I don't know."
The team was able to work on engine settings to compensate. "We were trying to do what we could in order to protect the engine under those conditions and after all the things that were possible to do, just wait until the chequered flag. You could see that there were a lot of switches being moved around."
Domenicali saw the engine's survival as a plus point. "For sure we were very worried, no doubt. It was a long race to finish, maybe we lost a lot of years and a lot of hair but that's part of the game. So I'm extremely happy it lasted. In that condition you never know. It may stop any lap, it's too difficult, it's critical."
Domenicali also paid tribute to Felipe Massa, the new World Championship leader. "I think that we always said that we were very very happy extremely happy with our two drivers. It's better not to assume any kind of thinking before the end of the season because if you think that after the first two Grands Prix Felipe had zero points; I recall what was the discussion about him.
"I think that strong drivers in a strong team have to look ahead without being influenced by the negative thinking around. I think he's strong now, and as I said, I think it's the first time for him to be leading the Drivers' championship so it's a great award for him but it doesn't change anything on our side. Teamwork is our main target and we said at the beginning that there's no changes in our decisions or strategies."