Ferrari's entire focus is on technical development
Updated: January 11, 2012, 06:34
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MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy(AP) By Ferrari's own admission, Fernando Alonso got every bit of speed out of last year's F150.
If the greatest team in Formula One history wants to restore its leadership position, it will have to develop a faster car and adapt better to the series' rapid rule changes.
"You always expect more and more from everyone, but to be realistic expecting more from Fernando than what he did last year is difficult,'' team principal Stefano Domenicali said on Wednesday at Ferrari's annual winter retreat in the Italian Dolomites.
"If he can perform at that level again it would be fantastic. But it has to come from our side and the engineering to make sure we're ahead of the others.''
Ferrari has won more driver titles (15) and constructor titles (16) than any other team in F1, but it last took the team championship in 2008 and Kimi Raikkonen was the last Ferrari driver to lead the individual standings back in 2007.
Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel swept both honors the past two years.
Last year was especially disappointing for Ferrari, with Alonso taking the team's only victory at the British Grand Prix. The Spaniard finished fourth in the driver standings while Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa was sixth.
Alonso and Massa will meet with media on Thursday.
Ferrari's problems in 2011 were encapsulated before its home fans at the Italian Grand Prix in September.
Starting fourth on the grid, Alonso put one tire of his Ferrari on the grass to get around McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and then beat polesitter Vettel to the first chicane, but Vettel then went around Alonso on the outside of the sweeping Curva Grande in the fifth lap and cruised to victory.
"(Alonso) really pushed himself over the limit last year,'' Domenicali said. "Over the last two years he's spent more time at Maranello than anyone else in my 20 years with Ferrari - that shows how much it means to him.''
Domenicali's duty now is to give Alonso a car capable of winning the championship, and he believes Ferrari is on the right track.
Ferrari has been working on its 2012 car since midway through last season and has scheduled its unveiling for Feb. 3.
"It's a break with the past, with new concepts never used in a previous car,'' Domenicali said. "The exhaust system is the biggest change and we've been working hard in the wind tunnel to get some extra performance in that area. But like last year we will only see the real scenario during qualifying in Melbourne - not before - because in testing everyone will try to mask themselves.''
This year's first test session is slated for the week of Feb. 6 in Jerez, Spain, while the opening race is in Melbourne, Australia on March 18.
In a rare midseason shakeup, former McLaren man Pat Fry replaced Aldo Costa as Ferrari's technical director five races into last season, and his input should shape performance more this year.
"As we say in Italy, he's on his horse now and trying to steer all the people in the technical department in his direction,'' Domenicali said. "His roots are more connected to the track environment, so it was good to have that input in the technical office. We've relied on him to reorganize the structure the way he wanted to, but it's not completed yet.''
Addressing one of the areas in which it struggled last season, Domenicali announced on Wednesday that former Bridgestone engineer Hirohide Hamashima has been hired as Ferrari's new tire director.
Hamashima will report to Fry and help Ferrari adapt to the Pirelli tires that were introduced last year as F1's only supplier.
"Hamashima's knowledge should help,'' Domenicali said. "Last season we weren't able to take advantage of all the types of tires available to us.''
Also, Steve Clark - another former McLaren man - has been appointed to direct trackside engineering, with Marco Fainello moving to the automaker's industrial side.
Meanwhile, Ferrari is also busy on development of a smaller six-cylinder engine to replace the existing V8s in 2014 according to new rules.
"We're hoping to fire up the new engine before summertime,'' Domenicali said. "Having two big projects simultaneously makes these two years very tough compared to other teams that just order engines.''
And Domenicali has to figure out what to do with Massa, who hasn't won a race since a life-threatening accident at the Hungarian GP in 2009 and whose contract expires at the end of the year.
"He knows this is a crucial season for him and his future and we will do everything for him as a team that we can,'' Domenicali said. "I expect a great season from him.''
For the team as a whole, though, Domenicali said he wouldn't panic if things don't go perfectly at the start of this season.
"We have to be on top of every little detail if we want to be a winning team,'' he said. "We've got to stay ahead at the starts, have track cooperation, reliability - we can't lose any points there - mechanically the car has to be perfect and we need solid race strategy. All of these areas have to be at the limit if we want to win.''