Domenicali: The importance of a good start
There were many positives to be highlighted after Ferrari's dominant one-two at Magny-Cours on Sunday, according to Sporting Director Stefano Domenicali (pictured right), not least a renewed attack on championship leaders McLaren-Mercedes.
"We are very happy because first of all we cut by ten points the gap in the Constructors' championship and that was important. Now we can see their (rivals McLaren's) back a bit ore closely, so once again, that's the best thing of this weekend."
And winner Kimi Raikkonen's race engineer, Chris Dyer, pointed out that modifications from the team had also had a positive effect, which they hoped would carry through to other races.
"Obviously we introduced new parts at the Silverstone test," said Dyer, "so we have come here with a stronger car than we had at the last race. I don't know what McLaren have done, I assume that they've improved their car as well. This championship, every year, is not about improving your car every weekend. It's about improving your car more than the other guys improve their car. We're all developing the car every week and it looks like at the moment we took a slightly bigger step than they did. That can change every week, so we're still pushing as hard as we can to develop the car."
Rob Smedley, race engineer for second placed Felipe Massa, expanded on Dyer's point. "It's a long championship and you come to some races and you're a little bit behind and you go to others and you're slightly ahead. But that's why it's a World Championship and not just one race. Obviously the way that the cars are developed, there's a certain suitability for our car on tracks like this and not so much so for the McLaren as you've seen today, and the reverse is true for other certain types of tracks but just to reiterate, it's a championship and you have to have a car that works well for the average track."
But there were other important factors to Ferrari's one-two, said Domenicali "It was hard to have the kind of result we had in Indianapolis. Today, I think that we showed that we are there, we have a good package, we have a good team, good drivers. But on the other hand, we have seen how important it is to start very well and to start in the front row, and to start without traffic in the middle. That's maybe one element of consideration that is crucial for this year. We saw that our main competitors today were struggling in the traffic so that shows that once again the approach that we had for this race was the right one: more aggressive, generally speaking."
Dyer agreed that Indianapolis had been tough, but paid tribute to the increasing form of Raikkonen who joined Ferrari at the beginning of the year. "Looking back to Indianapolis, we were strong through the whole race. We didn't have the best of starts and that really compromised the rest of the race for us. Here Kimi's been reasonably comfortable with the car all weekend. I think it's just a constant process of trying to understand him better, trying to understand the car better and get the most out of both of them. I don't think we've made any huge steps in any single area, it's just a little bit of improvement in all areas and we see the results.
"We've had to work a little bit at just improving generally the balance of the car. We've had to work a little bit in getting the first lap performance out of the tires. That's helped us as well. We've had to work a little bit on the starts which we haven't been so strong at for a few races. It is just very small improvements in a lot of areas and you see a big improvement in performance.
"To be honest, I don't think we've ever had any problems with Kimi fitting into the team and the way we've worked with Kimi or the way Kimi's worked with us. It's not something we had a problem with and we had to improve. It's takes time to understand him as a driver, for him to understand our car and the way our systems work. I just think it's part of the natural process of a driver coming to a team and settling into that team, and the team settling into the driver."
What had been the difference between this win and Raikkonen's winning debut in Australia? "We've had to work a lot harder for this one," explained Dyer. "We had a pretty comfortable weekend in Melbourne, it was the first race of the year. There wasn't a lot of pressure on us and then I think since then, we obviously haven't won any races. There's been a lot of pressure especially on Kimi, I think, about the fact that we weren't winning, so yeah, it's more satisfying to win here than it was in Melbourne and I hope we can continue with a few more before the end of the year."
Finally, Smedley voiced the frustration of Massa leading for two stints out of three, only to lose out at the final pit stop. "To lose the race whilst leading it because everything doesn't go your way is a little bit frustrating. On the other hand, you have to accept that it is a team sport and today things went Kimi's way and he won the race. At the end of the day, we got 18 points for the team and I think that's what we're all working towards. But yeah, as far as we're concerned, with Felipe, it's slightly disappointing, slightly disappointing on one side, and on the other, we still closed the gap in the World Championship to the two McLarens, so less so on the other."