Ferrari promises to go for broke
"If we look at the next race, we don't have any other choice than to be aggressive. We need to achieve first and second and then that's it. That, for sure, will be our strategy." Ferrari sporting director Stefano Domenicali was unequivocal regarding the team's ambitions after victory in the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai left Kimi Raikkonen seven points adrift of championship leader Lewis Hamilton and three behind reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso with one race to go in Brazil.
Domenicali went on to praise Raikkonen in the way he attacked Hamilton but had it contributed to the McLaren driver understeering off into a gravel trap as he was entering the pits? "I don't know," admitted Domenicali. "To be honest maybe he was struggling with the tires, but Kimi was there, he was just behind, he was attacking at the right moment and it was important to avoid any kind of contact because you never know. At this stage, contact for us would have been dramatic because the championship would have been over, so that shows how Kimi was so cool to be right in the way to attack Hamilton."
Ferrari's director of track operations, Luca Baldisserri explained that preparations for the final race in Brazil were limited. "We are not able to test, because there is no more testing. We have a collaudo (shakedown) to do but that will only be to check the parts that we will have in the race so engine and gearbox, so the only major job we can do is again on the simulation and we will try to do our best on that."
All three championship contenders will have new engines for the final race, so one engine for one race. Was that an area where Ferrari could be aggressive or take risks, perhaps more risks than their competitors? "Well, this was already planned," said Baldisserri, "and in the last test, we tried something in the engine and normally they have to do two races, whereas in this case we only have the engine for one race, so you can imagine that we are having the extra bit of power that is always a risk.
Ferrari won in Brazil last year when they were perhaps more competitive than their rivals, so how did Baldisserri rate their chances this year? "The car this year is a bit different than the past year. Last year we tuned the tires, we had Bridgestones, so we basically decided the tires to have. This year it's different, because we have to stay on what Bridgestone bring and they have decided to bring the soft and super soft. This, to be honest, is not our preferable choice because historically this year, we were struggling where we had that couple of compounds. And you know the tires are quite important in a car's performance, and if you are not able to use them at the best of their performance, you can easily lose tenths."
Was the problem of soft and super soft related to a single lap of qualifying or in the race? "No," said Baldisserri, "that's only on a single lap, we have to work out how to use the super soft in qualifying. We've done some work at home after Budapest, I think we understood the problem."
Stefano Domenicali was asked if the rivalry between the two McLaren drivers perhaps could play into Ferrari's hands. "We need to look within our cars," he replied. "It's already difficult because we need to be first and second and then we will see, but for sure, with all due respect, we understand that the pressure is high on both of their drivers. The only thing that I can say is that we will focus on our job and that's it to be honest. We respect the work of the others but what we are going to do is to try to put pressure on them, that's for sure."
Pressure had something to do with the Chinese tactics, too. "Talking about this race, after the first pit stop, we were just tackling what Hamilton was ready to do, because we knew that he basically put less fuel into the car in comparison to our stop. Of course we were just controlling the pace and checking what was the situation. We knew at that stage that we could be in front, so it was much easier."
So were Ferrari surprised by Hamilton's mistake? "You know, when you are under pressure or you are pragmatic, you can make mistakes everywhere. That shows how is Formula One and maybe he was thinking it was the easiest part of his race, but that's racing," concluded Domenicali.