Exclusive interview with Jean Todt 22 May 2007
Those who predicted Ferrari would struggle without Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn clearly misjudged the Italian teams strength - three wins from four races in 07 has shown there is far more to them than one or two key men. CEO Jean Todt discusses Felipe Massas resurgence, Kimi Raikkonens adjustment to life with the Scuderia, and those ongoing reliability issues
Q: Three wins from four races is a fantastic ratio. But for the moment it looks as though this year's championships will go to the team able to regularly get both cars onto the podium. Would you agree?
Jean Todt: Yes, reliability is crucial, as indeed it has always been. The outcome of this first leg of the championship is positive from a performance point of view but not so much in terms of reliability.
Q: Your technical director Mario Almondo admitted there are some outstanding reliability issues and quoted your current focus as being 51 percent reliability and 49 percent performance enhancement. What are you concentrating on most in each area, and what was addressed at the Paul Ricard test?
JT: We are working on both reliability and performance because in Formula One you cannot allow yourself to stop development on the car, given how competitive our competitors are. At Paul Ricard, we worked towards Monaco and the following races in North America, which are run on medium-fast speed circuits. This year, with the new format for private testing, it is vital to carry out tests in a planned and efficient manner because there are not that many opportunities to test between one Grand Prix and another.
Q: Felipe Massa was criticized for his performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but has since bounced back with two flawless wins in Bahrain and Spain. Not bad for a driver who not so long ago was considered a solid number two. Have you been surprised by Massas performance so far this season?
JT: Felipe was criticised from outside the team but definitely not from within it. We knew we could count on him as a winning driver and we are well aware of his abilities both as a driver and as a man. Furthermore, you only have to look at the way he went last year - Felipes first season with a top team, in which he finished third in the championship with two great wins under his belt in Istanbul and Sao Paulo. We are not surprised at what he is doing even if others might be.
Q: Would Ferrari still have signed Kimi Raikkonen had they known the full extent of Massas potential? For years, the teams policy has been to have an outstanding number-one driver and a reliable number two
JT: Our policy has always been to treat two drivers equally. Obviously, when you have the best driver at the time - as was the case with Michael Schumacher - then the way the championship evolves has always gone a certain way. When Kimi signed with Ferrari we did not know whether Michael planned to continue driving or not. Then he made his decision and we were more than happy to be able to extend our contract with a young and talented driver like Felipe. We had in fact noticed Felipe right from the days he was running in lower formulae and thus we had at our disposal a really well matched and balanced combination.
Q: How well has Raikkonen integrated into the team and how are you two getting on?
JT: Kimi feels very much at ease with the team and vice versa. He is a genuine and sincere lad and here he has found an open and cooperative atmosphere. Personally, I get on very well with Kimi. I have always liked him both as a driver and in terms of the way he is out of the cockpit, always remaining the same in what is the difficult world of Formula One.
Q: Ferrari showed their pace in Barcelona with a victory. Can we expect this form to continue in Monaco? Ferrari enjoyed their last win in Monte Carlo in 2001
JT: I am not the sort to make predictions. All I will say is that, as usual, we have left nothing to chance in our efforts to return to winning ways in this race, which is so special and prestigious. But we know it will be very difficult.
Q: In 2009 we will see the opening of the world's first Ferrari theme park in Abu Dhabi. What was the philosophy behind choosing this location? And how much was the decision to go there propelled by the possibility of an Abu Dhabi Grand Prix?
JT: We wanted to create an environment in which fans of the Ferrari marque could live through an experience of our world. We considered the Persian Gulf to be developing significantly in terms of tourism and Mubadala, having become shareholders of ours, showed great enthusiasm for strengthening our ties and hence this project was born. The park will provide the opportunity to get to know the Ferrari world through the 24 different attractions that are being built, as well as on the track. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix can but go in the right direction, confirming the desire of the Government of the country to make more of a name for itself, as can also be seen from the agreement it has reached with the Louvre museum.
Q: How much longer do you plan to remain in Formula One racing? You have mentioned previously that you have considered retirement? Is this still in your thoughts?
JT: Today, as CEO of Ferrari, I have taken on even more significant responsibilities on a global level. Among my responsibilities is ensuring that the Scuderia consolidates even more its position at the pinnacle of Formula One racing.