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Exclusive interview - Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali 28 Aug 2013

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal, Korea, 2012 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Race Day, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday, 25 August 2013 Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director in the team principals Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Practice, Montreal, Canada, Friday, 7 June 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director accepts the constructors trophy.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Race Day, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 9 June 2013 (L to R): Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director celebrates with Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari who finished third.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Race Day, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 12 May 2013 Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 crosses the line.
Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Chinese Grand Prix, Race Day, Shanghai, China, Sunday, 14 April 2013 Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali congratulates second-placed Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 11 May 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138 and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd7, Canadian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Montreal, Canada, Saturday, 8 June 2013 Ferrari flag on the track.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director celebrates after the race. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Italian Grand Prix, Race Day, Monza, Italy, Sunday, 12 September 2010 Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix, Budapest Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Saturday, 20 April 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 leads Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138 down the pitlane.
Formula One World Championship, Rd5, Spanish Grand Prix, Qualifying, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 11 May 2013

Few, if any, jobs in Formula One racing carry as much pressure and expectation as that of Ferrari team principal. It’s a role Stefano Domenicali has held since 2008, in which time the Scuderia have won a single constructors’ crown (in 2008), but - despite several close calls - no drivers’ titles.

With 11 races of the 2013 season complete, we sat down with Domenicali to discuss a wide range of topics, including his relationship with Fernando Alonso, the future of Felipe Massa, how he intends to keep the pressure on Red Bull, and whether he’s really cut out for the job…

Q: Stefano, please can you analyse Ferrari’s season so far?
Stefano Domenicali:
Let me say one thing first - and you can write this: if people think that Formula One is the pinnacle of the world let me tell you this: it is not. Life is so much more than that. So now let’s come to racing, and here the situation is very simple: we had quite a good start. Even if we didn’t have the quickest car in pure performance in qualifying, we had a very good car in the race. Our race pace was really good. Up to Canada the car was good. Then we had to face two issues: one was that with the modifications that we brought to improve the car, we’ve slowed it down. That meant that we’ve made a step back. The second issue had to do with the change of specification of the tyres - that is a fact, but I don’t want to comment on that. It’s a fact. Having said that, it meant that we could not bring the performance back that we at least had during the race. But we need to stay calm. It is a difficult moment, yes. Take, for example, the Spa qualifying session. During the last four minutes you had to be in the right place at the right time. Is that something that was down to luck? I don’t know, but that is how it was. The season is still long and, yes, the situation in the championship is difficult, but then everything is possible. That is, in a very simplistic way, the situation now. (laughs)

Q: What did you make of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo giving the whole team a dressing down for underperforming? Was that something that caused you to sweat?
SD:
He is our Chairman and he is very passionate about this part of his job, this side of the business. It is normal that he is very pushy with us because we had a really difficult July. It was a sign of attention from him - I read it this way, that’s it. We know we need to be focused - and he reminded us of that - and that we have to be united to pass this difficult moment.

Q: Is there a power struggle between yourself and Fernando Alonso, as many suggest?
SD:
No, no, this is something that I totally reject. We want to win together…

Q: …but perhaps the problem is that you cannot lose together?
SD:
Ha, but this is a team sport. If you are alone in the business you can win or lose alone. But that’s not the concept of Formula One. It is a super-competitive environment where you are a hero when you win and a zero when you lose - there is not really something in between for us. Be sure that we are united to win - because that’s what we are here for.

Q: The suggestion is that you are too soft for the giant that is Ferrari - that you are too much velvet glove and not enough iron fist…
SD:
I’ve heard that story now for 30 years, so I don’t care. I am not interested in these things. It is part of the game.

Q: What are you going to do about the fact that you need two drivers to perform at a high level to challenge for the constructors’ title? What are you going to do about your 2014 driver line-up?
SD:
We have no rush in taking a decision. There are plenty of opportunities.

Q: Could it be that the price tag of a driver decreases the longer you wait?
SD:
Maybe. Don’t forget, everybody wants to drive for Ferrari. We have to wait and see. My favourite choice would be, of course, to keep Felipe (Massa) because Felipe is a very good guy - very dedicated to the team - and when you look around there are not so many drivers out there that you swap and they immediately deliver. But, of course, we need good results from Felipe, so that’s why we will not rush as we have to make the right decision for the team. As soon as we have made up our minds we will announce it officially to silence the rumours once and for all. When we are ready…

Q: What role does Kimi Raikkonen play in your considerations? Surely you could swap him and he would immediately deliver…
SD:
Kimi is a very fast driver and everybody knows how I rate him. But if I make a comment now it will be taken as a direct answer. As I said, there is no rush and we will make the right decision in the right moment.

Q: It might be natural for top drivers to walk all over their team mate, but too much can demotivate the ‘number-two’ driver. Does it demotivate Felipe when Fernando flexes his muscles too much?
SD:
Difficult to say. When they are on the track the driver has to perform and push. It is in the nature of the team that you have to find the right balance between the two men that are in the cockpits to work well together. I don’t think that this is a real issue.

Q: The media made quite a fuss over one of Alonso’s management team being seen at the Red Bull motorhome in Hungary…
SD:
This is part of the psychological game that is around - if somebody is following these things. Honestly I don’t really care. The fact is that we are totally united to win and we have a contract for a long time - all these stories are simply not relevant. I have the privilege of looking at these things in a very disconnected way, so I am laughing and thinking about the poor people who are reading these kinds of things. If they really knew the truth they would never read such absurd things again.

Q: With quite a number of problem areas to deal with, how are you going about the remainder of the season? What’s top of your to-do list?
SD:
To give Fernando and Felipe a better car. That is priority number one. Then to improve the organization in order to be successful. Next week (former Lotus technical director) James Allison will join and work together with Pat Fry, so the organization will be settled down completely and we can look to the future.

Q: Monza should be a must-win race for Ferrari…
SD:
Well, yes, Monza is something special in terms of configurations, in terms of pressure - and for sure we want to do well there. We know that a win at Monza is very special. The last time that we did that was in 2010 - and yes, it was special. But we are not so keen on a single result - only if means that we are getting closer in the fight for the championship. That then would indeed be fantastic. The Spa result has pointed in that direction. Then, if you are able to pick up the pace in terms of improving the car for the rest of the season, we will do it. We will not give up until the mathematical numbers say that we cannot win, because we have to be here when an opportunity arises. Otherwise we would blame ourselves for not being there.

Q: What about Ferrari’s 2014 car? What is the state of affairs there? How much resource have you already got dedicated to working on the 2014 mission?
SD:
September is the month where we will basically start to shift, as the 2014 project is very complex. At the end of September we will then basically switch everyone, depending, of course, on how the situation is with the championship.

Q: Could your position in the championship actually be an advantage for you in 2014 - in a twisted way - as everybody involved in the current title fight will have to keep resources tied up on their 2013 car for longer?
SD:
All the top teams realize that if they want to be a force in 2014, then they have to start very quickly to switch resources, as it is a very complex matter - especially for the big teams. My guess is that we might see huge surprises next season in terms of the pecking order. In my view - and as far as I remember - the changes that we are facing are the biggest changes we have ever had in Formula One. It is really important to get it right, otherwise you’re lost.

Q: With so many difficulties to overcome, is there still a good side to being Ferrari’s team principal?
SD:
Good question. Yes. At the end of the day there is one thing that is amazing: despite what you can sometimes read in certain sections of the media, the passion - the positive passion - around Ferrari is incredible. This is something that makes you proud of being here to fight. That is unique. I can assure you that there are a million people who would like to sit in this chair - and at the moment it’s me. I try to do the maximum for the benefit of this fantastic team.

Q: You say a million people would love to sit in this chair, but how many could really do it?
SD:
Not so many.

Q: What does it take to be Ferrari’s team principal?
SD:
Well, there are so many Monday-morning quarterbacks out there who one day after the game know exactly how it should have gone, but that is not enough. So as I said: not so many. You have to be conscious of the position, of the responsibility and the weight. Take it or leave it, but what we have and everything that happens or doesn’t happen here is multiplied by a magnitude that is incredible. So it’s not easy handling this pressure.

Q: What then is your biggest strength that allows you to survive in this position?
SD:
First, that I am fully dedicated to this company; and secondly, that I try to be very open and direct. I have nothing to hide. Nothing personal, only professional - for the benefit of the team.

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