Domenicali opens war of words with Schumacher

Stefano Domenicali has chosen Michael Schumacher as the first target of the traditional pre-season braggadocio and mind games. The Italian was speaking at Ferrari’s pre-season ski event in the Alps, and sounding like a jilted lover, the Ferrari team principal guaranteed that new darling Fernando Alonso would beat his German predecessor providing Ferrari’s new 281 was a decent beast.

“Last year when we tackled the issue of substituting Felipe [Massa] we thought about him because we are convinced that Michael is an extraordinary, very strong driver. From this point of view, Fernando has all that is necessary to defeat him.

“But a driver can be the best in the world but without the best tools, even the best in the world will have problems winning. It will be up to us to give him the right car,” said Domenicali.

Domenicali said that Schumacher’s departure had not gone down so well with some quarters of the Ferrari empire.

“We have seen some fans not appreciate Michael’s choice,” he admitted. “But we should not forget history, what Michael has done with Ferrari, just as we should not forget what Ferrari has done for Michael. Now we turn the page it is a further stimulus for us that we feel within ourselves. We have to show – also to Michael – that this is the strongest team. It’s a constructive stimulus, a greater will to show that we can win.

“It was difficult to see Michael with his helmet on elsewhere, some wound always remains.”

The team principal was asked about the potential for disunity in his team with his new charge Alonso and returning hero Felipe Massa.

“If by explosive you mean a couple of drivers that are strong, aggressive, competitive and have the ambition to win, this is the minimum goal that Ferrari must have together with its drivers,” said Domenicali.

“Let’s not forget that our characteristic has always been putting the interest of the team at the core of everything, both Felipe and Fernando know what our context is, how they have to move and the rules of our team.

“When you have strong drivers you have to manage them, this is true, but what is most important is to give them a car which may be a winning car or a competitive car from the start, and they will be able as professional as they are to take it to the end of races in the best possible position.

“I tackle things calmly. The rules are very clear: whoever comes to Ferrari knows where they are working and they appreciate how we work.

“In the case of Felipe and Kimi [Raikkonen], in one year one driver was ahead of the other, in the second year the opposite happened, and so there was a form of respect.

“To be the fastest doesn’t only depend on oneself, it depends on the context, on races which come out in a specific way which allow you to tackle the championship or lead you to help your team-mate to win the championship. This is something that from the outside people try to generate competition within our team and to attack us on this front, but it is more rational and calm that what might appear from abroad and the outside.”

Despite Alonso and Massa having a chequered past, the Italian insisted all would be well in the camp.

“It’s a sparkling environment,” Domenicali said. “It’s like a gush of fresh air which brings new stimuli.”