Maranello, 16th January – Ferrari’s General Director of Gestione Sportiva wrapped up the round of media meets at the 14th International Press Ski Meeting held at Madonna di Campiglio.
Todt immediately quashed the view that it was possible to grow tired of being successful and underlined that Ferrari’s objective remained that of ‘continuing the formidable run of success with the Ferrari 655 that will be presented at Maranello on 26 January’. Todt didn’t reveal much about the new single-seater, save to say that it will have ‘a front wing that could surprise everyone.’
‘The important thing in life is the phenomenon of wear and tear: when you achieve your aims it’s better to change what you do. The Ferrari management have decided to go on because we get on well together. There is no risk of burning out. That day will come, but it hasn’t yet. Though this makes life more difficult, I never reflect on the great times we have had but think about those that are to come. Anyway, nobody can say now that Ferrari has not won anything for 21 years. When I arrived at Maranello, my aim was to stay until 1995; I thought that would be difficult enough. After eleven years, I am still here. Ferrari has made progress at all levels because we have a unique group of people.’
‘At Ferrari we live as if we haven’t won for ages. We aren’t extraordinary. The most sophisticated boat goes nowhere if there is even a breath of opposing wind; a normal boat can win if everybody blows in the same direction. The added value is the team.
You don’t change a winning squad and this is the reason why there will be so few changes’, explained the General Director of the GES. ‘'Luca Baldisserri has been promoted to chief race engineer, as favoured by the strategist, Ross Brawn, who, as a result, will now have fewer people to deal with. Mattia Binotti will oversee race engines and Noel Cavey the test engines. Pino D’Agostino will have new responsibilities in the Group. ‘Stability has been good; everybody is motivated’, confirmed Todt. ‘It will be a tough season, a difficult one. We will be up against the best in motor racing and the duel between the type suppliers will be awesome.’
Expanding the continuity theme, the extension of Rubens Barrichello’s contract was touched upon. ‘It was more or less an automatic decision. We are all very pleased to have Rubens on board for another two years. He raced extraordinarily well and won two very important races at Silverstone and Suzuka. There was no reason not to continue with the winning team we have’. Responding to those who enquired that it might have been better to opt for a younger driver, as Schumacher will be closer to forty than thirty in 2006, Todt expressed his satisfaction at having a man like Barrichello on his side. ‘We are very happy with Rubens, though this doesn’t mean that we are not keeping an eye out for younger F1 drivers, and those in other categories. Barrichello now has a much stronger character, he concentrates more on problems and copes well with the pressure of the world’s best driver and this is a great compliment. No-one has dealt with it quite as long. Michael has confirmed that he wants to go on; he loves F1 and Ferrari and he loves to drive. Maybe there will be some unforeseen events; if there are, we will deal with them.’
Regarding the regulations, Todt explained that the only real change in 2004 will be having only one engine for the entire Grand Prix weekend, ‘something that makes reliability even more important.’ As for the tyres, Todt again voiced his faith in Bridgestone: ‘They are Japanese. They work methodically and with rigour. The only thing we shouldn’t do is panic; there is no reason to. I say it clearly: I am convinced that we will race well.’
Todt was also asked about the future for Massa and Fisichella, now Sauber drivers. ‘My job is not to think about Massa and Fisichella’s future. It is obvious that we have close links with Sauber, who use our engines. We have a technical collaboration and this allows us to use the two drivers in testing. It is down to them and to Peter Sauber, though, to think about their immediate future. Now Formula 1 is heading towards establishing a new agreement. ‘There are teams with financial problems and I hope that the deal with Bernie Ecclestone, the banks and the constructors can be finalised. This would mean, though, a budget increase for all the teams, even the small ones.’
The meeting could not pass without reflecting that 2004 marks a decade since the death of Ayrton Senna. ‘That 1st May at Imola was a very sad day…it was the passing of a great champion. I knew Senna a little: we saw each other at the Grand Prix at Monza in 1993 when I had been in Formula 1 only a few months. I spoke to him about a possible future with Ferrari in 1995 and was surprised that a driver of his standing was interested in racing for us as, at the time, Ferrari wasn’t doing so well. You have to understand that Ferrari has this mythical standing and this explains why he dreamed of racing for us: to become part of the myth.’