Fernando Alonso breaks silence on Domenicali exit but no word yet on Mattiacci
Spaniard still yet to speak to the Scuderia's new Team Principal
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 17/04/14 11:32am
Fernando Alonso has admitted there will be no quick fix for Ferrari in the wake of Stefano Domenicali's departure and warned F1's most famous marque are likely to remain uncompetitive until at least the second half of the 2014 campaign.
The reasons for Domenicali's resignation as team boss earlier this week are not difficult to detect. A Ferrari driver hasn't won the World Championship since before the Italian replaced Jean Todt as team boss while neither of the Scuderia's all-champion driver line-up have finished on the podium this season.
Even if the writing was on the wall for Domenicali after Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo walked out midway through the Bahrain GP two weeks ago as Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen trundled around in the midfield, this year's story, writ large across the nascent Drivers' and Constructors' Championship, is all-too familiar to the Spaniard after four years of title frustration at the Scuderia.
"We need to be honest with our situation, it's not where we want to be," said Alonso bluntly. "There are many places to improve. We know that in the first part of the championship we will not be as competitive as Mercedes, so we just need to maximise what we have and hopefully we'll be competitive later in the season.
"In this race, we will not improve by one second, because Stefano wasn't doing the front wing or the rear wing, so we need to wait and see what we can improve."
While Alonso has yet to speak to the Scuderia's newly-installed Team Principal Marco Mattiacci, formerly the group's chief executive in North America, the Spaniard has revealed he has maintained constant dialogue with his former boss since Domenicali made the unexpected - but nevertheless understandable - decision to stand down.
"Stefano is a great man, first of all, and I am a close friend of his - that is no secret. We still have a close relationship, we have been talking throughout the week, and that will continue because we have known each other for many years," said Alonso ahead of this weekend's Chinese GP.
"As a Team Principal he made good choices and did good things. We had missed opportunities in 2012 and 2010, and they missed an opportunity with Felipe [Massa] in 2008. If not, he would have three championships in the pocket.
"We need to accept what Stefano decided. He wasn't in the mood to continue with the feeling of having everything on his shoulders. We need to respect his decision."
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari's last World Champion in the pre-Domenicali era, gave a characteristically unruffled response to the Italian's departure despite also enjoying a close relationship with his now former team boss.
"I think everybody's a bit surprised, but obviously that was Stefano's own decision and if he felt like, fair enough, life goes on," Raikkonen told reporters. "It's sad because obviously he's a great guy and I worked with him for many years and known him even when I didn't race for him, I spoke to him often. But that's how it goes and I'm sure we can handle these kind of things."
Little is known of Mattiacci, hitherto inconspicuous to the F1 fraternity and conspicuously-absent on Thursday, with Raikkonen confessing "I don't know him. Probably met before" and Red Bull chief Christian Horner summing the prevalent paddock view up by saying "I'd never heard of him before". Alonso, meanwhile, even professed not to know if he will meet his new boss in person this weekend.
In any case, neither of Ferrari's star drivers are aware the new man in charge won't be able to deliver an immediate fix for the F14 T's problems.
"We need to give him time and get the team behind him," said Alonso. "We are really hoping that he will be successful and everyone is looking forward."
Raikkonen added: "He has great people around him and for sure he wants people to help him so I don't see there will be any issues. I'm sure he will be very good at what he does and does everything in his power to push us forward. But obviously he won't change things suddenly or make miracles because we know where we are and we know what we have to improve. It doesn't change overnight."
As Alonso crossed the line in Bahrain two weeks ago in a distant ninth, the Spaniard was seen to raise his arm in an apparent 'victory salute'. The gesture has, in some quarters, been interpreted as a sarcastic denouncement of the team's current position in the pecking order, but Alonso is adamant that there was nothing untoward in his signal.
"I was saying thanks to the mechanics," Fernando explained during Thursday's press conference. "They had been working hard after a problem on the engine unit. We didn't have a solution for the problem even at twelve o'clock on Sunday and then in the race we had everything in the place. They did a fantastic job - and when they were on the pitwall saying 'hello', I said 'hello' too."