Ferrari detail. Ferrari Owners' Club
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Ferrari Happenings

Interesting Times in F1
by Winston D'Arcy


It's been an interesting week in F1, with Valentino Rossi's first test with other cars at Valencia the big news. Last week I suggested that The Times Online had got it wrong when it said that Ferrari will be able to see how Rossi performs "when there are other 200mph rivals around him" as I thought Ferrari (and we) would only learn how quick he is compared with Schuey and Massa IF the comparison was made from a meaningful basis. This did not happen, forget trivia like car set up fuel load and tyres, Rossi was in a V10 F2004 when everyone else was in a V8!

So how did he do? The answer has to be "quite good". He finished up 12th out of 16 runners with a best time of 1:12.315 with a bunch of nine other drivers all in the 1:12's. He had five spins including including one where he lost it when closing in fast on Montoya - I'd loved to have seen that! So the test showed that he is capable of running on the pace and that he's a tryer, but the fact that his car was so different means we still have no idea of his absolute speed.

What there is no doubt about though is the massive media interest the whole thing generated - it was reported that there were a 135 scribblers covering the test. It seems that it was this media pressure which forced Rossi to venture out on the first day in the wet, when he spun without completing a lap, but there's no shame in that given his lack of experience. More tests with Ferrari are planned and you have to admire him for having the courage to do this particular one. Wonder who's paying for it all? At this level people don't do owt for nowt......

Away from the media circus, Ferrari were getting on with some more serious stuff with Schuey running the 248 and Massa a V8 2004. It's interesting that Ferrari have chosen to run the 2004, rather than 2004M, maybe they are anticipating that '06 downforce levels will be back to those of '04.

Schuey was fifth fastest with a 1:11.649 and Massa third on 1:11.284. Alonso and Button were first and second in the 1:10.9's with the World Champion just a gnat's ahead of the plucky Brit. (N.B. All times from Thursday, Alonso went 0.35 secs quicker today, Honda were not present).

McLaren were in deep trouble with Montoya having to sit out most of the test due to engine problems, but it looks that it's the entire organisation which is in melt-down, not just the engines. Technical Director Adrian Newey jumped ship to Dead Bull late last year, to be followed by McLaren's head of aerodynamic development Peter Prodromou next year.

In addition to this the following announcement came from Maranello yesterday:

"Ferrari announces the following changes to the Technical Department, effective from the 1st of March:

  • Rory Byrne will assume a new position as Design and Development consultant, reporting directly to Technical Director, Ross Brawn.
  • Aldo Costa will take responsibility for the Design and Development Department, answering to R. Brawn.
  • Nicholas Tombazis will be appointed Chief Designer, reporting directly to Aldo Costa."

Nicholas Tombazis was Ferrari's chief aerodynamicist, he left at the end of 2003 to join McLaren as Chief Engineer Aerodynamics, later being promoted to Vehicle Project Director.

What this bald statement from the Factory actually reveals is that Scuderia Ferrari is about to undergo one of the revolutionary changes of direction which has characterised its history. The current evolutionary line of F1 cars which began with the F300 in 1998 will come to an end and next year's car will owe more to McLaren thinking than that of the previous design philosophy.

So Ron Dennis may have signed one of the best two young drivers in the world for 2007 but the one he has on the books already is clearly disgruntled and has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with the current engine situation. McLaren's other 2006 driver Montoya has said he's open to offers, so hopefully the Woking team are in for a difficult season.

Alonso was quickest for Renault in Valencia, but their challenge may falter as the situation with him is clearly not good already and should get worse as his leaving date draws nearer. The evidence suggests that Fisichella is just not good enough to fight with Schuey, neither are Toyota's pair, even if their new car proves to be. This leaves Honda as the major threat to Ferrari. The car looks quick and seems to be reliable and both of their drivers have something big to prove. It's going to be an interesting season.



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