Jenson Button is a disputed driver.Williams-Bmw left him free in 2011 to hire Juan Pablo Montoya and now they want him back to replace the driver from Colombia,who will move to McLaren.But BAR-Honda holds on.The affair ends in blows and on Saturday October 16,2004, in Milan, the first hearing of arbitration is attended.The Contract Recognition Board is the one set to decide, controlling body of contracts in Formula 1.On Wednesday October 20,2004, the decision is given.The holders of the two teams are attending,Frank Williams and David Richards.Instead the English driver is not present, third in the rank of the Drivers World Championship, who during the summer signed a contract to drive for Williams in the next two seasons.The BAR-Honda objected, claiming to have correctly use the right of option for 2005.And from here the legal battle began. The decision of Crb will unlock the drivers market .Williams and BAR have a contract with titular drivers, respectively the Australian Mark Webber and the Japanese Takuma Sato. Whatever the decision of the Recognition board is going to be, an important place will be left free: or with Bar that is second in the Constructors World Championship behind Scuderia Ferrari and unless some unthinkable results will keep the position in the ending Brazilian Grand Prix, or with Williams, top team now in crisis. It is discussed if Jenson Button, now that he has no voice in the matter, could sign to change team again. The other first choice drivers are all busy. Giancarlo Fisichella was contacted by Williams, but he preferred signing with Renault: Villeneuve will race for Sauber, and the titular of the Swedish team has already warned that terminating the contract with the Canadian will cost much; Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher will race with Toyota. For the place of Button, David Coulthard and the fast tester of Bar Anthony Davidson are interested. David Richards says:
"Whatever will be the final decision, we'll be competitive also in 2005. Jenson is a key element of our team, and losing him would be a delusion. But motor racing is a team sport. We are a group of 400 people. The drivers are important, like every other member of the team".
The team panorama is quite lively too. Ford announced withdraw from racing, but it is looking for someone who can take over Jaguar team. From Spain is coming the news that also Renault could give up the Circus in 2006 when for the first time on track a mediorental car will be seen. The F1 Dubai team will use Mercedes engines and will have the technical support from McLaren. The team informs of having already sent to the FIA the necessary documents and confirmation of being ready to deposit 48.000.000 deposit dollars as security of participation. The Belgravia Group-owner of the new team- valued the hypothesis of taking over Jaguar, then decided to start from the beginning. Meanwhile, at the eve of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello proclaims:
"This is my Grand Prix and I want to win it with no help".
I tried eleven times, just one time he arrived to the finish line: fourth in 1994 with Jordan, the race was won by Michael Schumacher on Benetton-Ford. In the other ten occasions he had to suffer disappointments until the apotheosis in 2003, when he stopped track side his Ferrari lacking of fuel a few laps from success. No one promised him these helps. Michael Schumacher always wants to arrive first.
"It's correct like this. Friendship is something, the track is another. Also Sato was hoping for the podium in Japan and instead Button got third place".
So like this the last appointment of Formula 1 promises a home challenge: Ferrari against Ferrari. The atmosphere at San Paolo is fresh: the temperature has lowered to record levels for a tropical spring, between 15 °C and 18 °C with threat of cloudbursts.
The Interlagos track, technical, demanding, original in its ups and downs, restored in the tarmac, always gives the impression of an unfinished building site, but in the day of the race is full of people and colours. The prizes have been assigned to Maranello and Michael Schumacher, now all the interest is for the Brazilian idol, who talks about everything. The Button case, forced by a judgment to remain in BAR?
"I would have solved it in private without so much hype. It's not easy to stay in a team when you desire to be in another: it is like kissing a girl but loving another".
What about the new rules?
"It happened to me when I was driving in kart: I had no money and I had no choice. With today's cars is a danger".
The Britain Grand Prix, at Silverstone, is cancelled?
"It's a pity, it's a fantastic track".
The emotion to race in San Paolo?
"Amazing on track and out. The night I finally sleep in my bed".
On the Button case the direct concerned intervenes:
"But what girlfriend, from when the problem of my contract occurred, I obtained amazing results".
The technical director of Bar-Honda, Geoff Willis, agrees:
"We are mercenaries, feelings have little importance".
Having lost the English, Williams looks for an alternative to alongside Mark Webber in a market that doesn't offer much. Between the four names in list there is surely the one of the tester Antonio Pizzonia, who replaced with mediocre results the healing Ralf Schumacher. Then David Coulthard, free at the end of the season, and the very fast test of BAR, Anthony Davidson. The German Nick Heidfeld hopes to receive a call in extremis. Ruben Barrichello is in pole position. Michael Schumacher in Minardi zone. On Saturday October 23, 2004, everything can happen in Brazil. The world champion leaves Ferrari broken and in flames with the usual nonchalance:
"Yes, I saw fire but I wasn't afraid. It's a pity for the car".
The accident in the end of the second session of free practice: the driver takes turn 6 at 250 km/h, looses control and ends against a safety barrier at the average of 100 km/h. Unharmed and calm, he admits having made a mistake:
"In that area the tarmac is wavy, but besides it has been like this for two days. I should have taken a precaution. Goodbye pole position".
At the eve he swore that he would not have helped his teammate to win for the first time the Brazilian Grand Prix. And it needs to be said that he could not have given him a better help. Michael Schumacher faces qualifying driving a reserve car full of fuel and with a new engine. Result: eight time and relegation to eighteen place, ahead of Zsolt Baumgartner and Gianmaria Bruni. Rubens Barrichello gets ride of his most dangerous rival. At his side Juan Pablo Montoya will start, who has not been on the podium for 5 months. Then Kimi Raikkonen follows, good driver but anything but irresistible with the actual McLaren-Mercedes. When Barrichello crosses the finish line the torcida explodes.
"I saw the cheer and I understood".
It's his day, the good luck until now turns well, at least like the Ferrari's engine. At the twelfth assault he wants to win the race in his San Paolo, where he arrived to end just once and it was 1994.
"These people deserve a trophy. Here is my all life, here I have been living for 20 years, here during qualifying I raced like I was on a kart when I was a kid".
Rubens Barrichello says to not feeling the pressure any more:
"I sleep in my bed, I'm with my son, I spend my time with my family. The only limitation is that tonight I will avoid drinking caipirinha".
According to the statistics, it is his 13th pole position, fourth in this season, number 178 for Scuderia Ferrari, the 12th of 2004. But anything can happen. The rain arrives. Tropical rainfall shower effect that could create a crazy race like the one in 2003, when not even the race commissioners understood who won and they prized the second place. Anything can happen. In 2000 the advertising panels fell. During tests the track was invaded by two stray dogs. The cars were on track for 5 minutes when in the low part of the circuit the first dog appeared, white and black of medium size, shortly followed by the other friend of brown fur. Used to San Paolo's traffic, they were not scared of 4 cars in such a large space and they started happily racing. The session was immediately blocked, the search for the two dogs started, which after 25 minutes were found and brought to a kennel. At the eve of the Grand Prix there are arguments on the rules to reduce expenses. Like on track, each team - also the historical ally Sauber included - are against Scuderia Ferrari and in a document they ask for a reduction of the days of test, to 10 days, during the season.
"Otherwise the calendar, because of price motives, has to expect just 17 races and the Grand Prix of France and Great Britain".
Implicitly they admit that San Marino Grand Prix doesn't risk the exclusion. The message is: take out on Ferrari if two historical appointments will be cancelled. No official reply from Maranello team, that has always been against the reduction of tests because owner of two tracks - Fiorano and Maranello - on which the cars are developed. Another reasoning on the Ferrari's side is that simulations would be equally costly.
On Sunday October 24, 2004, the Brazilian Grand Prix starts in condition of humid tarmac; most of the drivers uses inter tyres, just Fernando Alonso, Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard opt for dry tyres. At the start Rubens Barrichello keeps first position, but the Brazilian driver is overtaken few turns after by Kimi Raikkonen; instead Juan Pablo Montoya starts badly, downgrading to fourth place. Shortly the inter tyres reveal to be unsuitable for the track, that is drying; the first to use dry tyres is Ralf Schumacher, during fourth lap. Fernando Alonso takes the lead of the race. Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya create an intense duel at the exit of pit lane, with the Colombian that manages to overtake his rival. After the tyres change, Fernando Alonso leads the race ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, Ralf Schumacher, Takuma Sato, Ruben Barrichello, Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard; the Spanish driver leaves the first place to the Colombian at the end of lap 18, when he goes in the pits to refuel. During lap 23 Mark Webber tries to overtake his teammate, Christian Klien, who closes the trajectory; the two cars were near to contact and the Australian is forced to withdraw, while Klien goes back to the box to repair his car. In the first positions Kimi Raikkonen closely follows Juan Pablo Montoya, but the driver of Williams manages with without big problems. Far behind, Ruben Barrichello tries to catch up on Takuma Sato. The second series of pit stops doesn't bring changes of positions between these 4 drivers, but allows Fernando Alonso to get up to third place, ahead of Ralf Schumacher. During lap 32, however, Takuma Sato makes a mistake at first braking, leaving fifth place to Rubens Barrichello. Juan Pablo Montoya takes a great advantage on Kimi Raikkonen, driving a car with more fuel. The third series of pit stops turns out to be decisive: Fernando Alonso, only driver between the ones at the top to do two stops, does a refuel during lap 47, and then also Ralf Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher go to the box. Kimi Raikkonen, leading the race, pushes to the limit to try overtaking the rival; when also the Finnish does the pit stop, during lap 55, goes back on track only one second behind Juan Pablo Montoya. Behind, Rubens Barrichello manages to keep third position, while behind his back a group of cars very close is formed, with Fernando Alonso that precedes only by a few tenths Takuma Sato, Ralf Schumacher and Michael Schumacher.
In the following laps Kimi Raikkonen pointlessly tries to put pressure on Juan Pablo Montoya. But the Colombian doesn't get distracted and wins the Brazilian Grand Prix, preceding at the finish line Kimi Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso, Ralf Schumacher, Takuma Sato, Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa. The bad luck and Rubens Barrichello have an outstanding account and they settle it every year in Brazil. Otherwise it's impossible to explain how the driver of Ferrari always manages to remedy the worst delusions in front of the home public always when everything, but really everything seems to go in the right direction. The Brazilian driver was the fastest on Friday, he managed his Ferrari with perfection, he conquered a beautiful pole. Not only: 30 minutes before the start the rain started. Not a tropical downpour like expected at the eve, but a rain that, according to an expert from an helicopter, should have lasted until the end of the race. In these conditions Rubinho should have dubbed everyone thanks to the superiority of the Bridgestone tyres on the wet. Too easy, too beautiful. Rain lasted for 4 laps, enough to moisten the track and to determine the only solutions with which the Michelin are the ones to rule instead. And like this Ferrari managed to keep the lead at the beginning. It suffered the overtake of Kimi Raikkonen, but in few turns it conquered the leadership until the weather conditions didn't change. The yardstick of the situation was David Coulthard. McLaren putted dry tyres on from the beginning to understand the exact moment in which they would have turned competitive. And then they called Kimi Raikkonen in, who has wisely started with wet tyres. Juan Pablo Montoya is following the Finnish and from that moment, the fourth lap, the race was theirs. A close challenge, won by the Columbian who, in the goodbye day, gifts Williams with the first win of the season, fourth of his career. Next year he will be with Kimi Raikkonen in McLaren and he will create a funny derby in the family. Born at opposite latitudes, the two developed an antithetical style and temper, regularity and bravery. Two incredible drivers, in the last race of the World Championship of Formula 1. On the Interlagos track they expressed the best of their technique and, in particular Juan Pablo Montoya, didn't ruin their races with mistakes. In the final the Finnish tried everything and he got closer to few tenths, but he was never able to attack him.
Rubens Barrichello has to resign himself to third place, which is still his best performance in the Brazilian Grand Prix. The Brazilian's lead crumbled on that one too many laps run on grooved tyres. Bridgestone and Ferrari explained that on a damp track it would have been worse to intervene earlier due to a difference in performance with the Michelin in intermediate conditions. Rubinho returned to the track in sixth place, made up one position on the track and two with his last pit stop. Worse was Michael Schumacher who lost concentration after winning the title. Having started well, the German compromised his comeback with a spin and in the end he followed the group made up of Fernando Alonso, Takuma Sato and Ralf Schumacher, without bothering anyone. Seventh place earned him the last two points of an unforgettable championship. A permanent presence on the podium, Ferrari ended the season of records and the sixth consecutive constructors' title with its third defeat. In total the Maranello team's first places are fifteen, like those of McLaren in 1988 and Ferrari itself in 2002. Thirteen were scored by Michael Schumacher, World Champion for the seventh time, two by Rubens Barrichello, who finished second overall. Then Jenson Button, revelation of the year, who left the scene yesterday after four laps with a broken Honda engine, then Fernando Alonso, who repulsed the assault of Juan Pablo Montoya and Jarno Trulli. A curiosity: the last pit stop with tyre change is Timo Glock's. The last one until the rules are changed, which happens quite frequently now. Juan Pablo Montoya is a happy child on the podium. In Sao Paulo he does not have the following of Rubens Barrichello, but a good claque of Colombians celebrates him properly. It is his farewell race at Williams.
"The best present I could have given Frank (Williams, ed). Thanks to all the guys and to Sam Michael (the technical director, ed) who got the strategy right".
And they all live happily ever after: him, his former employers, those at McLaren who hired him. But won't it be a shame to leave a team that put a winning car in his hands and that seems to have regained competitiveness?
"Raikkonen's second place makes me optimistic".
He then recounts:
"I made a mistake in the first part and I told myself: stay focused, don't do something stupid and keep your position. Even in 2001 I had a good race here".
Kimi Raikkonen is not smiling, but he is so in character:
"Good second place, a pity not to have won because I had a competitive car. The finish? I got close to Juan Pablo without being able to attack him. I couldn't do any more".
The big disappointment is Rubens Barrichello. Exalted on Saturday by the torcida, he was mourning on the lowest step of the podium at the end of the race.
"In wet and dry conditions we are unbeatable, in intermediate conditions not. It's a shame, considering that I was the fastest all weekend. At the end I was exhausted from the tiredness and stress of these days. After the prize giving I had to sit down because my neck hurt. Montoya poured champagne on me, I'm afraid that's not the ideal cure. I thank the team: they did everything they could to put me in a position to win".
Michael Schumacher prefers to talk about the season as a whole:
"We can be proud of what we have achieved. There were so many victories and, of course, the two world titles: there is no reason to be disappointed today, although I have to say I feel sorry for Rubens. As for my race, at first I thought the rain would be a good opportunity for me. Then the track didn't get wet enough: if it had rained more and longer it would have been an advantage. Congratulations to our opponents. The spin? A mistake. I would have finished fourth. I feel fresh enough and ready to continue racing, but I know how important it is now to take a rest before starting the preparation for next season".
While the team men from Maranello simply say:
"We cannot win all the time".
After a night of partying they return to Italy with Barrichello's sad podium, but above all with an unparalleled haul of successes. Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo admits, however:
"It was an extraordinary championship, I think unfortunately unrepeatable. I want to thank all the men at Ferrari for what they did, which is absolutely extraordinary. They deserve this great satisfaction, which is all theirs. I thank the drivers, the technicians, the suppliers, all the collaborators. It has been a year that has given unique satisfaction, of which we are proud".
The longest and most beautiful championship having ended in Sao Paulo, the season of the technicians, working on the new single-seater, and that of the controversies begins. A document for the reduction of testing that Jean Todt refused to sign opened hostilities.
"We will present our proposal together with the FIA. We will continue along the line discussed in May, which so far has only led to a doubling of engine duration. We are in favour of any initiative to reduce costs and increase safety as long as it makes sense. And so far I have not seen any sensible ideas".
"We had just voted on the single engine for two Grands Prix. Then they tell us that instead of testing they are putting in four hours of free practice on Fridays. But it's not made clear whether you can change the engine at the end or not. Nobody knows; some teams have told me yes, others no".
Finally, BAR-Honda, second manufacturer behind Scuderia Ferrari, celebrates. Away from the track, the challenge to Maranello's cars is fought by the new regulations. Nine teams out of ten voted to reduce testing and proposed to eliminate one of the two tyre suppliers. In Brazil, the controversy is toned down.
"It is not true that we are all against Ferrari. On the contrary, we hope it will join us".
Explains Flavio Briatore, who recalls that he agrees with the Maranello team to reduce the engine capacity from 2006.
"If even a giant like Ford leaves Formula 1, the situation is serious. Two things are needed: give the teams more money through a redistribution of revenue and reduce costs. Otherwise you only raise the turnover".
The anti-Ferrari document was also signed by Peter Sauber, the Swiss manufacturer that uses Maranello engines:
"I am convinced that the proposed drastic reduction of test days is the first concrete step towards a substantial reduction of expenses. My signature is absolutely not a gesture against Ferrari, my relations with Jean Todt are excellent".
As the executives of Toyota, the world car giant, argue:
"We would have no economic problem but Formula 1 costs too much for what it gives".
Off the record, Toyota points out that by doing less testing and with a longer engine life it would have the production capacity to supply engines to another team. This could solve the problem of Minardi and Jordan, still looking for an engine after the announced withdrawal of Cosworth, and Jaguar itself. As can be guessed, the last race of the long Formula One season is also lived intensely off the track. The FIA has imposed rules deemed necessary to increase safety by reducing the speed of the cars. But added to the federal diktat was the plan, approved by nine out of ten teams, to limit the number of testing days during the year to ten in order to reduce costs. In return, Bernie Ecclestone's idea of holding a championship of nineteen races would be accepted. The document lacks Ferrari's signature. And Paul Stoddart, owner of Minardi, accuses the Maranello team of not wanting to do anything to contain expenses. Jean Todt, general director of Scuderia Ferrari, responds with a note that leaves nothing to interpretation:
"It is strange that this project was signed without the participation of the FIA, after the series of measures taken by the Formula 1 Commission. It was a subject, that of testing, which should have been addressed long ago. It was an unclear proposal: for 2005, it was agreed that only one engine would be used for two GPs, from an average distance of 700 km to 1400. Should this same engine be used in the four hours of free practice on Friday, in qualifying on Saturday and in the race? I don't think there is unanimity on this point among all the Manufacturers. Furthermore, the desire has emerged to have only one tyre supplier from 2005. It is not right to exclude one manufacturer between Bridgestone and Michelin without notice and with contracts in place.Ferrari will never betray one of its partners. We are motivated to work on improving safety and reducing costs, on the basis of a carefully studied programme. This will be the objective in the coming weeks, with a view to continuity with the work of the FIA as for the calendar, it is important to know what the eighteenth and nineteenth races are actually considered to be. However, it will not be Ferrari that will prevent mythical races like the British and French Grands Prix from taking place if all teams want more than seventeen races in a season. The proposed restriction on private testing will in no way help the small teams, who already do not take advantage of the test days provided for in the current agreement. Finally, I am astonished that, despite the forces in the field, there has not been the slightest mention of increased revenue".
This is the crux of the affair that threatens to split Formula 1 Behind the idea of reducing the number of practice days is certainly Bernie Ecclestone. He is the one who ruled out the British Grand Prix and the French Grand Prix because his exorbitant demands for race fees were not accepted. At the moment he has not responded to Ferrari's demands, formulated by President Luca Montezemolo, to increase the revenue share for the teams, which is limited to 47% of the TV rights. There will be much discussion on this topic. And sensational developments are not excluded. In the meantime, while waiting to see how the matter will develop, on Sunday 31 October 2004, at Monza, 40.000 people in the grandstands enjoyed a dream day; many also from the track, from Ferrari parading its cars and men. Led by president Luca Montezemolo, with Jean Todt, the official drivers and the drivers-customers, technicians and mechanics, the team walks the entire pit straight, to be closer to those who have always supported it. Michael Schumacher speaks to the fans in Italian:
"You are good, indispensable. Come on Ferrari. You, our public, are decisive. I love you".
Then he adds:
"I still want to win races, maybe the World Championship. With Ferrari. We are not tired".
A magical day to celebrate the last two world titles won, the sixth consecutive one among the Constructors, the fifth for the German with the Maranello single-seaters. There were 900 Ferrari cars and Maserati on the circuit, a spectacle. It ended with the display of four F2004s, driven by Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Luca Badoer and Andrea Bertolini. A little earlier there had been six single-seaters to take the laps of honour: all of them world champions, from the 1999 model to the last one, six years in which the classification has always seen a Ferrari in the lead. A largely positive balance. Says Jean Todt:
"This year, even commercially, we will be record-breaking with sales".
And Luca Montezemolo enthusiastically underlines:
"An exceptional year. I fear unrepeatable. True, we also have to look ahead. But we do so with optimism, because Ferrari is an example to follow. Focusing on technology, on innovation, on the value of men and their ability to be a team. It is important for Fiat, for Italy, for our people".
The Ferrari president, speaking of Formula 1, rejects accusations that the Grand Prix, with Ferrari's dominance, has turned into boring races:
"Formula boredom? I would like Ferrari to continue to bore everyone for many years like this. Let them sleep in front of the video, just wake up with one of our cars first at the finish line".
Incidentally, at least as far as Italy is concerned, the championship broadcast on television has broken all audience records. Even for the Brazilian Grand Prix the contacts were more than 10.000.000.
On the controversy triggered by the proposal to reduce the number of testing days to ten during the next racing season, Luca Montezemolo replies:
"I have heard about meetings and strange proposals, bizarre ideas. We will talk about it in the coming months".
One thing is certain: Ferrari is preparing a serious, articulate and documented counter-proposal to reduce costs, which will soon be presented to the FIA. Testing is also a guarantee of safety: how would it be possible to face a race with a new wing or different tyres without having tested them in the best possible way? The changes, when there are any, must also concern the division of revenue, which is the real thorn in the side for all teams, large and small. On the FIA rules for 2005, which after all Ferrari has accepted without any problems, Michael Schumacher has a very clear point of view:
"They are an opportunity for everyone. A challenge that we will face with the usual commitment, determination and the right motivation. The important thing is that the rules go in a direction that does not harm our sport. And in any case, especially in Formula 1, you must never just look back at what you have achieved. Better to think about what has not yet been achieved".
That is why the German champion does not even want to assess which was the most beautiful of the thirteen victories in 2004. As if to say: let's wait for the ones to come. Now that the party is over, the waiting for 2005 begins. In the workshops in Maranello and Fiorano, while the two main drivers will have a long holiday, work is going on to stay at the top. At the end of November, the test drivers will already be on the track to try out the first novelties. The farewell of a champion must be one. Jacques Villeneuve returned to the track at the end of 2004 after just a year's retirement and with results like old motor racing glory. But he must be granted an extenuating circumstance: his retirement had not been spontaneous. BAR, the team he raced for, and to whose birth he had contributed together with his friend-manager Craig Pollock, had changed management and methods. On the eve of the final 2003 Japanese Grand Prix there was a divorce. Renault put him back on track in the last three Grands Prix of the 2004 World Championship, a brief run-in while waiting for the move to Sauber. 2005 will tell whether the class has survived the years and the inactivity in a period when Formula 1 performance has changed a lot. The Canadian, however, peddles optimism:
"I won in 1997, I can do it again".
He claims that age doesn't matter, that he feels like he's back in 1996, on the eve of his Formula 1 debut, that he has time to hit his targets.
"I don't like easy things".
Niki Lauda won two World Championships with Ferrari, retired, returned to the wheel after two years and, after two more, won another title. Jacques Villeneuve avoids comparisons, he already disliked those with his father. But the point of reference is that: one always remembers the best examples, not the many melancholic and inglorious comebacks of the sport's great exes. And the Canadian has a CV, a name, an image to defend: born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu in Quebec, Canada, owner of the most fashionable restaurant in Montreal named Newtown, in 1995 he won the Indy 500 and then continued his career in Formula 1 first with Williams, then with BAR. His first kilometres behind the wheel of the Ferrari-powered Sauber were all too encouraging.
Even suspicious. And there is a catch: the Swiss team changed tyres and switched to Michelin.In winter testing, the engineers decided to collect as much tyre data as possible using the old single-seater in 2004 trim, which they know well. Later they will study the aerodynamic restrictions imposed by the regulations. This means that a car that is faster than the others will now go onto the track, but it will not be able to race. We will see the real Jacques Villeneuve from Sunday, 6 March 2005, at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. And then along the pitfalls of Formula 1's longest season, on tracks he does not know like Bahrain and Turkey. Much will depend on the work of the engineers, who for the first time can create the car from the start in the ultra-modern wind tunnel inaugurated at the beginning of 2004. But the comparison that weighs, the one that measures the value of a driver, is the comparison with the one who has the same car: his teammate. Jacques finds a young boy whose boisterous exuberance he criticised in the past, Felipe Massa.
"I think I will learn a lot from him. It is not necessary to be friends. If I beat him, I will be able to say that I am faster than a World Champion. The important thing is to make the team grow".
Months ago, he was less diplomatic with his country's journalists, describing the Canadian with a single term which, translated into Italian, rhymes with bronze. The two today pretend nothing has happened. Since his return to the track in Shanghaied,':Jàctiùe has 'made a profession of humility. Conciliatory with everyone, friendly with Schumacher, in love with Ferrari, he tries to regain sympathy. Formula 1 gains prestige with him: there will be two rainbow winners on the track. Thus Formula 1's faces and teams change. The Jaguar brand disappears, first of all, but the teams entered in the 2005 World Championship will still be ten. The British team owned by Ford is taken over by Red Bull, while Jordan might add the name Arden to its official name. There will be no rookie drivers in the first six teams of 2004. New faces are expected in Red Bull, which has Austrian Christian Klien under contract, but may give him the role of test driver. In contention are veteran David Coulthard and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi.Other rookies will most likely find space at Jordan and Minardi who, lacking competitive cars, prefer to rely on drivers backed by rich sponsors rather than talented and promising drivers. Michael Schumacher's inheritance continues to remain in the hands of the usual notorious: Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya, while Felipe Massa, put under pressure in 2004 by Giancarlo Fisichella at Sauber, has proved to be almost always slower. On Saturday, 11 December 2004, all the top management of Formula 1 are present at the World Motor Sport Council, in the Empire-style salons of the Hotel de Paris: President Max Mosley, his deputies Ecclestone and Andrea Piccinini, representatives of the Automobile Clubs, car companies, Ferrari with Jean Todt. The definitive calendar for the 2005 Formula 1 World Championship is shown and the hypothesis of a plan to restructure the World Rally Championship, which is in crisis. On the sidelines the World Touring Car Championship is presented, ten races scheduled, one at Puebla in Mexico and another at Macao. Mosley is satisfied. As FIA president, doesn't he fear that the market is becoming inflated? Nineteen Grand Prix in Formula 1, four in July, aren't they too many?
"We don't decide. The teams have agreed, they are fine with it. The Federation takes care of safety and compliance with the regulations. The rest is up to the teams. We care about cost reduction, but in the end it is the protagonists who decide how much they want to spend. It's not easy to get them to agree. People on the street see two cars in the race and about twenty mechanics looking after them.'In reality the racing teams have reached an incredible size: we talk about a thousand employees for the most important ones".
There are disagreements between Ferrari and the other teams over the amount of testing to be done during the season: has a solution been reached?
"No. We are at a standstill. There were proposals that nine teams had made in Brazil: ten days then increased to twenty-four. Ferrari gave its indications, but there was no meeting point. I will bring everyone together on 28 January with the hope of finding a formula that everyone likes. But I am not optimistic. It will go on as in the past. The teams want to spend less, but to be competitive they don't save money".
There were also problems with the decision to bring 2.4 litre V8 engines into 2006. Will the rule pass?
"Here we can have our say. It is a question of safety. With the 3-litre V10s this year we approached 1000 HP power. Next year we will reach the turbo power of the 1980s. We had to make a turn, hopefully everyone understood".
You had also proposed to reduce the tyre suppliers to one. This would also have had an influence on reducing testing....
"It was and remains my conviction. However, the teams changed their minds several times. In my opinion one type of tyre would make the competition more balanced. We will have to talk about it again. For now there is no change".
Do you think that many problems have arisen because they want to end Ferrari's dominance?
"The others are aiming to change the situation. But Ferrari has not appeared to me to be weakened by the changes".
On Thursday 16 December 2004, while testing for the development of the new Ferrari was in full swing, Jean Todt explained to us what secrets allowed the Maranello team to dominate the scene for so long, collecting six Constructors' World Championships and five Drivers' Championships with Michael Schumacher. The general manager does it with his direct collaborators, the engineers Giancarlo Gambini and Paolo Martinelli. What allowed you to defeat all the big constructors in Formula 1?
"At the end of the 2004 World Championship, Ferrari presents these figures: 2196 laps covered in the race for a total of 10.745 km, more than any other team. This figure, added to the results obtained, fifteen victories out of eighteen races, twelve pole positions, fourteen fastest laps in the race, eight doubles, 262 points out of 324 available, is proof of the excellence achieved by the team in terms of reliability and absolute performance".
A reward for consistency?
"There is no hidden secret behind these figures. They are the result of the work and dedication of all those involved in the Sport Management, as well as the commitment of the partners. The method applied in the processing of the pieces, in the control and in the assembly phase is fundamental. Over the years our standard has progressively increased, reducing both the percentage of pieces unsuitable for use in the Gran Fremi and human errors to a minimum. The pilots are also of decisive importance; because they are entrusted with the management of the car on the track".
How important are those who work behind the scenes?
"Even though there is a department dedicated to quality control in the Scuderia Ferrari, in fact all the workers in charge of processing are involved in this process, starting with the designers. Furthermore, particular attention was given to the involvement of partners and suppliers. They must give us products that respect our parameters, we have established a collaboration that produces mutual benefits".
Will you still rule?
"We know how difficult it was to achieve this level of excellence and how easy it is to lose it: great effort and great motivation will be needed to stay where we are. It is certain that we will give it our all, always".
No one, like you, produces everything in-house, from the engine to the chassis, down to every detail. Perhaps this is one of the secrets - Gambini, responsible for quality, smiles
"Some results come from very far away. We had to prepare procedures, instructions and methods to ensure that all the components arrive at assembly in compliance with the specifications, technical data sheets, specifications and drawings issued by the management. We go from a 100 to 1 check by sampling on the components that arrive in batches. We are continually making improvements and modifications but all new parts have to be tested, they never go straight to the race. So for every novelty that can have important variants. If necessary we do a long run on the bench to test new solutions, and before this test nothing can go into competition. There would be no certainty of the impact it could have".
And how are engines that never break born? Paolo Martinelli, manager of the engine department, replies:
"The secret is to calculate the exact resistance limit without exceeding it. One of Ferrari's fortunes has been teamwork, the common method for optimizing performance and reliability. Starting from who designs in the various activities and who designs certain types of product. finally who uses it: the rider and the team, called to manage it on the track. We can be good at doing the calculations but if the vehicle is abused it breaks down. It's a fundamental approach: the whole team has maximum attention to detail, an almost philosophical approach. We guarantee the reliability of the single-seater in all its parts, engine, gearbox, chassis, suspension".
Why aren't the others so good?
"It's not a matter of luck, which can happen sometimes in Formula 1 but statistically it doesn't count. What counts is the way of working and correctly tackling the technical problem, that is, being as fast as it is reliable: for pure performance, reliability cannot be renounced. Obviously you have to get to the finish line in order to win. Experience is very useful, it also becomes important to intercept a small defect that can herald a serious anomaly".
On Sunday 26 December 2004, at the conclusion of an extraordinary World Championship for the Scuderia Ferrari, Luca Montezemolo, speaking of the future and of the next season, warned the team from Maranello and said:
"It's going to be tough, very tough".
This sentence, repeated several times, constitutes the only risky prediction made by Luca Montezemolo on the next Formula 1 World Championship. The president of Ferrari, in the traditional Christmas meeting with the Italian press, does not hide the difficulties that the team will have to face in 2005. On the one hand, the awareness of having a strong, compact, determined team; on the other, the fear that many factors could work in favor of increasingly fierce and hungry opponents, after years of beatings, which began in 1999 and never stopped, until the end of last season. There are many reasons that may suggest a championship fraught with obstacles. First of all an unprecedented travel marathon: nineteen races to be run, from Sunday 6 March 2005, when it will start in Australia, up to Sunday 16 October 2005, when the very long challenge with the Chinese Grand Prix will end. Then the rivals determined to put an end to the dominance of the Maranello team, but also and above all new regulations that could create problems for the team led by Jean Todt. The championship will not grant truces. Tens of thousands of kilometers to go, with several races within seven days of each other. There will be only one week in May between the Monaco Grand Prix and the European one at the Nurburgring, one between France and Great Britain, one between Canada and the United States, Germany and Hungary, Italy and Belgium, Japan and China. Furthermore, on Sunday 21 August 2005 there will be the debut in Turkey, on an unknown circuit, full of unknowns. One short stop, for 21 days, in August. A crazy tour de force in any case, interspersed, when possible, with private tests. The biggest problem will be thinking about the development of the car, preparing the spare parts, the modifications, the tyres. But the physical and psychological stress should not be underestimated.
It will be necessary to be in great shape in early March in Melbourne and stay focused and toned until Shanghai in the first shadows of autumn.As far as tires are concerned, Ferrari is left almost alone alongside Bridgestone, which can only line up two other teams in its lineup, Jordan and Minardi, which usually carry out very few tests. Competition with Michelin boasts a whole package of superstars: Williams-Bmw, McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Bar-Honda and Toyota, to which are added the newborn Red Bull and Sauber. This means that when the Bridgestones are competitive, Ferrari will be able to achieve a maximum of one first and one second place. Otherwise, on tracks where the French tires are better, the Maranello team risks finishing sixth, seventh, or even worse. So every placement will become decisive. Being able to use only one set of tires from Saturday qualifying to the end of the race could create problems for Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. One of Ferrari's strengths in recent years has come from the flexibility of the strategies to be adopted in the race. In order to make the most of the quality of the tires. Now that the pit stops will be made only for supplies, the tactical possibilities will inevitably be reduced, even if they will leave a small margin of play for Ross Brawn and his collaborators. The technical innovations required by the FIA, according to initial tests, will make the cars more difficult to drive. The Maranello team had achieved a perfect balance in 2004. Now he will have to re-study the profiles of the car. But this is true for everyone, even as regards the commitment of the pilots. On the other hand, there shouldn't be any particular woes about the obligation to use a single engine for two Grands Prix. Until now Ferrari has been the queen in terms of reliability, even if when you have to change everything you always run the risk of making mistakes.
"I saw Schumacher in excellent condition".
Says Luca Montezemolo, confident in the temperament of the German champion. Rubens Barrichello promises a better season than the previous ones. We must always believe in the Maranello team. But the rivals have tried to strengthen themselves. McLaren alongside Kimi Raikkonen took Juan Pablo Montoya. And patron Ron Dennis hopes to review the struggles in the family when Ayrton Senna ran against Alain Prost and the Frenchman against Niki Lauda. Williams have opted for Australian Mark Webber and will announce the second driver on January 6, 2005. Toyota have revolutionized the ranks and strengthened themselves with Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli. Renault is always betting on Fernando Alonso who, however, will have a driver of Giancarlo Fisichella's worth at his side. BAR will continue with Jenson Button and Takuma Sato, but will be stronger after Honda have basically taken control of the team. The others will matter less, but there is already enough to suffer. Meanwhile, Minardi has just announced its first driver for 2005: the twenty-five-year-old Dutchman Christian Albers, former German Formula 3 Champion.