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Talking to The Times, Ferrari's Nigel Stepney, has admitted that the Italian team faces a difficult time following the retirement of Michael Schumacher, and various internal changes, including a possible sabbatical for Ross Brawn
"It's not going to be easy," admitted the Englishman, whose role is designated as 'Race and Test Technical Manager'. "I don't know at the moment what's happening to Ross, but taking two or three members out of the team and with people moving up into their places, it's difficult to say. It depends if everybody respects the people and responds in the same way to their predecessors."
After years in the wilderness, scoring the occasional, usually fortuitous, win, the Italian team, ruled by men in grey suits for several years following the death of Enzo Ferrari in 1988, set about re-establishing itself as a major force in the sport.
Under the guidance of Luca di Montezemolo, who had helped guide the Maranello outfit to glory in the mid-70s, the team set about recruiting some of the best names in the business, starting with Peugeot rally boss, Jean Todt in 1993, and culminating in Michael Schumacher, who was signed in late 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.
"Having over 90 per cent of the team together for that amount of time is pretty unusual," says Stepney (above with Ross Brawn), "not losing people. Even if we lost one engineer or some technicians, it didn't upset the applecart and we were able to keep continuity because we all grew up as a team together.
With regards Schumacher's retirement and the imminent arrival of Kimi Raikkonen, Stepney admits that he is awe of the German.
"For me, he is still the best driver out there at the moment," says the Englishman. "I don't know about Fernando Alonso, I've never worked with him, but at 37 years old, Michael is still very, very good and it's still very difficult for anybody to compete against him."
As for Kimi: "It's not going to be easy for him," says Stepney, "and it's not going to be easy for us, because after ten years you get into a certain rhythm and way of working and understanding, and interpreting the driver, and then you get another driver, so it's going to take a while."
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