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With Fernando Alonso leading the Drivers' Championship and his team running second to Red Bull in the Constructors' Championship, the Spaniard's engineer Andrea Stella is delighted with the way Ferrari has fought back since the start of the season.
"At the start of the season it would have required one to be extremely optimistic to imagine such a situation," Stella told the team's website, ahead of this weekend's German Grand Prix, which mark s the halfway stage of the 2012 season. "But in this sport, things can change very quickly and we have always maintained a positive attitude. The current situation is the result of this attitude combined with a lot of hard work."
"The car was good in Valencia, it was also good in Silverstone," he continued. "And as Hockenheim is a mix of the slow speed of Valencia and high speed of Silverstone, I would expect Ferrari to be competitive in Germany."
Of course, like so many of this season's previous races, tyres look set to be the key issue. "In the past in Hockenheim, managing the tyres was difficult, especially the front left," the Italian admitted, "and sometimes we also saw blistering on the rear tyres. So it could be an interesting weekend from the tyre point of view."
One of the weak points of the F2012 has been a deficiency when it comes to outright top speed however, Stella is not too concerned about having to deal with this at Hockenheim. "You always want to get more and more top speed as it brings benefits in terms of reducing the lap time and it makes life easier during the race. But of course, top speed is the counterpart to downforce and in a way, if we are limited when it comes to top speed, that is partly because our car is performing well when it comes to downforce. However, it is definitely an area where we are trying to improve for the future."
While it is the Maranello outfit's policy to aim to bring updates to every race, right through to the final round in November, Stella feels the team's approach to how it goes about its racing is much the same as always. "We simply adapted the aerodynamic development of the car and progress also came as we gained a better understanding of the tyres," he said. "In fact, the tyres have been a major challenge this year, as well as optimising the aerodynamics, the latter because of the change of rules in this area compared to last year. However, another important challenge we all face this year is not so much a technical one, but stems from the fact that the performance level of many of the cars is extremely close."
While the F2012 has been genuinely competitive in recent races, there was a point earlier in the season when Alonso was getting more out of the car than seemed possible and Stella clearly relishes working with the two times world champion. "The relationship is more solid and we know each other much better," said the Italian. "From my point of view and that of the other engineers, it is important that we know what the driver wants and what he requires to go fast and this aspect has improved in the two and a half years I have been working with Fernando. At the moment, things are going well, so let's hope it stays like this."
Recalling the Valencia podium, Stella was only too happy to talk about the other two drivers up there with his boy, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher, both world champions with the Scuderia. "Michael is a great racer, very strong in the race and very strong in the way he controlled the rear end of the car. He was very talented in this respect, even if he could be a bit too aggressive sometimes in the races. Kimi was very, very quick when the car was operating in a certain window. In this situation he can be the fastest, although when the car was not in that window, he had to work harder to find the optimal point with the car. And with Fernando, his strong point is that, basically, he does not have weak points! He is strong as a driver in the car in all conditions, from dry to extreme wet and outside the car, he is very consistent and strong mentally, which is very important in modern Formula 1."
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