Todt on Sepang, wings and 2006

20/03/2006
NEWS STORY

Although both of his cars had finished in the points in Malaysia, fifth and the sixth was not the result he'd hoped for, and certainly not what Ferrari fans around the world had expected, following the Italian team's strong start to the season in Bahrain.

Therefore, when asked about his team's performance at Sepang, Jean Todt gave a typically Gallic shrug.

"I would say that we started from the twentieth lap quite good," he began. "However, we had to start the race at the first lap, and needless to say that starting from where we started, we can only be pleased with the final result, even if it's not pleasing, generally speaking, it's the best result we could expect to do today.

"It has been a tough weekend because we had to identify a potential risk of reliability on Michael's engine, a clear problem Felipe had at the first race, which meant that we decided to change his engine, we changed it again this morning, always to try to take as little risk as possible.

"Otherwise the package was quite good, even though I feel we need to be a bit more competitive. Tyres, definitely Bridgestone made some progress and it's quite interesting to have some other good teams with Bridgestone, because we can see some development which seems promising for the future."

And will the engine problem be sorted out fairly easily?

"I think we already did one step forward with today's engine," he replies. "I think we've understood quite a lot of things. That's why the factory has been working hard and it's been positive. Even if we saw some other teams have had their problems with engine reliability and some others didn't. So we have to be focused on doing our best, not on what other people's problems.

Asked to specify the problem, he replied: "It's around the piston. We have a specific failure that comes from the component so it's around that.

'Were those engines built a week later and were they in the programme?' he is asked. "No they weren't of a different batch, they were of a different specification," he responds.

So is it a manufacturing or a component problem?

"At the moment we are still analysing, before making a final judgement," he admits. "We need to have very accurate analysis."

In terms of the championship, Todt is asked if he is disappointed that Michael finished behind Felipe.

"After two races it's too early," he replies, clearly exasperated. "Felipe could not defend his chances in his first Grand Prix in Bahrain, so I think he did a pretty good job today. He was on a different strategy and considering the traffic Michael had, he could not take advantage of the two pit stops, and Felipe could take advantage of one pit stop. It's too early, at the moment. I was very happy for Felipe to be able to…" he trails off.

"He's under a lot of pressure as well," he continues, "so it's important that he can score points and he can demonstrate that he's a very good driver."

In retrospect does Todt regret pushing Michael all the way to third qualifying and not pulling him out as he did with Felipe?

"No," he replies without hesitation, "we knew that he could be in quite a good position at the start but we knew that it was a different strategy. On paper, two pit stops was quicker but then you can't predict the traffic.

"Renault did a good job," he adds, "they are the ones who did the best job."

Other than the race, the big story of the day is the news that eight team have signed a letter, calling on the FIA to investigate the flexibility of the front wing on the 248 F1. Todt is asked if the team has been asked to make any modifications to the car's wings for Melbourne?

"Ross has been talking with the FIA who were happy with the conformity, the legality of our cars," he replies, "and if there is something the FIA want us to do we will apply to what they ask us which was not the case today."

Nonetheless, TV images, seen in millions of homes around the world, clearly showed that the front wing was moving a lot - surely this is outside the rules?

"If it was outside the rules, considering the noise which has been made about that, I don't think we would be talking about our result today," is Todt's firm response.

One of the rival teams has officially protested, but eight of them have written to the FIA following a meeting on Sunday morning.

"They sent a letter," Todt agrees, "and you all have had a copy of this letter. If they want… either you do it or you don't do it. Nothing prevents them from protesting if they wanted to. The FIA say that it's OK for them."

So will Ferrari take a modified front wing to Melbourne?

"We are not in Melbourne," he snaps. "Ask me the question in Melbourne.

"Myself, I try to be a manager. I am not a technical director, so my people will know much better about this; they will then suggest to me what we should do. You must know your limit in life; I try to know mine."

"So no deal has been done?" he's asked.

"I would never do any deal with anybody in this business," he fires back, "only with people I contract to work for Ferrari, that's the only deal I do.

Moving on from the contentious issue of the Ferrari wing(s), Todt is asked how he sees the competitiveness at the front of the grid after two round of the championship.

"There are four teams which are very strong, even five teams, because Williams has been very strong, was strong in Bahrain, and was strong today. There was a problem with reliability but otherwise they were very competitive. I see five teams who are good competitors at the moment, and some others who may have good potential. We saw some teams who were not as good as they were in performance at this Grand Prix."

So will this be a particularly competitive season? "For me, all seasons are competitive," he replies, "each season is competitive."

And Renault in particular? "There is no major reason why they should not be competitive," he says. "They were very good last year, so it's continuity; the same people."

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Published: 20/03/2006
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