Ferrari chief admits time is running out

Domenicali says team must 'react very, very quickly' to rectify worst start in decades

Stefano Domenicali does not do the poker face and stiff upper lip that was the traditional mien of Ferrari team principals of yore, who would secretly dread having to make a telephone call to an irascible Enzo Ferrari back in his lair in Maranello to explain why his beloved red cars had not won a race.

Ferrari himself is long gone but, in Luca di Montezemolo, Domenicali has an equally tough taskmaster and this has been the Scuderia's worst start to a season in years. To rub salt into the wound, the architect of their title successes during this decade, Ross Brawn, has won two races and his car, driven by Jenson Button, leads the world championship.

Yesterday Domenicali explained how they plan to turn things around. "For me the most important thing is that back home at the factory people stay totally focused," he said. "In each of the three races so far there have been some situations that have affected all of the areas of the company, operations, reliability and performance. Each department head must focus on their area to get us back to our usual standard.

"We must react very, very quickly," he added. "The championship has just begun and we have seen one day to another how things can change. We are pushing as hard as we can. The important thing from those first three races is that even if we could not perform to our maximum level we should have been able to score points."

The former champion Niki Lauda recently offered a reason for Ferrari's failure: their Italian character. "I take it very personally when people suggest that because we are Italians we cannot get things to work properly," Domenicali countered. "We have won titles and races in the past with fundamentally the same team."

Then, of course, there is the vexed issue of two-tier diffusers. Ferrari will have one in time for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona early next month.

"This is a very important race," Domenicali said. "We need to move off zero and to avoid panic. Our people are very motivated and nobody feels negative when they read in successive weeks that this is Ferrari's worst start to a season since 1982, then 1981, then 1969... We look ahead."

He also appreciates what he has to do to help his team, even the former champion Michael Schumacher. "Michael is very important for our group. At certain moments he can be heavy because of his personality, but his positives far outweigh his negatives. As for the others, I cannot be an engineer, but for sure an important part of my job is to be a psychologist."

Enzo Ferrari, a manipulator of men, would never have understood that.

* The future of the British Grand Prix was thrown into doubt yesterday when legal proceedings were issued by Wheatcroft & Son Ltd, the owners of Donington Park, the race's venue from next year, against the circuit's operators, seeking £2.47m in rent arrears and forfeiture of the lease.

0

The number of points Ferrari have won in the first three grands prix of the season.

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