Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali (he’s popular today isn’t he?) has claimed that Fernando Alonso can beat Michael Schumacher, provided Ferrari can give him the car that he needs.
After the Schumacher domination years of 2000-2004, Alonso broke the German’s streak with back-to-back championship wins, which included the titanic battle between the two in 2006. Michael retired at the end of 2006, but he is finally back, and will put the challenge to Alonso.
“Everyone will look at Michael as very strong of course,” said Domenicali during Ferrari’s traditional winter ski event. “As Michael decided to address this challenge he is convinced he will have a car which can give him the possibility to show once again the driver that he is.
“Last year when we tackled the issue of substituting Felipe [Massa] we thought about him because we are convinced that Michael is an extraordinary, very strong driver. From this point of view, Fernando has all that is necessary to defeat him.
“But a driver can be the best in the world but without the best tools, even the best in the world will have problems winning. It will be up to us to give him the right car.”
Regarding the battle between team-mates Alonso and Felipe Massa, he said:
“If by explosive you mean a couple of drivers that are strong, aggressive, competitive and have the ambition to win, this is the minimum goal that Ferrari must have together with its drivers,” said Domenicali when asked about the potential for intra-team fireworks.
“Let’s not forget that our characteristic has always been putting the interest of the team at the core of everything, both Felipe and Fernando know what our context is, how they have to move and the rules of our team.
“When you have strong drivers you have to manage them, this is true, but what is most important is to give them a car which may be a winning car or a competitive car from the start, and they will be able as professional as they are to take it to the end of races in the best possible position.
“I tackle things calmly. The rules are very clear: whoever comes to Ferrari knows where they are working and they appreciate how we work.
“In the case of Felipe and Kimi [Raikkonen], in one year one driver was ahead of the other, in the second year the opposite happened, and so there was a form of respect.
“To be the fastest doesn’t only depend on oneself, it depends on the context, on races which come out in a specific way which allow you to tackle the championship or lead you to help your team-mate to win the championship. This is something that from the outside people try to generate competition within our team and to attack us on this front, but it is more rational and calm that what might appear from abroad and the outside.”
He believes the atmosphere has already improved within the team, saying: “It’s a sparkling environment. It’s like a gush of fresh air which brings new stimuli.” This may be construed as a shot against former driver Kimi Raikkonen.