Stefano Domenicali is in no way new in the world of F1. He took over the position as Team Principal of Ferrari between 2008 and 2014 after the departure of Jean Todt, and after leaving Scuderia he became a CEO and President of Lamborghini. After the departure of Chase Carey from the position of CEO and executive chairman of F1, Domenicali was the one appointed in his place. The beginning of 2021 marked his start in the position.
In a recent interview with Daily Mail, he was asked a couple of different questions. The first one had to do with the pursuit for more diversity initiated and led by Sir Lewis Hamilton, who in the previous year called for embracing different cultures in the sport and moving away from it’s white-male-centric base. When asked about if F1 had a problem with racism, Domenicali said: “I don't perceive that. At least I don't see that from personal experience; in truth, the other way round. Formula One started in certain parts of the world — Europe — but it has moved into other areas and multi-culturalism is growing. This growth is a value, an asset. When I joined Ferrari in 1991 it was 99.9 per cent Italian. Then we were joined by people from the UK, France, Japan, Switzerland, Germany — changing in terms of culture and colour, offering an incredible possibility to know people who were different.”
He added: “Down on a knee, knees up — these things have different meanings depending on where you are in the world. It is important these gestures, which need to be respectful to the sensibilities of everyone, are backed up with actions, with credible context. I want to discuss the knee with the drivers. We do not want to be focused on a single gesture. There is a big platform before races but we do not want to maximise it in a political way. We want to highlight values that are important to the world and to Formula One. We want to have a scholarship to help people who can't afford a certain degree of study to get into Formula One and to grant accessibility to everyone, to get more women into top positions.”
Then, Domenicali reflected on the current grid, and especially the figure of the Mercedes driver, who’s ability to focus, his driving and simultaneous ability to focus on bigger issues is admired by Domenicali. As he said in regards to Sir Hamilton: “I haven't asked Lewis how long he will go on. He knows I want him to go on and on. He is incredible, at the top of his profession and that position gives him great credibility talking about other issues that are important to him. The fight on the track this year will not be easy. The level of the top drivers is the best it has ever been.”
As he said about others on the grid: “Max Verstappen seems like an old guy because he has been around a long time, but he is just 23. Charles Leclerc at Ferrari is strong, Carlos Sainz has gone to Ferrari. There is Fernando Alonso back with Alpine. Sebastian Vettel is at Aston Martin and will want to show he is not the driver we saw last season. Lando Norris at McLaren. George Russell at Williams. Mick Schumacher at Haas. Ha, I knew him when he was a bump in his mother Corinna's body. He reminds me of Michael. He is a team player — Michael was that more than anything else. A small detail: the first time I saw Michael he had a notebook with him, and the first time I saw Mick at his Prema team (with whom he won the F2 title last year) he had a notebook and pen.”
Domenicali was also asked about the controversy of going to Saudi Arabia in the end of November, for a new F1 round there. What has racing there have to do with pursuit of diversity, when the country so openly violates human rights? Also, what are the potential future venues for F1? He responded: “Zero embarrassment. Formula One has a role to play in advancing our values in different places in the world. Sport can progress this in a faster way, shining a spotlight. We can be an enabler and are discussing these kinds of things with the Saudis.”
He added: 'I want about one third of the races in Europe and then to expand globally. Two races in America. We are in talks with African countries, South Africa and north Africa and an additional race or two in the Far East, maybe Korea.’
As reported in another Daily Mail interview, F1 is also trying to introduce different formats. The not-so-praised by many idea of sprint races will be pushed at three different venues this season, and according to the news one of those will be at Silverstone, where the Saturday qualifying session will be moved to Friday and replaced by a sprint race, that will further determine the positions on the grid for Sunday.
Now, just ahead of testing, Domenicali is heading to Bahrain to watch the preliminary to the beginning of the season, as well as interact with the drivers, talk with them and listen to what they have to say. When asked if there will be anything else he will be discussing with the grid, he responded: “Don't shoot the sport in the feet. We have a lot to be proud about — viewing figures are up, and we have a great product. If there is anything we need to discuss we can do it constructively inside these four walls.”