Ferrari has moved to overcome the tire issues that hurt its form last season by signing former Bridgestone Formula 1 chief Hirohide Hamashima to work in its technical department.
Throughout 2011, both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa struggled at times to get the most out of their tires – especially in using the harder compounds. As part of a major overhaul of its technical structure and approach, Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali revealed that Hamashima had joined the team today. Hamashima will report to technical director Pat Fry, and will be used to help improve the interaction of the Ferrari car and its tires.
Speaking about the role that Hamashima will have, Domenicali said: "Hamashima joins today and in the future we will get his contribution on the development of the car and the issue of tires. There was an issue last year where we suffered in some conditions, and the goal is of having a major contribution from his part. He will be a reference for us – and we expect an important contribution from him."
He added: "He knows the world of tires. His knowledge is fundamental and we have used this occasion to strengthen our understanding in this area. Last year we were not that good in exploiting all the tires we had in hand, so that is the reason why he has come into the team."
Hamashima served as Bridgestone's director of motorsport tire development in F1 until the Japanese company left the sport at the end of 2010. Last year he worked in MotoGP.
The surprise appointment of Hamashima comes at a time when Ferrari has undertaken a major reshuffle of its organization under the guidance of Fry, which has included the appointment of several staff. Domenicali only confirmed the arrival of Steve Clark from Mercedes GP to help its track engineering, but it is also believed Ferrari has recruited stress engineer Jonathan Heal and aerodynamicist Lawrence Hodge from McLaren.
Although the true benefit of these changes will not be felt for many months, Domenicali reckons that Ferrari should be in a position to make up for the disappointment of last season.
"We rely on [Fry] to try and reorganize the structure that we wanted, and in the last couple of months we have done a significant job," he said. "It is not complete yet, but it doesn't mean we have excuses to wait and see."
As well as the focus on its technical department, Ferrari has made an aggressive push with the design of its 2012 car, which is to be unveiled for the first time at Maranello on Feb. 3.
"Let me say that especially from a mechanical point of view it is a break from the past," explained Domenicali. "It is going to be a different car, but the diversity becomes relevant if it becomes competitive...there are some new concepts in the car that have never been used in our previous cars."
Speaking about expectations for 2012, Domenicali was cautious about making too many bold predictions.
"We know that there are expectations and it is part of our heritage and part of our presence," he said. "We know we have to be realistic. We don't have to shout anything before the job on track.
"I see inside the team a lot of great effort to maximize the performance in a lot of areas – the performance for sure, I would say. As you know, we have to be on top of every detail to make sure we are a winning team. We have to stay ahead of others at the starts, we have to improve the pit stop operation, we have to be on the spot with reliability, and we know on the mechanical side the car has to be perfect.
"In terms of strategy management in the race, all these areas have to be at the limit if you want to win, and this is the target we have within the team."
Domenicali dismissed recent reports that engineer Marco Fainello was joining Mercedes GP, revealing that the engineer was switching to Ferrari's road car division.
"He remains in Ferrari as a person responsible for simulation programs, in terms of the industrial part of the group," he said.