SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso spoke warmly of Stefano Domenicali on Thursday and revealed he had yet to speak to new Ferrari Formula One team boss Marco Mattiacci ahead of Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.
Domenicali, who had been with the Italian team for 23 years, quit this week after taking responsibility for a poor start to the season for the sport’s oldest and most successful constructor.
Mattiacci, a Ferrari executive with no Formula One experience, has taken charge of the team after previously heading the company’s North America operations.
“I think that Stefano was a great man, first of all,” Alonso, who has been at Ferrari since 2010, told reporters at the Shanghai International Circuit where he won last year.
“I’m a close friend of his, not just on the circuit. We ski together every January in Italy in the mountains. We still have a close relationship,” added the Spaniard, who won his two championships with Renault.
“I think that will continue, because we have known each for many years and we have worked very closely for these couple of years, so that’s important, to separate work from friendship.”
Neither Alonso nor team mate Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, has met the new boss yet, and the Spaniard said Ferrari needed to give him time.
“No, I haven’t had the chance...I don’t know if he’s coming here. I guess so, so it would be a good time to welcome him,” Alonso said when asked if he had spoken to Mattiacci about the changes he would like to see in the team.
“I don’t really have much to say, I drive the car. He will be good enough to recognize what are the weak areas of the team, what are the strong areas of the team and hopefully improve them,” added Alonso.
Raikkonen doubted Mattiacci’s lack of Formula One experience would hamper the team.
“I don’t know him...but he has some great people around him and for sure people to help him so I don’t see that there will be any issues,” said the Finn.
Domenicali took over at the helm of Ferrari’s Formula One squad in 2008, succeeding Frenchman Jean Todt who had presided over the most successful era in the team’s history.
Ferrari have not won a title since the constructors’ championship in 2008.
“Obviously we missed opportunities in 2010, in 2012,” said Alonso, runner-up in both those years to Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
“They missed opportunities in 2008 with Felipe (Massa). If not, he (Domenicali) could probably have three championships in his pocket.”
Raikkonen said he was surprised to see Domenicali go.
“It’s sad because obviously he was a great guy and (I) worked with him for many, many years and even when I didn’t race I spoke to him often so that’s how it goes. I’m sure we can handle these kinds of things.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin nL3N0N93CM