Dramatic unveiling of ‘extreme’ Ferrari
FERRARI has launched the car it hopes will finally bring Formula 1 world titles back to Italy.
In a grand and dramatic reveal of its car at the 1000-seat Romolo Valli theatre in Reggio Emilia - a theatrical show which featured a classical concert orchestra with DJ Benny Benassi, and several dance routines - the new SF1000 became the first 2020 challenger to be unveiled in the flesh.
Ferrari has insisted its new contender features some "very extreme" concepts compared to last year's SF90 as it bids to catch world champions Mercedes.
"It may look very similar to last year but, believe me, it is completely different," declared team boss Mattia Binotto.
Sebastian Vettel, joined again in Ferrari's line-up by rising star Charles Leclerc, added: "We had an opportunity to see it a little bit before and to have also a direct comparison with last year's car and you can really spot the differences. Especially when it comes to packaging and the back part of the car."
Ferrari has finished second to Mercedes in each of the last three seasons, but the title challenges of 2017-2018 were not followed up with a similarly strong campaign last year with the team achieving just three wins to its rivals' 15.
"We are all very conscious of the huge responsibilities that lie on our shoulders and we clearly are very focused on the ultimate goal, which is victory. I believe we have the talent and determination to meet those ambitions," said chief executive Louis Camilleri.
Binotto begins his second season in charge and has insisted he has the personnel in place to end Mercedes' unprecedented championship success, which has now surpassed Ferrari's from their own golden Michael Schumacher era in the early 2000s.
Ferrari last won a world title, the Constructors' Championship, in 2008, while Kimi Raikkonen was its last world champion in 2007.
The car name, the SF1000, is reference to the fact Ferrari will reach 1000 F1 grands prix during the course of this season.
"It's more red this year, a good thing," F1 pundit Martin Brundle tweeted. "More slender in the right places too. 2020 cars are purposeful but laden with ugly aero jewellery, and those engine cover sails are sneaking back in. The stopwatch never lies, so we'll see how it goes next week. Should be a cracking season."
VETTEL VS LECLERC - PART II
Starting their second season as teammates, Vettel and Leclerc find themselves in different positions to this time last year.
Leclerc, who is 10 years younger than four-time champion Vettel, enjoyed a stunning debut campaign at Maranello and finished 2019 as the Ferrari driver with the most poles, wins and points.
The 22-year-old's results were rewarded over the winter with a new extended contract to the end of 2024.
"The year approach is a little bit different because now I know the team, I know more or less the car - this is an improvement from last year's car - and we have been working hard together," said Leclerc.
Out of contract this December, it is therefore Vettel, the champion of 2010-13, who starts the campaign with the uncertain future and potentially at a crossroads in his illustrious career.
Vettel and Leclerc's fight for on-track supremacy produced several on-track flashpoints last year, including a collision at the penultimate race in Brazil, but Sky F1's Jenson Button believes year two will prove more fruitful for Ferrari collectively.
"When there's a young gun in your team - we found it with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton when they were teammates in McLaren - it does hurt the experienced driver a little bit," Button said.
"But once you get over that and look at him as an equal it's very different and I think they will work well together. I hope they do, because it's important for the championship."
WHERE DOES FERRARI NEED TO IMPROVE?
The winners of a record 16 constructors' titles had appeared poised to mount a fierce challenge for Mercedes' crowns last year after impressing in winter testing, but the Barcelona timesheets quickly proved a false dawn once the season began.
Struggling to find a Mercedes-beating balance between straight-line and cornering performance, Ferrari did not win a race until the season's 13th round and, even though it enjoyed a stronger second half to the year, pole-winning qualifying performances were often not replicated in the races.
Aerodynamic improvements have therefore been a clear and obvious area of work on the SF1000.
"The starting point is that of last year, the SF90," explained Binotto. "Certainly we have been extreme on all the concepts as much as we could. We develop the car and look for maximise performance and try to maximise the downforce level.
"The car, the monocoque, the power unit, the gearbox has been really packaged in a way to have a very narrow and slim body shape and I think that is quite visible on it. The suspension has been designed to have greater flexibility on the racetrack. We've put a lot of effort to keep the weight down, and a lot on the power unit, not only on the packaging, but on each single component to try to first on the performance but to cope as well with the changing technical regulations."
Assessing the car, Vettel was suitably impressed: "I think it's an incredible achievement. I like it a lot. It's impossible to predict (the season). But I see there's a lot of hours that went into the car, a lot of effort, and I think it is a step forward."