Ferrari cautious over F138 but still targetting title

2013 F1 seasonPosted on Author Keith Collantine

As far as Fernando Alonso is concerned his new car for 2013 is already an improvement over the one he raced last year in one respect.

“I think last year the car was beautiful but the nose of the car on the front part was a little bit strange because the regulations and this step in the nose was not nice, aesthetic,” he said after the today’s launch.

“So I think this year with a more normal Formula One nose the whole car looks a little bit more together.”

Ferrari F138 launch, 2013At the launch of the F2012 even Ferrari admitted it was not their most attractive car. But that paled into insignificance when it fell at the first hurdle.

It was disastrously slow out of the box and only a significant overhaul in time four round five salvaged their season. Ferrari and Alonso won praise for taking the fight to rivals who had produced quicker cars.

But, ironically, the fact he stayed in the hunt for the drivers’ championship until the bitter end may have already compromised their start to 2013 with the F138.

“Last year, we had to push on the development of the F2012 right to the end of the year, while initial development of the F138 began towards the end of last season with the bulk of the aerodynamic work being carried out in Maranello,” explained chief designer Nikolas Tombazis.

The F138 is the first Ferrari produced since their technical reorganisation, which was prompted by a comparatively lean two years in which they won four races. The role of deputy chief director his now filled by two people who work on alternating cars.

Simone Resta was the man tasked with designing the F138. “There were very few changes to the regulations, but nevertheless we chose to work on and modify all aspects of the car, trying to move forward in every area, because we felt there was a significant amount of performance that could be gained with this new car,” he said.

“I would say the biggest changes relate to the front suspension, which has an improved layout, while at the rear, the suspension is completely new. We also have a revised sidepod design, aimed at improving the aerodynamics in this area, as well as a completely new layout for the exhaust system.”

The wind tunnel at the team’s Italian base proved a persistent source of trouble last year. Although they have addressed that problem the solution for 2013 is not without some compromises:

“All the work for this season?s car will be carried out in the Toyota tunnel in Germany while we upgrade the Maranello wind tunnel to bring it up to the right level. It is now quite old and needs upgrading having served us well for 12 years,” said Tombazis.

“The ideal situation would be to have the wind tunnel right here and I cannot say that using a wind tunnel in Cologne is the perfect solution, but weighing up the medium and long term advantages of having an upgrade on our wind tunnel or carrying on as it was, we concluded that our current strategy was the best.”

Ferrari F138 launch, 2013Tombazis added the team would not be drawing conclusions about the F138 too soon after testing commences on Tuesday:

“The launch specification car, that will run at the first test, has had a relatively small amount of wind tunnel development because it was fixed straight after the end of the season, when we pushed so late on the F2012. However, I believe we will have a strong package for the third test and first race.”

This perhaps explains why Alonso won’t be at the first test, preferring to spend more time in the car when its closer to its definitive race one specification.

The team also has an eye on the forthcoming rules changes for 2014. Alonso said that getting the 2013 car right from the outset will make life easier for the team later in the year when their attention switches to the 2014 car.

“I know there is a big change for us, a big challenge for the engineers to change so much the engine, the car etc… It will be a lot of job from us and from the team in the late part of 2013. So for that it’s even more important to have a good start of this year to really have a clean 2014 preparation.”

Ferrari have not won a world championship since the last major change in the regulations at the beginning of 2009. President Luca di Montezemolo has never disguised his distaste for the current F1 rules, where testing is restricted and aerodynamic development has assumed critical importance at the expense of engine development, which is frozen.

But despite stressing the changes and compromises behind the scenes, Ferrari are not setting their sights for 2013 any lower than a return to championship success: “We have a clear goal, which is to give Fernando and Felipe [Massa] a competitive car, at the highest level,” said team principal Stefano Domenicali. “Then, it will be our drivers and the team that can make the difference.”

This year is Ferrari’s last chance to prove they can master the current generation of Formula One cars. The believe 2012 proved they only have to get within range of Red Bull and Alonso’s talents will take care of the rest. The coming weeks will reveal whether they’ve successfully taken that first step.

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Images ?? Ferrari/Ercole Colombo