Ferrari got the jump on their rivals this week by being the first F1 team to launch their car for the coming season. The F150 (so named in honor of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification) was unveiled at the team’s headquarters in Maranello on Friday. From the outside, the car doesn’t look radically different from last year’s model. According to technical director Aldo Costa, however, beneath the skin the car is much changed from the 2010 iteration.
“As far as the looks are concerned the rules keep them quite unaltered,” Costa said. “The cars look like the ones from last year, but from a technical point of view they will be really different.”
What was the most notable challenge in the development in the F150? “Starting from scratch with the car’s rear,” said Costa, “because the double diffuser and the F-duct are gone and there have been some clarifications regarding the car’s underbody: these were the main challenges and why we had to start from scratch rethinking the whole project.”
While Ferrari seem to have stolen the march on their rivals, the car is still in development. Early on-track runs with the cars will be used to sort out glitches and collect basic data; further refinements of the all-important aero-bits will come later. Costa put it this way: “The car’s evolution has been planned with two big stages: one during the winter tests, where we will mainly develop the area of the mechanics, which means that the car’s structure, the chassis, the gearbox and the suspension will remain the same for the first couple of races. The aerodynamics is simplified and temporary for the first tests, waiting for the real aerodynamic development for the first race.”
In other words, you can expect to see a rather different looking F150 at the season-opener in Bahrain on March 13.
For his part, de facto team leader Fernando Alonso is confident that the new car will suit his driving style better than the previous year’s iteration. Even if this is so much wishful thinking, there’s a certain logic to it. After all, Alonso certainly spent much of the previous season offering input relevant to the development of the car. Alonso has a reputation for being one of the sport’s premier development drivers (something the Scuderia was notoriously lacking during the Raikkonen-Massa years), and it only makes sense that the direction taken in the development of the 2011 car would be to Alonso’s liking.
“I think in 2011 there will be some kind of direction that we took in 2010 regarding my driving style,” said Alonso at the Maranello launch. “So I think I will feel more confident with this year’s car. I will feel more comfortable driving the car, it will be more predictable to me.”
Alonso also echoed the idea that the approach to this year’s car design would be evolutionary: “The car [in Bahrain] will be very different from the cars we see in Valencia, and then again by races three and four there will be another development. The cars will change throughout the season, in such a long championship there will be many changes.”
Take a look at the attached video, from Italian television. It’s interesting to hear both Alonso and Massa speaking in Italian (their natives tongues are Castilian Spanish and Portuguese, respectively). It’s only natural, of course, since the assembled journalists were probably Italian for the most part. Of course, during race weekends, even though most of the team speaks Italian, everyone converts to English, which is the lingua franca of Formula 1.