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New Ferrari heralds vague new world

New Ferrari heralds vague new world
Under crystal blue Tuscan skies, on Monday, Ferrari gave the world a tantalising glimpse of what we can expect from the Formula One world championship in 2009. And that is a whole lot of uncertainty.

By Tom Cary in Mugello
Last Updated: 9:54PM GMT 12 Jan 2009

Felipe Massa test drives the new Ferrari 60.
Down to business: Felipe Massa test drives the new Ferrari 60. Photo: REUTERS
Ferrari unveil new Formula One car
Above the rest: An aeriel shot of the new Ferrari F60 which was tested by Felipe Massa Photo: EPA
Ferrari unveil new Formula One car
Full frontal: The new Ferrari F60 racing car, which will be tested at the Mugello racetrack near Florence on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Felipe Massa poses with the new Ferrari F60.
In with the new: Felipe Massa poses with the new Ferrari F60. Photo: REUTERS
Ferrari unveil new Formula One car
Side car: The new single-seater Ferrari F60 has been named to celebrate 60 years of Formula One racing by the Italian team Photo: EPA

New aerodynamic regulations, the introduction of an energy recovery system and driver-adjustable front wings have all been introduced in the biggest shake-up of the sport for 25 years. Frankly, no one is quite sure how it will all pan out.

That was certainly the view of Felipe Massa, who was charged with coaxing the F60 through its first, faltering steps. “We were not expecting to achieve a good lap time because when such changes are introduced the shakedown is very, very difficult,” said the Brazilian.

“This is the beginning of a different cycle in Formula One. It will not be an easy experience for sure, but we are 100 per cent confident that we will be able to be competitive in the new championship.”

Hardly the bullish rhetoric you might expect from a man who missed out on last year’s drivers’ championship by just a single point to Britain’s Lewis Hamilton. Mind you, his team principal, Stefano Domenicali, was just as cautious, admitting that the new regulations have “complicated” the task for a team who have won the constructors’ championship in eight out of the past 10 years.

“Our aim is to rank among the first teams,” Domenicali said. “We have always shown this over the years, but this year our project will be more complicated and more difficult. It means we will have to face this season with humbleness, without resting on our laurels. Life is tough, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

They may be uncertain but one thing is sure, the credit crunch is biting. Monday’s launch was a relatively low-key affair – in keeping with these straitened times.

It had been moved at the 11th hour from Ferrari’s test track in Maranello due to snow and freezing temperatures, but there were no such meteorological issues a couple of hours’ drive further south. The F60 – so-called because Ferrari are the only team to have competed in every world championship since its inception in 1950 – was the first chance for Tifosi to see their new baby in action and a throng of them stood enraptured for about six hours as Massa took it for a spin.

The verdict? It may not be the prettiest Ferrari ever to have rolled off the Maranello production line, but nor is it as bad as some feared. The low, wide front wing and the narrow, high rear wing are hardly aesthetically pleasing, but everyone else is certain to follow suit as the regulations attempt to promote ease of overtaking.

Ferrari have nonetheless managed to give the F60 a pleasing lustre and Massa said that he had been pleasantly “surprised” by the car: “I expected it to have huge [front] wings like they were 10 years ago. But the new F60 seems tiny, very compact and cute. It’s small like a Formula Three car.”

The consensus is that, with the introduction of kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS), the role of the driver this season will be more important than ever. “They will decide when to use KERS and driver-adjustable front wings,” Domenicali explained. “They will have new tyres. So if our systems are 100 per cent effective, then we will give the possibility for our drivers to have a performance delta that is much larger [than before].

“We are also talking about a new wing and I guess drivers will have to become familiar with this new wing that has new dimensions, so they will have to be more careful. The drivers have a season in front of them when they will certainly play a more vital role.”

That will be music to the ears of Hamilton, who appears to thrive under additional responsibility and pressure. McLaren launch their MP4-24 at their Woking base on Friday.

Massa's verdict

Felipe Massa, runner-up to Hamilton in the world drivers’ championship last season, said the car was smaller than he expected.

“The new F60 seems tiny, very compact and cute,” he said. “I feel emotional but I’m also happy to take it out on track for the first time. I expected it to have huge (front) wings like they were 10 years ago. I expected it to be big, but it’s small like a Formula Three car.”

Changes to all F1 cars in 2009

1. Front and rear wings
Compared with recent season, F1 cars in 2009 will feature a dodgem-style extensive front wing, and a narrow, high rear wing. The look has upset aesthetes, but it is hoped that the change in aerodynamics will result in more overtaking.

2. Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) - optional this season
Ferrari would not specify whether they intend to use this controversial device in the season-opener in Melbourne on March 29. Mounted on the engine it works by storing energy that otherwise be wasted during braking, providing drivers with an extra 80bhp 'boost' for around six seconds per lap.

3. Slick tyres (untreaded)
2009 will see the return of slick tyres after a 10-year hiatus. By eliminating any grooves cut into the tread, slicks provide the largest possible contact patch to the track, maximising traction. There will still be wet-weather tyres as slicks tend to aquaplane in rainy conditions due to water trapped between the tyre contact area and the track surface.

4. Cockpit-adjustable front wing
Designed to increase overtaking, the idea is that drivers should be able to follow other cars more closely through corners - and therefore make them more likely to be able to pass their rivals at the end of the following straight - by increasing the amount of front downforce produced by the wing.
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