The fast-approaching 2011 Formula 1 season came a step closer today as Ferrari became the first team to launch their new car.
The F150 – Ferrari’s fifty-seventh single seater F1 car – differs from the previous model chiefly by the return of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) and the new driver-adjustable rear-wing, whilst the double diffuser and blown rear-wing are now banned.
The fuel tank in the F150 is designed to ‘very different’ dimensions for last year to allow for better integration of the KERS unit but one feature that has been retained from last year’s F10, surprisingly, is the push-rod rear suspension – albeit completely redesigned.
This system is counter to the pull-rod version used by Red Bull for the last two years, which is expected to be utilised by many of Ferrari‘s other competitors because springs located lower down in the car allow for a lower centre of gravity and better airflow at the rear, compensating for the loss of the double diffuser. The push-rod system is easier to work on though, and Ferrari will have designed it with these factors in mind.
The name chosen for this model commemorates the 150th anniversary of the reunification of Italy, as demonstrated by the large Italian tricolore painted on the rear wing of the F150.
Ferrari anticipate that the body of the car on the grid in Bahrain will differ significantly from the car at today’s launch. Between now and then the car will undergo 15 days of testing on the new Pirelli tyres, and the development of the aerodynamic components will reflect the results obtained from these sessions.
Last season Ferrari won the first race, but had to wait until July for their second victory. Stefano Domenicali, speaking at today’s launch, said that things should be different in 2011.
“Our strategy [for the coming season], which is a conservative approach, is to make it to the end and be ahead,” said the under-pressure team principal. “To reach this objective the mobile rear wing has to be interpreted and used best possible, together with the KERS, where we had many problems in 2009, but we hope that we could solve them due to our experience. As far as aerodynamics is concerned I think that there will be less improvement as the season goes on, so we have to start well immediately.”
However, there is one relative unknown introduced this season which will have a big effect on the performance of the F150, and Domenicali emphasises the importance of the pre-season tests.
“The tyres are a fundamental issue,” he revealed. “The new tyres are significantly different from the others, so there might be more pit stops and we have to understand how not to stress them too much. The first tests next week are very important to understand the tyres.
“I hope that it will rain for at least one day, because we don't have any indication regarding the tyres' behaviour on the wet, apart from the first data from the test Pirelli carried out under almost monsoon-like conditions. There are many unknown factors to consider.”
Ferrari technical director Aldo Costa, also speaking at today’s launch, explained how the multitude of changes to the technical regulations impacted on the design of the F150:
“The major aspects with the most impact on the project were connected to the aerodynamic development. The car will change a lot. The double diffuser, the F-duct, is gone. The driver can't change the car's aerodynamic set up anymore. The underbody won't have any 'holes' in the central part anymore. This is a fundamental change.
The rear wing will be movable, so that the driver can overtake the car in front of him and use it in the qualifying according to his needs. The KERS is back. Although we've improved its size, it's still quite big. Therefore the technicians had to redesign the car's layout.
“There are also new safety rules. We participated in the changes the Federation made to improve safety on the track, which is always extremely important.”
Finally, when asked if he felt personally obliged to win, Costa gave a brief reply, though on which is likely to be echoed by other members of Ferrari management: “A short question needs a short answer,” he said. “One word is enough: Yes”
More car launches will follow on Monday (with Renault, Sauber and Team Lotus) and Tuesday (Red Bull, Mercedes and Toro Rosso). McLaren, however, will run an interim car at the Valencia test next week, and launch their new model next Friday.