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Ferrari feel pressure to unseat Red Bull

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Andrew Benson | 14:09 UK time, Friday, 28 January 2011

Pressure comes with the job when you work for Ferrari, and there was no hiding from expectation on Friday when they became the first Formula 1 team to unveil their 2011 car.

Asked if he felt an "obligation" to win, technical director Aldo Costa replied simply: "Yes."

Chief designer Nikolas Tombazis said he was "quite optimistic about this car and how it will go during the season".

And team principal Stefano Domenicali, always cautious about his public proclamations, said: "F150 was created with a simple aim. Our goal is to win the championships. We know it won't be easy, but that is definitely what we are aiming for."

It is normal for F1 teams to sound optimistic when they launch their new cars. One gets used to a seemingly endless series of wildly confident predictions about what each team will achieve in the coming year, to the point that at the first race of each season you can almost hear the whistling of air from a series of burst balloons.

Ferrari are different, though. Such a fixture are they at the top of F1, so successful have they been over the last decade, that the big surprise is if they do not turn out to be title contenders.

They certainly were last year, only to lose out in the most agonising fashion at the final race of the season when a catastrophic decision to call in Fernando Alonso for an early pit stop left him stuck behind Vitaly Petrov's Renault and let in Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel to win the race and snatch the title from under the Spaniard's nose.

However, while Alonso went into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix leading the championship and hot favourite to win it, Ferrari know they were somewhat fortunate to be in that position.

Fernando Alonso gives the new Ferrari F150 its first laps at the team's Fiorano test track

Ferrari have worked hard to make the rear of their new car as low and narrow as possible. Photo: AP

The Red Bull was comfortably the fastest car last season and it was only a series of mistakes and failures by that car and its drivers that allowed Alonso to capitalise on a quite superb run of form in the second half of the season and take the championship lead.

In many ways, 2010 was a success for Ferrari. Their decision to drop Kimi Raikkonen in favour of Alonso paid off in spades, and they proved that a poor 2009, when they won only one race, was an aberration not the start of a trend.

But second place is not good enough for this team that carries the hopes of an entire nation, and millions of other fans around the world. And the pressure is on to at least match Red Bull for pace in 2011.

Ferrari are the only team to have been in F1 since the world championship started in 1950. And while they have been through their ups and downs, they exist to win.

When they do not, questions are asked, and Ferrari are painfully aware of how they let the championship slip through their fingers.

Yes, there was the error in Abu Dhabi - for which chief engineer Chris Dyer has paid by being relieved of his position and moved to a factory-based role.

But there was also the slow decline in competitiveness from winning the first race to a dreadful Turkish Grand Prix in May, when Alonso finished eighth having not even made the top-10 qualifying shoot-out.

This period coincided with a series of uncharacteristic mistakes made by Alonso himself that cost him a hatful of points in the first few races of the season.

In that context, their rise back to competitiveness in the second half of the season, and Alonso's near-miss in the championship, served only to remind them what might have been.

The frustration of lost opportunity, and the determination to make amends, ran through the Ferrari launch on Friday.

As Domenicali put it: "Last season we had difficult and beautiful moments, and we want to build on those beautiful moments."

So expectation is high, both within Ferrari and without, and a lot rests on the sleek new F150 that Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa unveiled in Maranello.

To the untrained eye, the car looks similar to the F10 with which Alonso came close in 2010. But the detail hides some significant changes - and some surprising revelations.

Chief among these is the decision to retain push-rod rear suspension, rather than the pull-rod that has been used by Red Bull since 2009 and which is expected to feature on the majority of the grid in 2011.

Pull-rods had been out of fashion since the late 1980s, but were brought back by Red Bull's design head Adrian Newey - widely regarded in F1 as a genius - as a response to the major technical changes that were introduced for 2009.

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These included severe restrictions on the design of diffuser, the part of the car where the floor sweeps upwards under the rear wing and which is so important in creating downforce.

Newey's pull-rod design actually proved a handicap in 2009 following the controversial adoption by some teams of the so-called double-diffuser, around which a pull-rod was difficult to package.

But with the ban on this item, 2011 effectively marks a return to the intended diffuser regulations of 2009, and Newey's design is expected to come into its own as a way of lowering the centre of gravity and improving airflow.

Most teams are expected to follow Red Bull's lead, so it is interesting that Ferrari have chosen not to.

My sources in Italy tell me that instead they have come up with a clever repackaging of the dampers, bringing them forward in the car. This allows them to have a much lower back to the gearbox without the penalties inherent in a pull-rod design, which is very difficult to work on - the mechanics have to take the floor off to adjust the dampers.

Fascinating as these things are, no F1 car's performance is defined by one single aspect of its design - it is about how a complex package works together.

And it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into this car in the context of the rule changes for 2011 - most notably the debut of movable rear wings to aid overtaking and the re-introduction of the Kers energy recovery and power-boost systems, which come with heavy batteries that create a packaging headache.

"We had to rethink quite a lot on the car from the aerodynamic point of view," Costa said.

"The ban on the double diffuser, the introduction of the new rear wing concept and a lot of other detailed clarifications around the back end of the car pushed us to have a complete re-think about the rear of the car.

"(There's) a completely new layout with a completely new concept. Also the introduction of Kers has pushed us to review the central part of the car. Because of all these changes, Kers and then develop the car around new tyres, changes related to the safety of the chassis, it has been quite a different project."

Have they succeeded? Ferrari will begin to get the first indication next Tuesday, when their new car runs against those of Red Bull and Mercedes on the first day of the first pre-season test.

Between then and the first race in Bahrain on 13 March there are a further 15 days of testing for teams to hone their designs. And it is clear where Ferrari's ambitions lie.

"I'm feeling very motivated," Alonso says. "2010 was an interesting year for me. It was my first with Ferrari and I enjoyed the atmosphere. 2011 will be an important year with a new challenge after changes to the rules. We have to commit to everything we do and I think we are up to the challenge."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Great Blog Andrew,

    The changes in rules will certainly make the upcoming season very unpredictable but also increase anticipation. I personally can't wait and i'd bet a few bob i'm not the only one! :)

    My money's with McLaren this year, but as 2010 showed us, anything is possible!

  • Comment number 2.

    It's always exciting for all the teams and their fans at this time of year. Like you say, bubbles will burst. It's a fresh roll of the dice for everyone and it's impossible to predict what's going to happen.

    I pray for no vastly dominant team this time. We were very fortunate to get a decent season last year considering how quick the RB was.

    The camera's perspective of the F150, above, makes it look enourmous!

  • Comment number 3.

    whatever happens next season, ferrari will be there or thereabouts.

  • Comment number 4.

    So the double diffuser is finally gone as was intended in 2009. I wonder if teams will still incorporate it somehow by bending the rules.

    With the reduction of aerodynamic freedom and the introduction of KERS I expect there to be a lot more overtaking in the coming season. However, I feel it may become like MotoGP, where overtaking is so easy that it becomes boring to the viewer. It's important to make overtaking challenging (but not impossible) so that only the talented drivers can execute the moves.

  • Comment number 5.

    Post 1
    "My money's with McLaren this year, but as 2010 showed us, anything is possible!"

    What is is with you McLaren fanboys?! (I am assuming you are a McLaren fan)
    Before every season, before every race, you predict McLaren to win. Maybe you should try being sensible and unbiased and look at all the facts without blindly predicting McLaren to be the winners all the time.

    It's going to be another tight season, and hopefully one team doesn't get the jump on all the others by "bending" the rules, such as Brawn and then Red Bull last year.

  • Comment number 6.

    I hope Lewis Hamilton can win with a car even close to the pace he is the only one who can overcome any flaws to take the title. The others all need to have the comfortably fastest car.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a PROPER Ferrari fan I must argue with you Andrew. Ferrari's decision to drop Kimi Raikkonen and hire Alonso was a bad one. Massa was team leader forced in to support role, which I dont like one bit. Kimi showed us he is better than Alonso when he got the win in Spa in 09, something Alonso wouldnt have got cos he would have been scared of passing Fisichella. He brought trouble to Ferrari and will bring even more this year.

    In 09 the team had a car they could do nothing with and the pace was coming for Felipe Massa all he had to do was not have his accident. It was obvious they shoved Kimi out because they knew Alonso would complain about getting beat by Kimi all the time.

    For 2011 now that he has tyres more suited to his driving style I hope and pray Felipe Massa bounces back to the front and exposes Alonso's temper tantrums even more. Bring on the radio message "Guys Im faster than Felipe. This is ridiculous."

    FELIPE MASSA FOR 2011 TITLE!

  • Comment number 8.

    " And it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into this car in the context of the rule changes for 2011 - most notably the debut of movable rear wings to aid overtaking and the re-introduction of the Kers energy recovery and power-boost systems, which come with heavy batteries that create a packaging headache".

    Mclaren have the advantage of Kers they took a car which struggled to stay on the track using Kers, too winning with a clear aero and fuel disadvantage.

    I remember watching the kers car of hamilton against mark webber in 2009.
    That year certain tracks the kers cars had a disadvantage because of the heavy batteries however off the line and down the long straights they clearly made up for it..
    The words of kimi and vetel scared of the take off speed of the mclaren still ring clear "i was expecting hamilton to whoosh past me from the start". As kers had at least 80bhp extra off the line.
    Towards the end of that year Mclaren had developed the car further to actualy be able to go round corners alot better.

    So my view is that mclaren have an advantage over the majority, because they near enough ran with kers at most tracks.
    Hats off to Whitmarsh and co if they can use the information to better the 2011 kers car. At the moment the race has already started because its now designers v designers, Simulators v Track time.

    2011 is already looking very interesting its almost like an arms race who has the best weapon. Will it be the Uk? Italians or Germans one thing we all know america will probably bottle it ;o).


  • Comment number 9.

    In 2009 Kers was simply an option, which McLaren used to good effect, although it was not the only team to. Knowing that Kers is in use for 2011 everyone will have spent a lot of time and research on this so I would not expect such a huge advantage for McLaren.
    A lot will depend on how the chassis' will handle the new tyres and I would still expedt Red Bull to set the benchmark early on.
    As posted by Nessun Dorma earlier, however, I hope that no one team dominates and we see a humdinger!

  • Comment number 10.

    7. At 6:17pm on 28 Jan 2011, Ian wrote:

    As a PROPER Ferrari fan I must argue with you Andrew. Ferrari's decision to drop Kimi Raikkonen and hire Alonso was a bad one. Massa was team leader forced in to support role, which I dont like one bit. Kimi showed us he is better than Alonso when he got the win in Spa in 09, something Alonso wouldnt have got cos he would have been scared of passing Fisichella. He brought trouble to Ferrari and will bring even more this year.

    In 09 the team had a car they could do nothing with and the pace was coming for Felipe Massa all he had to do was not have his accident. It was obvious they shoved Kimi out because they knew Alonso would complain about getting beat by Kimi all the time.

    For 2011 now that he has tyres more suited to his driving style I hope and pray Felipe Massa bounces back to the front and exposes Alonso's temper tantrums even more. Bring on the radio message "Guys Im faster than Felipe. This is ridiculous."

    FELIPE MASSA FOR 2011 TITLE!

    --------

    Ferrari fan? Sure mate - sounds to me you're more of a Massa fan. ;-) Although I too would like Massa to start giving Alonso more of a fight. I prefer Massa's personality to Alonso's any day of the week.

    Anyway... Ferrari have had quite lean times since Schumacher left. Ok so they've won two Constructors' titles, Kimi took a Drivers' title, Massa nearly got one. But overall considering the recent past glories of the Schumacher era, it's a bit dire for such a massive team in the world of F1. What we used to consider the big two teams, ie Ferrari and McLaren, have been knocked around by the former Brawn GP team and Red Bull Racing.
    So in my opinion, it's only natural that Ferrari are wanting to do better this year and put the events of last year, and the last race, firmly behind them.

    That said, I'm hoping Williams and Sauber will be faster this year. Barrichello deserves some podiums and I'd love to see Kobayashi mixing it up with the big boys. Also hoping the 'new' teams can be challenging for points instead of being 'moving chicanes'! ;-)

  • Comment number 11.

    Great blog!
    Thak you for using my Formula 1 dictionary ( http://f1-dictionary.110mb.com/index.html )in your blog. It's an honor to me.
    BTW, Im your long time follower. You are doing a great job with your blog, keep it like that.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for the blog, not too long to go! Already looking past Bahrain to Oz. Love the early starts from the races in the east....

  • Comment number 13.

    For the 2011 season, could we please see a reintroduction of acronyms to the BBC?

    The Kinetic Energy Recovery System is KERS, not Kers!

    Or will the BBC start calling themselves the Bbc?

  • Comment number 14.

    @ post 5
    "What is is with you McLaren fanboys?!" Before every season, before every race, you predict McLaren to win. Maybe you should try being sensible and unbiased and look at all the facts without blindly predicting McLaren to be the winners all the time.
    ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

    It's taken 5 just posts of the new F1 season for the bitching to start. Calum actually wrote that whilst his money is on McLaren, anything is possible! Perhaps he has read news snippets that have been circulating and you haven't, i.e. about McLaren being quietly very optimistic about certain 'innovative' ideas on the new car which they 'can't talk about'. About both McLaren drivers being very impressed with the way development and progress of the new car (I know drivers are always boud to say this). There's also the fact that McLaren will be the last of the 'Big Boys' to launch their car… it's not beyond the realms of possiblility that this is due to that fact that they're so confident, that they don't want other teams to see what they've done until it's too late.

    Maybe the new McLaren won't be as innovative as has been led to believe and Ferrari or Red Bull will walk it. The point is, that you just never know with F1, until at least the first race of the season but to belittle someone's views and to call supporters of a particular team 'fanboys' because they think their team will do well is rather childish, not to mention getting a bit tedious these days.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think the new ferrari looks deceptively fast. I cant wait to see all the other cars im hoping for some radical designs.

    Just to wade into the Kimi Massa Alonso debate i think they were wrong to choose Massa over kimi. I think they would have been sitting with 2 drivers going for the title and the constructors if they hadnt. I think that massa has had 1 good year where as Kimi has had 5. Plus i would have loved to see Alonso lose his temper as Kimi eat ice cream.

  • Comment number 16.

    In spanish newspaper Marca you can see a great animated graphic that shows the differences between Ferrari's 2010 and 2011 car. First you choice the view (front, lateral, back) and then drag the green glider towards right.

    http://www.marca.com/2011/01/28/multimedia/graficos/1296222999.html

  • Comment number 17.

    @ 16

    Great graphic! Really allows you to see the differences instantly. This year's car has prettier rear section but, to me, the nose is higher and uglier than last year's Ferrari, which was one of the best-looking out there.

    I still cannot get used to the latest generation F1 cars with their silly, Toy Car wings, especially with the ultra-high nose trend. Look at images of cars from 2008 and (apart from the excessive appendages) they were definitely sexier.

  • Comment number 18.

    Good blog but on a side note, why do the BBC's bloggers find it necessary to start a new paragraph every two lines? It's irritating to read. People are capable of reading more than two lines in a row, you know.

  • Comment number 19.

    Can't wait for the new season to start. I hope that with KERS back in the mix and the new regulations it will make for a more even season. I find myself longing for the heady days of 2009 when Force India, a middle-rank team with no delusions of grandeur found themselves on the front row for Spa and Monza. If the changes can make it possible for the minor teams to throw in the odd upset, that will make the whole affair much more enjoyable all round. What kind of fan doesn't like rooting for the underdog every now and then? I just hope we don't see another year with one car so much faster than everyone else. Brawn, Red Bull, if they'd taken their chances they could have had it all wrapped up long before the end of the season. Let's hope we can avoid that again.

  • Comment number 20.

    Coulthard wouldn't have been my first choice but, hey... Beeb, at least you eventually did it :-)
    Let's now pray Mr Brundle hasn't been sanitised too much, & that there's an emotional spark lurking somewhere behind Coulthard's suave exterior.

  • Comment number 21.

    Is the change in commentary team set-up a move to drive us all to use the red button and listen to Five Live instead...?

  • Comment number 22.

    Obviously, I think the opposite is true.

  • Comment number 23.

    I do not know how Andrew can clearly state that dropping Raikkonen for Alonso is a wise decision. How can he be sure that Raikkonen would not have won in this car? Maybe he would have performed better than Alonso did. In 2009, he certainly showed intent and promise than Massa did before his accident by getting first points, first podium (almost a pole position in Monaco) --- his driving was as exceptional as it could be. In 2008 also he had only three bad races in mid-season due to some technological changes that Ferrari made and reverting to earlier config, he was competitive again only to find himself supporting Massa.

    Anyway I think Kimi is not as demanding or vocal as Alonso is and that is why it appears he is disinterested. I think with him in the team you never know, maybe cooler heads would have got set in Ferrari to win WDC and WCC -- we never know. So to have Alonso over Kimi is better or not is unknown.

  • Comment number 24.

    @ No 4 - Do you even watch MotoGP? - Too much overtaking and its too easy, making it boring for the viewer?? - Really???

    Needless to say im glad you dont write the rules for F1 - you're obviously happy with the nose to tail processions we sometimes have to suffer through. I for one would love to see as much overtaking in F1 as there is in MotoGP, the idea of three or four cars dicing lap after lap and swapping the lead repeatedly before a last lap dive for the line is the thing dreams are made of as far as i'm concerned.

    Back to the subject in hand, the ferrari shown above will not be the one starting the first gp of the year, just the same as all the other teams will vastly develop their cars between now and the start of the season. All the four tests will show us is that the quick cars will still come from Red bull, Ferrari, McLaren and hopefully Mercedes and Renault (I'm not calling them Lotus til the court case is resolved). What we can expect from some of the other teams? - who knows?. Lets not forget, one of the smaller midfield teams is guaranteed to do some low fuel underweight running to post a fast time to attract a sponsor or two, thats wont make them champions though will it?.

    I wont be relying on preseason results for predicting who's going to win what and where, i'll wait til after the first race before making my mind up about 2011's champion(s).

  • Comment number 25.

    exactly in what way was dropping kimi justified?
    The engineers build the cars not the drivers...

  • Comment number 26.

    Gave up a third of the way through as it is the usual pro Alonso nonsense from Mr. Benson made all the worse by the fact that sme of my TV tax goes towards paying him a wage to write this nonsense.

    It was not a simple case of 'only to lose out in the most agonising fashion at the final race of the season when a catastrophic decision to call in Fernando Alonso for an early pit stop left him stuck behind Vitaly Petrov's Renault' as if Alonso is so good how come he couldn't even try and overtake Petrov and anyway if he hadn't thrown his toys out of the pram in Valencis when Hamilton was penalised in correctly as it happens he would have won it by then.

    As for getting rid of Kimi being the right decision how do you know? Would Alosno have won any more races than Kimi in 2009? I doubt it, the car was a dog. Look at what Badoer and Fisi could get out of it when Massas was reovering from injury... absolutely nothing that's what?

    They were languishing in last place every race while Kimi was in the top 3.

    Please refrain from any more of this Alonso love fest as it was tiresome enough last season.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hey mark me up as a "Fanboy" as I have backed Mclaren since the early 80's!
    I hope that when they finally unveil their car it'll be the one that'll help to bring them their first constructors title since 1998.
    My only concern is about the KERS and the stallable rear wing. If the car pursuing is allowed to stall it's wing and gain an increase in speed won't the car that is being attacked respond with it's KER's boost alleviating any advantage from the wing?

  • Comment number 28.

    Not a Ferrari fan but you have to admit with Alonso at the wheel they are a real force. Yeah all there eggs are in one basket because lets face it Massa aint up to the job. He will do ok in some races but he will go missing in others. He's had his chance for the Championship and blew it.

    Whilst Webber and Vettel will continue to trip each other up I suspect Alonso will take full advantage this season. If Ferrari had a half decent car from the start of last season Alonso would have been 3 times WC. Gotta give the guy alot of respect, most people laughed when he said at Silverstone he would be Champion. He didn't win but came mighty close. Whilst Snail man Massa was back in midfield. Hang your helmet up Felipe you don't cut the mustard no more!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Why would anyone think that Ferrari miss Kimi R one little bit? He had his chance to show some leadership, even to the point of sitting in the car as reigning world champion. His character clearly wasn´t able to go that far.

    Alonso can lead. He has won the respect of most everyone in the game (Ron Dennis may not agree), based on his performance. Would Kimi have brought the car back from the depths of Turkey? How would that happen?

    It may be the engineers who draw the car, but an inspiring driver who gets the team behind him is a rare and important asset. It´s the difference between the great and the good.

  • Comment number 30.

    Felipe Massa is an embarassment to Ferrari. He brings in a lot of sponsorhip money and that's the sole reason why he is there. Ferrari need to employ the services of Robert Kubica pronto! An Alonso-Kubica pairing is a definite championship winning formula.

  • Comment number 31.

    as a mclaren fan i just hope they sort there downforce problems out ,otherwise they,ll struggle,i also think ferrari will be quick from the the start , but watch out for mercedes ,there cars going to be quick,if maclaren can produce a good car this year ,it will be a cracking season very tight ,just hope maclaren can give lewis a fighting chance.

  • Comment number 32.

    I can see it being even closer than last year. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari will most likely stay at the front, and Mercedes may well join in the fun.

    As one of their fans, I hope McLaren win in 2011.

  • Comment number 33.

    My money is on Mercedes and Michael Schumacher this year, as i've supported Schumacher since his debut, he's had a year to get back into the groove, the car has been being developed longer than any of the other top teams, who knows you might just see Schumacher and Rosberg take the rest of the teams for a mug and stitch them up at the first race.

  • Comment number 34.

    Oh dear, Andrew! It looks as the anti-Alonso are already giving out! The Spaniard was picked as best F1 driver both by the team managers and the drivers themselves at the beginning and end of last season. And I think it fair to asume these guys know a bit about F1. So, why some here have to jump on Benson's back every time he praises Alonso??? Keep up the good work, Andrew. I love your blog.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think Schumacher might be more of a threat this year, but the fact that - as following his move to Ferrari - he needs to have a car built to suit HIM, rather than being able to drive any car into which he is installed, diminishes his reputation as a GREAT racing driver. (The earlier move followed a period when the Italian team was an also-ran, so was less surprising.)

 

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