Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali believes this season’s regulation changes represent the biggest shake-up in Formula One in the past decade, and has indicated reliability rather than sheer pace could be the key to the 2014 title.
The Scuderia took the wraps off their new car, the F14-T, in an online launch yesterday with the message coming out of Maranello very much a simple one: this is the year to deliver.
The team’s most recent drivers’ title came back in 2007 and since then Ferrari have been denied the sport’s biggest prize by McLaren, Brawn GP and, for the last four seasons, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel.
This year marks Ferrari’s opportunity to finally wrest the initiative from their rivals, with a swathe of regulation changes set to affect both the performance and reliability of the entire grid.
Domenicali said: “The technical challenge is, as far as I remember, the biggest challenge I have seen in the last decade of Formula One. Connected to the challenge is the opportunity to make sure this is taken in the right way.”
This year’s cars will all be fitted with 1.6-litre V6 engines rather than the 2.4-litre V8 of the past few seasons, although it is the significant changes to aerodynamics that will provide the biggest visual indicator of the wholesale revisions to the regulations.
The past few days have already seen three teams adopt differing approaches to the new restrictions regarding the dimensions of frontend designs, with Williams and McLaren showcasing designs with a sharply tapered nose tip, and Lotus unveiling a radical two-pronged design.
Ferrari, too, have come up with a design that is arresting on the eye, with the F14-T sporting a wider, flatter design than those of its rivals.
The rear wing also marks a radical departure from 2013, with three major rule changes ensuring a much smaller design overall.
But it is the changes under the bodywork that appear set to provide the biggest shake up, with the bulletproof reliability of recent seasons under threat from the engine regulation changes and amend-ments to the mandatory energy recovery system.
Domenicali added: “The season will be very long. Therefore it is important to start with a reliable car from the beginning and to keep up the development on the dynamics side, something that was not there last year.
“I expect the first days of testing to be very challenging for everyone. There will be a lot of things to be tested and a lot of things to be checked, but the most important thing we need to avoid is to fall under the big pressure that we have.
“We need to stay focused on the job and make sure we do the best that we can because the company has given to us and to the engineers everything in order to do a good job.
“Therefore, we need maximum concentration and to not be distracted by the enormous pressure and the belief of what Ferrari represent for us and for the world of F1.”
Ferrari will boast arguably the strongest driver line-up of any team this season with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso joined by returning Kimi Raikkonen, the man who last delivered the drivers’ title to Maranello.
For Alonso, the Finn’s arrival will represent a much sterner task than that provided by Felipe Massa over the last few years, although the Spaniard is looking forward to the challenge.
He said: “I think with Kimi and me as a team we should be quite strong because we’ve had some success in the past in our Formula One career.
“We will follow whatever the team priority is, and we try to do our best to win both championships and bring back some of the success Ferrari had in the past. To do that we need to work in perfect harmony.”
Raikkonen, who rejoins Ferrari from Lotus where he impressed said: “It is nice to come back to Ferrari, the place I won my championship. The aim is the same. I want to do the best I can, try to win races and championships.”
Italian tyre-makers Pirelli are to supply Formula One cars for the next three years under the terms of a new contract signed with the sport's governing body the International Automobile Federation (FIA).
Following a turbulent season, it was announced late last year that Pirelli would remain as the sole supplier of tyres for the Formula One ciruit.
The announcement that the agreement will stand for the next three years, further underlines the FIA's confidence that Pirelli can iron out the safety problems that dogged them in 2013.
The season was marred by a succession of tyre blowouts, culminating at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone which was almost halted mid-race due to the number of incidents.
Subsequently Pirelli were forced to alter its tyres, resulting in speculation it would withdraw at the end of the campaign and a new supplier be brought in.
The Italians complained that they were being hampered by the regulations in terms of allowing it to develop its rubber. Now compromises have been reached and changes to the rules applied, mandatory from the forthcoming season onwards.
"Pirelli will continue to determine the specification of the tyres and to manage all aspects of their development, in close consultation with the FIA and the teams, and within the parameters set out in the FIA Formula One Sporting and Technical Regulations," the tyre company said in a statement
Hopefully, Michael Schumacher will recover from the horrific skiing accident that left him fighting for his life, although there is a long way to go before we can breath a sigh of relief.
As he lies in a ‘stable’ condition in hospital it is interesting, and in many ways sad, to reflect on the overwhelming shock and reaction from the world of sport and beyond which followed the news of his plight.
Schumacher put his life on the line every time he climbed into a Formula One car and yet, despite winning nine world titles, and breaking virtually every record there was, he remained the driver many hated with a passion.
I have always been a Schumacher fan because, if you had the privilege of meeting him you would realise what a nice guy he is, but unfortunately he was perceived by many as the ultra-aggressive villain who went to unacceptable lengths to ensure victory. Yes, he was ruthless, but it was that single-minded approach to his job that made him a legend.
Once he was in that car he was focused entirely on victory. He may have overstepped the mark occasionally like when he tried to take out Jacques Villenueve in Jerez in 1997 and at Monaco in 2006 when he deliberately stopped his car on the track to stop Fernando Alonso, then with Renault, completing what would almost certainly have been a pole position lap, but all the greatest F1 drivers have done similar things.
Those who lack that killer instinct always fall short of true greatness.
Sebastian Vettel has the same mentality as his compatriot and has already caused controversy. His popularity will no doubt plunge as he continues to be successful because, let’s face it, people don’t like winners.
Once, when Schumacher was racing at Silverstone for Ferrari I was sitting in the main grandstand when his car suffered brake failure at Stowe corner and he went off the track and crashed into the barriers at considerable speed.
At first there was no visible movement from the German and yet, extraordinarily, a large number of so called F1 fans started cheering.
Schumacher had broken one of his legs in two places but it could have been far worse and yet these morons were genuinely pleased that he had crashed. I have never understood that bitter resentment.
On another occasion, again at the British Grand Prix, he was visibly angry after a poor qualifying session and was marching down the paddock trying to escape the hordes of photographers and journalists.
My eight-year-old stepson stood in his path clutching the race programme hoping to get his autograph. Personally, I thought he was being particularly optimistic with the German clearly not in any mood to halt his retreat to the Ferrari motorhome. I was wrong.
He stopped, signed the programme, and even came back to return the pen he had mistakenly taken with him. That is not a ruthless human being who couldn’t give a monkeys about other people, but a genuine superstar who, unlike many top footballers, understood he was a role model for youngsters.
But more than that he did it because it is a good guy and a family man.
Former F1 driver David Coulthard wrote a column in a British newspaper yesterday in which he said that the outpouring of concern for Schumacher constitutes long overdue recognition of his status as a true sporting great.
Coulthard admitted that he himself once saw Schumacher as a tainted champion after a number of clashes with him.
But he wrote this: “I hope that in this instance, with Michael having received such swift medical attention and given the fact that he continues to receive the very best treatment possible he is going to emerge victorious once again and when he does he is going to realise in what esteem he is held.”
It’s truly sad that it takes a tragic accident for some, and I am not talking about Coulthard who is one of Formula One’s true gentlemen, to realise that the man they saw as an unpalatable villain was anything but.
We wish him a full recovery.