Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen insisted the new halo on Ferrari’s 2018 car would not hinder performance as the Italian stable chases a first Formula One title in a decade.
The halo-fitted F-71H was presented at the team’s headquarters in Maranello, four days before the start of pre-season testing at Barcelona.
For the fourth consecutive year 38-year-old Raikkonen and four-time world champion Vettel, 30, will spearhead the Scuderia’s campaign.
“The halo looks different but to be honest we tried it last year and it wasn’t a big difference,” Raikkonen said.
Vettel added: “I don’t think the halo will bother, I think it’s much less intrusive than I thought. We will all get used to using it.”
The Ferrari drivers’ approach to the halo was in stark contrast to that of Tito Wolff, the team boss of bitter rivals and defending world champions Mercedes who earlier in the day said he couldn’t stand the sight of the controversial head protection device.
“I’m not impressed with the whole thing and if you give me a chainsaw I would take it off,” said Wolf, who complained about the weight of the new device, at his team’s official launch.
“I think we need to look after the driver’s safety, but what we have implemented is aesthetically not appealing and we need to come up with a solution that simply looks better.”
Ferrari’s new car is painted in the traditional red livery, but unlike its predecessors with very little white.
“(The car) looks nice and usually when it looks nice, there’s speed also,” added Raikkonen.
“Our goal is to always be faster. The car is excellent and next week we will know something more and we will understand how much work there is still to do,” added the Finn.
The new challenger has a longer wheelbase to move it more into line with rival Mercedes’ design.
“We have kept the aggressive concepts. The SF71H has a tighter car body and has been built to perform in high-speed circuits,” said Ferrari’s technical director, Mattia Binotto.
Ferrari were second in the 2017 championship and this season will bid to challenge four-time holders Mercedes.
“We’re capable I’m certain,” said team principal Maurizio Arrivabene.
Ferrari have not won the constructors title since 2008 with Raikkonen last winning the drivers title for Ferrari in 2007.
World championship leader Sebastian Vettel will stay with Ferrari until 2020 after agreeing a three-year contract extension, the Italian team announced on Saturday.
In a statement that ended weeks of speculation over the future of the four-time champion German, Ferrari said it had “extended its technical and racing agreement with driver Sebastian Vettel for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 racing seasons.”
It had been widely rumoured that the 30-year-old German was flirting with the possibility of joining Mercedes, a prospect dismissed on Friday by his title rival Lewis Hamilton.
The announcement came as little surprise to paddock observers, even if the timing was unexpected. Ferrari usually make their driver announcements at their home Italian Grand Prix at Monza, scheduled for next weekend.
The three-year extension ties in with Ferrari’s own contract with Formula One that runs until 2020 when the team will seek to negotiate new terms for its participation with the sport’s new US owners Liberty Media.
Vettel’s original contract with Ferrari was scheduled to run to the end of this season, a situation that allowed him to use possible talks with other teams as leverage in his negotiations to stay.
However, given the team’s resurgent form this year — he was second behind team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who has re-signed for 2018, in the third free practice on Saturday morning — there has been little doubt that he would remain with the Italians.
MERCEDES ADMIT APPROACH
Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda revealed on Saturday that discussions had taken place with Vettel, but they did not go far.
“We discussed it briefly once with him, but the more competitive Ferrari goes, the less the reason he would want to leave,” Lauda told Sky Sports F1. “So therefore we stopped right away a couple of months ago.
“I think every driver, if he’s clever, talks to more than one team. Then when you negotiate you’re in a better position. That’s what he did.”
The duration of his new contract will keep Vettel out of the driver market beyond d 2019 when a hectic spell of activity is expected in the sport with Dutchman Max Verstappen, still only 19, likely to become available unless his current Red Bull team become serious title contenders.
Raikkonen’s extension for just one year signals also that Ferrari may swoop for Verstappen or any other rising star to partner Vettel in 2019.
Following Ferrari’s announcement, it is now expected that Mercedes will extend Finn Valtteri Bottas’s contract. He was signed on a one-year deal for this year as a replacement for retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg.
Both Red Bull drivers Verstappen and Australian Daniel Ricciardo are under contract until the end of next year, as is Hamilton with Mercedes.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) August 26, 2017
Team orders. It’s an issue that has reared its head – often in ugly fashion – since the inception of Formula 1.
As F1 packs up for the month-long summer break, we take a look at team orders and team play. More specifically, the events at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
When Lewis Hamilton was allowed past Valtteri Bottas – quicker at that point in the Mercedes – to chase the Ferraris and make a real race of it in the final laps, it seemed the German manufacturer was, for the first time this season, making a clear, public call on who was the team’s No1.
Hamilton adhered to the orders and then let Bottas pass him at the death for the final podium spot to his teammate. At that stage, Hamilton was seven seconds ahead and, with three world titles to his name and so much more experience at Mercedes, remains the clear best bet for the title.
But graciously, he slowed to allow Bottas to pass – almost at the risk of losing another spot to Max Verstappen.
It equated to three lost points and team boss Toto Wolff admitted that “yes, it might cost him the world championship” but the team pushed the concept that it was the right thing, and it was just that.
Hamilton has always pushed the premise that, while he wants to win, he wants to win fairly, or in this case simply get the upper hand fairly.
Sure, he was faster than Bottas but he was making the point with his late gesture that he did not deserve that third spot behind the two Ferraris. There is the sense that Ferrari will go into the break buoyed by finally halting the Mercedes juggernaut, which had been building in Hungary.
But the decision by Hamilton and Mercedes to allow Bottas through for that deserving third spot is a subtle warning to Ferrari.
Essentially, the defending world champions have said they’re confident enough to lose three points in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship for the rest of the season’s fight. And there is good reason for such a stance.
In recent weeks, it has become clear that Mercedes have been winning the development race. They might not have gained the upper hand in Hungary but they will have the power advantage at subsequent circuits, plus they know they have solved their greatest problem of the season.
There have been moments in the past when the team have not been able to get their rubber working properly. In places such as Russia and Monaco, Hamilton had all sorts of trouble with the Pirelli tyres underneath him.
Mercedes have widened that window in which the tyres best work, and the team go off on their respective summer breaks confident of the races and race weekends that lie ahead.
Of the other team orders on the weekend, Ferrari once again made it clear that Vettel is No1, Kimi Raikkonen’s body language in the immediate aftermath of the race merely accentuating that point.
And what of Red Bull? The team have refreshingly allowed their drivers to race with the one caveat in the team briefing beforehand being they give each other space in turns one and two.
Max Verstappen clearly was not listening and had a coming together with Daniel Ricciardo, which led to the other’s race demise from the outset.
So who says team orders have to be boring and negative? For once, it added all manner of frisson to the on-track action.