Ferrari unveil car aimed at toppling Mercedes dominance

Ferrari's SF1000 being unveiled to considerable fanfare at the Romolo Valli Municipal Theatre, while accompanied by an orchestra in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia, some 30km away from Ferrari's home of Maranello. PHOTO: REUTERS
Ferrari's SF1000 being unveiled to considerable fanfare at the Romolo Valli Municipal Theatre, while accompanied by an orchestra in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia, some 30km away from Ferrari's home of Maranello. PHOTO: REUTERS

REGGIO EMILIA (Italy) • Ferrari showed off their 2020 Formula One car with a theatrical show of pride on Tuesday, assuring success-starved fans that it was a vehicle very different to last year's model.

The SF1000, marking the Italian team's 1,000th race that comes up this year, is the car Ferrari hope can end six years of Mercedes domination and dash Lewis Hamilton's bid to equal Michael Schumacher's record seven titles.

If the red machine looked superficially similar under the stage lights to the 2019 version, team principal Mattia Binotto said appearances were deceptive.

"We have been as extreme in all the concepts as we could," he told a global audience watching as the car made its appearance on stage at Reggio Emilia's opulent Romolo Valli opera house.

"The entire car, power unit, has been packaged to have a very narrow and slim body shape.

"It may look very similar to (the SF90) last year but, believe me, it's completely different and a lot of the concepts are very extreme."

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, on stage with 22-year-old Monegasque teammate Charles Leclerc, gave it his immediate seal of approval.

"I like it a lot, I can't wait to drive it," said the German, who addressed the audience in Italian.

"And it's a little bit more red than last year. It is impossible to predict what will happen but I see a lot of hours that went into the car.

"I think it is a step forward and I hope it feels like that to drive. Part of the adventure is we have to be patient and we have to wait."

Presenting the new car away from Maranello for the first time, in a nearby city famed as the birthplace of the Italian flag and with fans thronging the square outside, Ferrari's presentation put emotion centre stage.

A violin soloist played, cymbals clashed and a youth orchestra performed stirring F1 themes as the team put on a show.

The SF1000 will continue to be developed in advance of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15. Fans will get their first look at the new car in action when testing begins in Barcelona on Feb 19.

Ferrari won only three races last year, two by Leclerc and the other Vettel, and finished runners-up to Mercedes who won both titles for a sixth successive campaign.

The 2019 season proved a particularly cold shower for the only team to have competed in every championship since 1950, with the car raising hopes by being quickest in pre-season testing only to then fail to deliver as expected.

Binotto also said Vettel remained the team's "first choice" for the future despite reports Hamilton could join the Italian stable.

Vettel, 32, joined Ferrari in 2015 and the German's contract is till the end of this season, as does Hamilton's at Mercedes.

"We're focused on our drivers. We're not thinking about it for the moment," added Binotto. "We are focused on the car and the tests. There will be a time for the rest."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2020, with the headline 'Ferrari unveil car aimed at toppling Mercedes dominance'. Print Edition | Subscribe