Fireworks greet the launch of the Ferrari F138

Ferrari may have staged a spectacular launch but can the F138 can bring championship titles to Italy

Alonso and Massa are hungry for success in 2013
Alonso and Massa are hungry for success in 2013© Ferrari.com

While other F1 teams temper the majesty of their launch according to the times, for Ferrari launching the new car is always a big deal. This year’s effort was a Tron-with-added-menace light show after which the audience in Maranello got a good look at the F138.

Ferrari’s heritage is sufficient that it doesn’t need to bother with stability in its naming regime. This season’s effort goes for a combination of the year and a nod to the fact this is the last time we’re going to see a V8 in F1. For the record it’s Ferrari’s 59th F1 car.

The name was the most radical thing on display. In common with Lotus before and presumably most teams to follow, Ferrari’s latest offering is largely a development of last season’s car. There’s a new airbox and some work around the sidepods and engine cover but largely it’s an exercise in continuity rather than change.

The largely unaltered regulations for this year mean it’s no great surprise to see evolutions of last year’s cars, though Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali also suggested the big changes demanded in 2014 make it unwise to focus all of your resources on this year.

“According to our planning, there will nothing too revolutionary, but rather an implementation of what we have seen so far,” said Domenicali. “In my opinion a serious team has to focus on the fact that, in 2014 we face a completely different season in terms of the regulations and therefore, we must concentrate on bringing into play the right resources.”

The front wing of the new Ferrari F138
The front wing of the new Ferrari F138© Ferrari.com

Having been embroiled in a championship battle until the final laps of 2012, technical director Pat Fry admitted the development of the new car wasn’t quite so advanced as it would otherwise be at this time of year, suggesting the aero package on display in Maranello would undergo big changes as various parts became available.

“The biggest challenge was the aerodynamic side of things, as we started maybe three months later than is normal,” said Fry. “We have quite a lot of catching up to do and you will see quite a lot of changes coming after the launch car: we will have some new parts for the second test and then another big upgrade for the third and final one.

Felipe Massa gives the F138 two thumbs up
Felipe Massa gives the F138 two thumbs up© Ferrari.com

At times last year Fernando Alonso was markedly ambivalent toward the efforts of Ferrari’s design department and he didn’t come over all knock-kneed with excitement here.

“I can’t say if it’s a nice car or if it’s good enough to make the difference, because tenths are not visible to the eye, you need to see them from the cockpit,” said the double world champion. “Now, all we can do is concentrate on testing.”

Alonso’s initial assessment, however, will have to wait until the second of the three winter tests. He’s opted out next week’s action in Jerez, which is usually given over to the nuts and bolts of shaking down the chassis and generating baseline aero data. The F138 will instead be given its debut by Felipe Massa, who will drive for three days before handing over to Pedro de la Rosa. Ferrari’s latest recruit will have the car for the final day, presumably to better inform him in his full-time job of getting the Scuderia’s simulator programme to the cutting edge of fidelity.

Massa didn’t seem phased at being asked to do the donkey work. “The first test is very useful to understand the direction in which we should go and where we need to do the most work,” said the Brazilian.

Further modifications to the F138 are planned
Further modifications to the F138 are planned© Ferrari.com