When we look back on the 2012 F1 season in photos and yearbooks, we will wince at the ugliness of the cars, especially the nose sections. Luckily it won’t last long, it’s a passing phase, because in 2014 the new rules mean a totally new generation of F1 cars.
Ferrari, arguably F1’s most stylish brand, has today unveiled the F2012. It’s a car whose nose is aesthetically challenged, but if it’s fast, no-one at Maranello will care about that. And it needs to be fast, because this needs to be the year Ferrari gets back into the winners’ circle on a regular basis.
The nose is a significant talking point for aesthetic reasons, but the pull rod front suspension is a talking point from an engineering stand point. It’s not been done for a while and it shows the current Ferrari technical management are not averse to taking risks.
“I’m sure that this season I can say it will be a red season.” This was the confident prediction of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo as the Italian team pulled the wraps off the radical-looking car that it hopes will take it back to world championship-winning ways in 2012.
The Formula 1 world had long been expecting Ferrari to ‘go aggressive’ with the design of their new car in wake of two seasons largely playing third fiddle to Red Bull and McLaren and so it was little surprise that the new challenger unveiled at Maranello on Friday, titled the F2012, was more outwardly different to its predecessor than was the case with the latest McLaren earlier this week.
With severe snow and ice in the area having forced the team to abandon plans to do the unveiling event at their Fiorano test track, and instead run a purely online ceremony via their website, team principal Stefano Domenicali joined race drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa on stage for the reveal of the car on stage before a recorded message from president Luca di Montezemolo was played in.
Montezemolo had already previously been quoted as describing the F2012 as “ugly” and the car duly features a new-style stepped nose – first seen on the Caterham CT01 last week but which didn’t feature on the more conventional-looking McLaren. Ferrari’s interpretation of the new nose-height regulations appears the most aggressive yet though with the angle down to the nose particularly sharp and then flattening out dramatically. The rear of the car is far sleeker though, with tighter sidepods and tightly-packaged rear bodywork as Ferrari attempt to claw downforce back lost through the banning of blown diffusers.
The design programme has been led by new technical director Pat Fry and much is expected of the new car. After being criticised for being too cautious with designs in recent years, Domenicali admitted that they had “learned” from the past and developed a new car that features “plenty of novelties and new developments”.The radical design appeared to impress both race drivers, with Massa expressing delight at its “very aggressive” appearance, while effective number one driver Alonso hopes it will give him the basis from which he can finally win his third world title. “It looks very different actually from what we’ve seen in the last two years,” he said. “I believe in the skills we have here at Ferrari, we always have to be optimistic. We have to fight for this title and get as many points in every race.”
For Massa, meanwhile, although it may only be the start of February, it was made clear that there would be no hiding place for him this season – the final one of his Ferrari contract. The vultures have been circling the 30-year-old for some time in the wake of two largely lacklustre seasons alongside Alonso, and at the launch di Montezemolo sent out a clear message to the long-serving driver: “Massa has to do something great, and something special, after a non-positive season. We are offering him the best conditions to do a great job.”
The Brazilian hasn’t won a race since melodramatic season finale of 2008 in Brazil when he came within about 30 seconds of being champion. In wake of what’s come since for Massa – including the Hungarian GP accident on 2009 when he suffered a fractured skull – his days as a serious title challenger seem a long time ago now, but for 2012 he’s feeling positive about making a return to the winners’ circle.
“I’d like to say this is going to be quite an important year for me and the whole team as well,” Massa said. “We want to fight to get the championship back and I really believe in my skills, this team and this car. I really feel focused on winning – there are plenty of positive thoughts in my head. I want to start the championship in the right way and finish in the right way.”
Domenicali had begun his speech by announcing that major sponsor Santander had extended its agreement with the team for a further three years up until 2017. The Spanish bank came on board in 2010 at the same time as the arrival of Alonso, who last year committed his future to the team until 2016.