The Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team are used to being first these days, so being the first team to officially launch their 2008 F1 Championship challenger seems apt.
The team unveiled the new car in front of the world's media on Sunday 6th January at the Fiorano test track near the company's headquarters in Maranello, Italy.
"The evolution of the aerodynamics is excellent. The team has done some fantastic work, although it is the fourth year in terms of stability of the rules in that sense," commented Aldo Costa, Technical Director. "Nevertheless we managed to have further progress. Without judging the others I have to say that our car has many hidden features, which we hope will pay in terms of reliability and performance."
The Ferrari team launched its 2008 car narrowly ahead of main rivals McLaren Mercedes, as the McLaren team launch is set to take place a day later on the 7th of January in Mercedes museum in Stuttgart.
The Italian team will surely be hoping to continue this momentum by taking the first win when the car heads off to Melbourne on the weekend of the 14th to the 16th of March, for its first competitive outing.
"We will definitely try to win the Drivers' and Constructors' Championship again. We have to see how the test sessions and the first Grands Prix of the season will go," said 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.
It would indeed take a brave person to bet against the Ferrari when it spins its wheels in anger for the first time at the Australian circuit.
Although much has changed, the 2008 car code-named by Ferrari people as the 659, The F2008, as it will be officially named, is an evolution of the F2007 championship-winning car.
The F2007 was fast so it's a good bet that the F2008 will be even quicker. The weakness of the old car was that it was not as quick on circuits with predominantly slower curves. The team has worked on the car shortening its wheelbase and changing the weight distribution, this is expected to have solved the weakness.
"2007 was really great. I won races, but I also had some problems, which cost me some precious points. We have to learn from that and try to win again," said Felipe Massa, who is entering his third year with the Scuderia team. "I am really motivated; the team is absolutely fantastic. I'm married now and I turned into a man and I am more serious now.
"I am ready to fight ... more than ever," he resolved.
The changes to the regulations for 2008 do add some uncertainty to the proceedings though. Ferrari and other challengers will now share a standard electronic control unit produced by McLaren Systems in association with Microsoft. The removal of the so called driver aids such as traction control, engine braking and launch control is big news for the sport, however, the standard control unit also manages the engine, gearbox and differential which is significant.
"We've ... done some major work on the electronics and the control systems. This year we have to use an integrated central system and an MES (Mechanics and Electronics System). Thus we had to review the electronic layout of the car and try to figure it out without any help from the drivers, such as the traction control and some other controls," Costa said.
Other rule changes stipulate the gearbox should last for four races, the longitudinally mounted gearbox in the Ferrari has a carbon fibre outer case. Ferrari partners Shell have been called upon to help develop the lubricants for the gearbox to help meet the reliability required in the new regulations.
The car as shown at the launch does look significantly different to the F2007 car with changes to the side pods and additional aero devices, although the F2008 will already have a different aero package for the first race.
"It will be much more complex to drive, that's for sure. Especially on wet tracks. But it will be also much more fun," commented Raikkonen. "We have already tested the new system before Christmas. There are also other [electronic] control systems missing, which we were using last year. But we are really satisfied with the new car and its modifications. The cockpit of the F2008 is tighter and also the car is smaller. We have to be ready for these changes."
The management structure for Ferrari has changed for the coming season. The company had already announced on the November 12th last year that Jean Todt will be moving up to the senior role as CEO of Ferrari and Stefano Domenicali will be taking over as the Scuderia Ferrari team principal.
Additionally, Ross Brawn declined a return following his sabbatical and instead accepted the team principal role at Honda.
The Ferrari team first competed in the Formula One World Championship in the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix. The team used its 125 F1 car, sporting a supercharged V12 engine driven by two experienced and successful drivers, Alberto Ascari and Gigi Villoresi.
The team is the oldest and arguably the most successful team left in the F1 championship title chase.
In F1, Ferrari has the unique distinction of gaining nearly all the significant records. The team currently holds the most constructors' championships, the most driver titles, the most wins and the most podiums to name just a few.
In 2004, Ferrari also surpassed Ford as the most successful F1 engine manufacturer.
The new car looks set to continue the tradition, in case there are any doubts, the F2008 proudly wears the logo of the Constructors' championship 2007 on its air box to remind us of its pedigree.