In 2020, Scuderia Ferrari are in pole position to become the first F1 team to run 1000 races and have now presented the car in which they will do so, the symbolically named SF1000.
At the Teatro Romolo Valli in Reggio Emilia, northern Italy, (30km from the original Ferrari HQ) the occasion was orchestrated with all the glitz, glamour, class and style one would expect from the 80-year old car manufacturer. A 20-piece orchestra and a 19-strong choir helped unveil the new vehicle with the new branding, the car that is being considered to look closest to challenge the virtuosity of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari are currently backed second-favourites at around 7/2, behind the odds-on Mercedes, for the 2020 Constructors Championship, in what would be the first win for the Italian team since 2008.
The Ferrari driving duo of Charles Leclerc, penning a new five-year contract with the Italian manufacturer at the end of 2019, and Sebastian Vettel go into the season together for the second successive year. Vettel, a four-time world champion, enters his sixth year with Ferrari hoping to perform better than he did in 2019, when he picked up a solitary victory on the Suzuka circuit.
The 22-year-old Leclerc, who finished ahead of the German in the Drivers’ Championship, was selected in place of the experienced Kimi Raikkonen for the 2019 season and rewarded with a fourth-place standing, back-to-back wins at the Belgian and Italian Grand Prix, and helped contribute to Ferrari’s nine podium finishes. The Monégasque will become the youngest F1 winner in history if he roars to the Drivers’ Championship in the SF1000 in 2020.
That victory at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, however, came in the 13th race of the season for Ferrari, a long absence that underwhelmed after an impressive pre-season. Chief executive Mattia Binotto isn’t just putting improvement at the forefront of Scuderia Ferrari’s ambitions, but achievement: “We are more demanding on ourselves than anyone could ever be.”
This is the 66th car manufactured by Ferrari for a Formula 1 World Championship. The new vehicle is slightly slimmer - and noticeably redder - than last year’s racer but has only slightly built on the concept of the SF90. Lower weight, an improved power unit and a more streamlined racer were essential to the design concept. Added Binotto, “It may look similar to last year but it’s completely different to the one of last year and a lot of concepts are very extreme on that car....we’ve developed the car trying to look for maximum aero performance and maximise the downforce level...the entire car, the monocoque, the power unit and the gearbox has been really packaged in a way to have a narrow and slim body shape.”
“The Ferrari 065 power unit represents a step forward in the combustion efficiency of its Internal Combustion Engine, due mainly to two factors, a new design and a new fuel,” stated the accompanying detail released by Ferrari. “A new Turbocharger and Energy Recovery System have been developed in order to maximize the overall Power Unit performance. As part of the overall concept of the 671 car, the PU layout design has focused on being as compact as possible, while also rationalising the weight and size of the Energy Store.”
Leclerc and Vettel will be testing the car at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on 19 February, with the latter commenting that he likes the vehicle "a lot".
“I can't wait to drive it. 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."
The 1000-race mark will be hit by the ninth race of the season - currently the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Vielleneuve in Montreal. With the cancellation of the Chinese GP due to the coronavirus outbreak, the landmark could be postponed to the subsequent French GP.
Ahead of the curtain-raiser at the Australian Grand Prix, Ferrari have won 238 of the 991 F1 races they’ve entered, but as president John Elkann stated, the “thirst for victory is stronger than ever”.
Whether that thirst is enough to drink heartily from the victory well on the most occasions across the 22-race season and eventually displace Hamilton and Mercedes will be the motorsport fan’s privilege to witness.