Feb. 1 saw another round of Formula 1 car launches, as Scuderia Ferrari and Force India both launched their newest F1 challengers.
Ferrari’s new offering, the F138, was unveiled at the team’s headquarters in Maranello, Italy. As with the two vehicle launches that preceded Ferrari’s, from McLaren and Lotus F1 Team, the 2013 version of the Italian team’s car is an evolution of their 2012 model since there were minimum regulation changes from 2012 to 2013. The F138 maintains the front pull-rod suspension that Ferrari developed last year, which has been refined for a better aerodynamic advantage. Other tweaks to the car include a slimmer rear body section and a redesigned drag reduction system (DRS) on the rear wing. Ferrari also invested considerable resources into reducing the size and weight of the kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), which is still located in the lower central part of the car.
Ferrari finished second in the Constructor’s Championship in 2012 with 400 points, putting them 60 points behind three-time winner Red Bull Racing. Fernando Alonso mirrored his team’s placing by ending up second in the Driver’s Championship behind Red Bull wheel man and back-to-back-to-back World Champion Sebastian Vettel, though the point gap was a mere three points in the driver category. Alonso’s teammate Felipe Massa finished seventh in the points.
Ferrari believes that it will be stronger in 2013 and that both a Driver’s and Constructor’s Championship are well within reach. There is no reason for anybody to think otherwise. Massa will be the first behind the wheel of the F138 when he hits the track with it on Feb. 5 at the first practice session in Jerez, Spain. Alonso will sit out the first sessions and thus will have his first wheel time in the new machine Feb. 19 at Barcelona for the second practice session.
Force India’s launch took place not far from the site of the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, UK where their team base is located. Force India only has one confirmed driver as of yet, the young Brit Paul di Resta, who was on hand for the event and even took the Mercedes-powered VJM06 out for a brief track debut on the British Grand Prix course. Force India is the only team to actually take their new machine out on the track thus far.
Force India’s team principal, Dr. Vijay Mallya, commented on the driver situation by saying, “We are very close to making our decision and I can assure you that we will arrive in Australia with one of the most exciting pairings on the grid”. Last year di Resta was paired with German driver Nico Hulkenberg who is now with Sauber. In 2012 di Resta ended up 14th in the points with his highest finish coming at the Singapore Grand Prix where he finished fourth.
Force India said they are targeting podium finishes with their 2013 car, which is a lofty goal considering that neither of their 2012 drivers scored a podium finish last season. Paul di Resta is young and has potential, so we will see if 2013 will be another step forward for him. Force India has a lot of options to fill the second slot, but as an American I would love to see them shock the world and bring in Conor Daly, who test drove for the team once last season at Silverstone. Realistically though, Daly is probably still a year away from competing for a seat in F1.
Both teams opted to use modesty panels to hide the stepped nose on their cars. Of the teams to launch only Lotus has not used a panel, but team officials did say that they might add one later in the season.