Ferrari's new F138 grand prix car may be based on the principals of last year's F2012, but the Scuderia insists that it has refined as much as possible in the bid to beat Red Bull.
While largely an evolution of the 2012 machine that took Fernando Alonso to second in the points table in terms of its basic design principals, the team insists that every single part has been revised in order to maximise performance, while all the time attempting to maintain last season's extraordinary reliability.
The F138 - a name derived from a combination of the current year and the number of cylinders, to mark the fact that this is the eighth and final year of competition for the V8 engine configuration - is the first design to come from the reorganised working methods in operation at Maranello over the past few months, with the creation of two distinct groups of designers: one working on this car and the other on the completely different car which will race next season.
With the 2013 technical and sporting regulations being largely the same as last year's, the new car does not differ visually from its predecessor. The design philosophy of the suspension layout has not changed and continues to use pull-rods both front and rear, but it has been refined in order to gain as much aerodynamic advantage as possible, especially at the rear.
The bodywork elements have been redesigned to allow for changes to the positioning and layout of the exhausts. The dynamic air intake, mounted above the cockpit has been redesigned, as have been the intakes to the sidepods which, in turn, have also been optimised in aerodynamic terms, although the overall cooling system remains unchanged.
The rear of the F138 is much narrower and more tapered on the lower part than the F2012. The configuration of the front and rear wings is derived directly from the last versions used on the F2012, partly because development of that car ran all the way to the final race of last season. However, the aerodynamic elements shown on the car are only those from the initial phase of development and, as has become the norm, significant modifications will be introduced in the weeks leading up to the first race in Melbourne.
The drag reduction system on the rear wing has been revised and optimised to make the most of the modifications to the sporting regulations that come into force this year. There are detailed changes to the design of the brake ducts, both front and rear, and work has been carried out with Brembo on optimising the braking system overall, with Ferrari claiming that attention has been paid to weight reduction and increased rigidity.
The engine on the F138 is an evolution of last year's, given that the technical regulations forbid modifications to internal components aimed at improving performance. With that in mind, work focused on ensuring that the engine's performance level remained as high as possible throughout the life cycle of each unit. The team's technical collaboration with Shell, which has run for several decades now, has led to further progress on the fuel and lubricants front, aimed at increasing performance in overall terms and also on maintaining it throughout the engine's life, as well as reducing consumption.
The KERS system remains in the lower central part of the car, a strategic choice which has always been adopted by the team, partly with the aim of ensuring maximum safety. Once again, a great deal of effort has gone into reducing its weight and size, at the same time improving the efficiency of some of its components and, as in the case of the engine, maintaining the highest performance level throughout the usage cycle.
Ferrari has also decided to introduce the electronics control unit that will be used in 2014, despite the amount of work involved in integrating and controlling all its features in terms of both software and hardware.
With only twelve days of testing available before the start of the Championship, the preparatory work on the test benches prior to the car's track debut, has taken on even more importance. The three test sessions – at Jerez de la Frontera and Barcelona – will allow the team to get to understand the behaviour of the F138 and to adapt it to the new Pirelli tyres.