Ferrari technical director James Allison admits that the build-up to the start of the 2014 F1 season has been unusually hard, but also doesn't expect the difficulty to end any time soon.
With F1 introducing a new raft of regulations – from a change to turbocharged 1.6-litre engines to revised aero rules and clamping down on the number of units available during the season – the ability to design a completely new car has been fraught with hurdles that needed to be overcome. Ferrari reached the end of that process with the unveiling of the new F14-T at Maranello on Saturday, but Allison accepts that it is only the start of a long, hard season.
“Everyone, every engineer who works in F1, is privileged,” he claimed, “We work with a quality of people absolutely of the top level, we work with equipment and tools that are from the front rank, and we're all very fortunate all the time but, this year, we've had the additional pleasure, from an engineering perspective, of being able to start with a clean sheet of paper, a completely new project, a complex and very difficult project.
“To be able to design, from nothing, the entire layout of a very difficult and complex car, for an engineer, is like Christmas every day. However, despite saying it's a pleasure, we also have to remember that its been very difficult as well - and difficulty doesn't stop at the start of the season. We've got races ahead of us and that difficulty will continue through every race as we try to make sure we keep improving the car the year.”
With almost every aspect of the 2014 regulations changing from last season, there are several unknowns facing the teams ahead of next week's first group test in Spain, but Allison has his own take on what might be the deciding factor over the course of the season.
“For the first time in many years, we have free development of the engine from a clean sheet of paper and, for sure, that's going to bring a variation in the level of power between the various engine manufacturers, which makes the engine a much more important competitive factor than it has been in recent years,” he noted.
“The rules on aerodynamics are also very new and the rate of development that we will have, aerodynamically, through the season will be very steep so the importance of aerodynamics to the championship is going to be at least as important as the difference in power levels between the various engine manufacturers.
“However, if I had to choose the thing that would be the dominant factor for the season, I would choose neither the level of power or then aerodynamic development - I would say, this season, that reliability will be absolutely fundamental.”
Having suffered at the hand of its own windtunnel in recent seasons, Allison is confident that the development of the team as a whole, will allow Ferrari to take a step forward, not just in 2014, but longer term.
“I'm lucky to have arrived here at the end of a period of very heavy investment in the tools that we have in the factory, big investment in the windtunnel, big investment in all of the dynos we use for developing the engine,” he explained, “That investment is going to see Ferrari set fair and prosper in the coming period - as long as we, the engineers, work to make the most of the opportunities that we've been given by the investment that's been made.”