Ferrari unveiled its fiftieth Formula One car in Maranello this morning, taking the covers off the machine it hopes will be good enough to retain its vice-like grip on both world championship crowns.

Sticking with tradition, Ferrari's director of communication Antonio Ghini opened the F2004 presentation ceremony by welcoming the assembled guests to the vast hanger that is the Vecchia Meccanica at Maranello.

"Last year, we presented our new car in the Nuova Logistica at Fiorano, and, the year before, we used the Nuova Meccanica, one of the buildings constructed for 'Formula Uomo'," he said, "This was a project that enjoyed the full backing of president [Luca] Montezemolo, whose aim was to establish an environment in which staff could go about their work in the best possible conditions.

"This year, we are in a building that represents perfectly the link between our history and our future - a space in which mechanical work was carried out in the past and which in future will house the production line."

Ghini then invited Jean Todt, the general director of the Gestione Sportiva, onto the stage. The diminutive Frenchman politely stated that he preferred not make the expectant guests wait longer than was necessary for the unveiling, and promptly called for Luca Badoer, Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher to join him.

"This is what we are here for and so I would like to ask the drivers to come up and unveil the F2004 - the single-seater that will fly the flag for Italy, the Group and our team in the F1 World Championship," Todt announced.

The F2004 - which goes by the factory code number of 655 - represents a further evolution of the concepts already seen in the F2003-GA. However, every element of the car has been completely redesigned in an attempt to create the best environment to get the most out of the new 053 engine and the Bridgestone tyres.

The design team, has fine-tuned the aerodynamic configuration in the light of changes to the technical regulations governing the engine cover and rear wing, but all the while aiming to improve the efficiency of the package. The car also now boasts a lower centre of gravity, while weight distribution has been improved with regard to the chassis and the engine.

The chassis is new, both in terms of design and construction. Its weight has been reduced and it has an improved structure when compared with the F2003-GA. The bodywork, exhausts and the rear end have all been redesigned, producing an improvement in aerodynamic performance. The front and rear suspension have both been revised in order to improve the vehicle's dynamic handling, which the team hopes will lead to greater efficiency from its Bridgestone tyre.

New materials have been used in the engine and transmission in order to reduce its size and weight, while modifications to the regulations regarding the number of engines that can be used in the course of a grand prix weekend set new targets for the 053 engine design project. The design team believes that it has achieved the optimum reliability level while striving to improve performance, even though engine life now has to be double that of past season. Once again the engine acts as a stressed member and is mounted longitudinally.

Technical partner Shell has been credited with playing an important role in the research and design of the 053, both in terms of reaching the performance and reliability targets, as well as coming up with new fuel and lubricants.

The transmission is once again mounted longitudinally to maintain the same layout as on the F2003-GA. It is a completely new design, providing a reduction in size and weight.

The titanium gearbox has seven speeds - plus reverse - and, because of changes to the technical regulations, is operated directly by the driver. In keeping with a trend initiated by Ferrari back in 1997, which has since become standard Formula One practice, the car features high-level exhausts although, when compared with previous versions, they are mounted nearer the car's centre line.

The team believes that the F2004 represents another step forward in Ferrari's single-seater history. A great deal of time and attention was paid to making the most of the new materials and to optimising the various design stages as well as the quality control methods, all aimed at improving overall reliability and performance while making the car as safe as possible.



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