Clothed in familiar rich red clothes, the 54th single-seater built by Ferrari specifically for Formula One was unveiled to a select band of journalists and media in Maranello as the Scuderia became the first team to launch its 2008 campaign.

Eschewing the usual ceremony of past Ferrari launches, the Prancing Horse made a discreet start to its double title defence, just 24 hours before world champion Kimi Raikkonen is due to give the car - which will be known as F2008 - its first track outing at Fiorano.

The design, codenamed internally as the 659, represents the Scuderia's interpretation of the regulations that come into force in 2008. The wheelbase and weight distribution have been adapted to meet the challenge of revised restrictions on traction control and other electronics, based on lessons learned with last year's relatively long wheelbase F2007 and how it affected the performance of the mandatory Bridgestone control tyres.

Differences in the technical and sporting regulations regarding the car's electronics are the headline changes for 2008, with the introduction of the McLaren Electronic Systems-produced SECU [standard electronic control unit] and the removal of a host of a driver aids - including traction control, engine braking and electronically-assisted start systems - meaning that management of the differential, engine and gearchange are much simpler. The SECU consists of a single control unit and a software system, the development of which ends as the season begins.

Other areas affected by rule changes include the gearbox, which must now be used for four consecutive events; the introduction of higher side protection around the driver's helmet; and a limit on the type of composites that can be used in the construction of the car. As a result of these rules, there has been an increase in weight over the F2007.

All aerodynamic surfaces have been completely revised from last year, giving the car a different look, with the monocoque further cut away under the driver's legs and the sidepods and engine cover now more tapered. The current bodywork, however, will be replaced by a completely new package in time for the first race, in Melbourne, in March, with an intensive - and all-encompassing - development programme planned to run throughout the season. The suspension system has been reworked and developed around the new aerodynamics.

The gearbox casing is produced in carbon, while the transmission continues to be mounted longitudinally. For the second consecutive year, the gearchange is fitted with a quick-shift system, adapted to the SECU software but faster than in recent seasons. Shell has played a key role in defining the lubricants for the gearbox, in an effort to ensure reliability for the new rules.

The 056 engine is mounted longitudinally and continues as a load-bearing element. Its basic structure remains unchanged compared to the unit homologated at the start of last season, as per the engine freeze rules, although auxiliary systems, air and fuel intakes have all been developed. The braking system has been updated with new callipers and innovative concepts to aid cooling.

As usual, the design and development stages of the F2008 was aided by the team's technical partners, with Shell also helping the Scuderia comply with new technical regulations calling for the use of fuel corresponding to European Union norms, with a content of components derived from biological sources equal to 5.75 per cent.

Likewise, the Fiat Research Centre provided assistance with simulation systems and Brembo in developing the braking system.



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