To the untrained eye, there were few differences to be spotted immediately the covers came off Ferrari's new F1 challenger, but the men behind it insist that the F2008 is an all-new machine.

Although the Scuderia took both titles in 2007, and won more races than its rivals courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, the team knows that it cannot afford to rest on its laurels, and has worked hard to make improvements to last year's machine. According to technical director Aldo Costa, the aerodynamic package came in for the most attention over the winter but insists that, under the skin, there are plenty more changes.

"We mainly worked on the aerodynamics, which are completely different to the ones from 2007, although there are still some elements which are identical to the F2007," he revealed, "All the aerodynamic surfaces have been completely updated. The body is more concave, and the engine cover has a different profile to improve the efficiency and resolve some problems we had on circuits such as Monte Carlo, Hungary and Canada.

"The evolution of the aerodynamics is excellent. The team has done some fantastic work, although it is the fourth year in terms of stability of the rules in that sense. Nevertheless, we managed to have further progress. Without judging the others, I have to say that our car has many hidden features, which we hope will pay in terms of reliability and performance."

The introduction of a standard ECU has forced the Prancing Horse to make radical changes to the internals of its latest product, which Costa admits will put more control into the hands of his unchanged driver line-up.

"We've done some major work on the electronics and the control systems as, this year, we have to use an integrated central system and an MES [mechanics and electronics system]," he confirmed, "We had to review the electronic layout of the car and try to figure out, without any help from the drivers, things such as the traction control and other controls.

"We've been working a lot on the gearbox, which has to be used for four races in a row this year. We changed the dimension to improve its lifetime, but we don't want to slow down. We want to keep up our performance level of 2007; we want to further develop the seamless [gearshift] system. We have to produce a gearbox which will last for four races, while we have to reduce its weight and its dimensions. Changing gear will thus depend now more on the drivers."

Engine guru Gilles Simon also addressed the specially-invited audience of journalists on the unification of the engine and electronics management required for 2008, but revealed that, with few changes permitted this season, the team is already looking ahead to the introduction of new technology next year.

"We are already looking ahead to 2009, when we will develop a kinetic system to reuse the energy produced by the car," he said of the impending introduction of the controversial KERS technology proposed by FIA president Max Mosley, "This will take up a lot of our time this year. To combine the two departments is an obvious thing to do. We will do many test sessions inside and outside of the works.

"This is the second year that we are not allowed to further develop the engines. From March 2008 on, the engine will be completed and approved. What we have actually done is concentrated our work on everything that is sitting above the cylinders, such as the inlets and also on the improvement of the lubrification. We also developed a new kind of fuel over the last winter in collaboration with Shell. The rules of 2008 set a limit of 5.75 per cent of bio-components in the fuel. We'll use the biofuel already at the tests in Jerez next week."

Having already confirmed that the bodywork on view at the launch would probably not be the same when the F2008 appears in the paddock at the opening round of the year, in Melbourne, in March, director of operations Mario Almondo was asked exactly how many updates could be expected during the season.

"In 2007, we had four major developments of the car and many minor developments for each race according to the different race tracks," he revealed, "Simulation and the wind tunnel are very important here, but also the tests in the works play an important role. From the first GP on, we try to keep a straight line in terms of development, to eliminate all the problems caused by the single circuits."

The F2008 is expected to turn its first wheel on track later today [Monday], when world champion Raikkonen completes a shakedown at the team's private Fiorano facility.

 

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