Ferrari’s new grand prix racing car - the SF71H - has been designed with the aim of cutting Mercedes’ advantage at high-speed circuits during the 2018 Formula 1 season.

The Scuderia unveiled its 2018 challenger on Thursday at its Maranello base, just days before pre-season testing gets underway ahead of the new campaign, with Ferrari setting its sights on a renewed title charge against rivals Mercedes. 

Ferrari became the first team to significantly threaten Mercedes’ dominance of the V6 hybrid era in 2017, but ultimately lost out in both world championships as it failed in its bid to secure a first F1 title of any description in a decade. 

F1’s two protagonist teams from last season were often split by the finest of margins, though patterns of performance emerged throughout the year, with Ferrari enjoying the upper hand on low-speed tracks such as Monaco and the Hungaroring, while Mercedes dominated proceedings at the ultra-fast Monza and Silverstone circuits.

“The new car represents an evolution of last year’s car, which was already a good project,” Ferrari technical director Mattia Binotto explained. “We tried to retain the strengths, first the aggressiveness in some of the concepts we’ve designed. 

"If we take stock of what we did last year, in low-speed tracks we always did well while in circuits where the speed was higher we were suffering a little bit more. So aerodynamic development was sought in that respect and the car was conceived in that way in order to have homogeneous, uniform performance all season.

"As regards to aerodynamics, we tried to retain our concept of the inlets for the radiators, and everybody is copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward,” he added. “What we showed here is not the same element as last year -- it is something more developed. The strengths are there and we wanted to improve ourselves.”

Binotto revealed that Ferrari has moved towards the longer wheelbase design favoured by Mercedes last season, adding much of the Italian squad’s development efforts were focused on the bodywork around the sidepods and in producing a narrower rear-end package. 

"When it comes to performance, these are all contributions that aim to improve the aerodynamics of the car. They try to improve the drag level in general while improving the overall efficiency of the car.

"Increasing the wheelbase improves the aerodynamics elements and allows them to be freer when it comes to all the elements that are in the middle of the car. Working on the back of the car, which requires a lot of effort, means an improvement in the airflow on the rear of the car.

"These have all been architectural and layout actions aimed at one final objective: that of improving aerodynamics, or at least opening more avenues for aerodynamic performance during the season.”

Binotto also provided an insight into the challenges of integrating the mandatory Halo cockpit protection system onto the SF71H’s design. 

“The Halo - as it is very visible - it is very intrusive on the design. It is not a straightforward exercise, it affects the weight of the car, the centre of gravity, the air into the engine scope but as well along the floor to the rear wing. So we put in quite a lot of effort to ensure that everything was working properly.”