Maranello, Italy (AP) — As Ferrari presented its new Formula One car on Friday, its drivers remained cautious about how much they can challenge Mercedes this season.
Much was expected last year after Sebastian Vettel managed to win three races in his debut season with Ferrari in 2015, helping the Italian team finish runner-up in the constructors’ championship behind the dominant Mercedes.
However, Ferrari didn’t win a race last year and dropped to third overall, 367 points adrift of Mercedes and 70 behind Red Bull.
Although striking a cautious note, four-time world champion Vettel noticed a marked improvement in the SF70H after driving it for the first time at the team’s Fiorano base, despite a wet track.
“It’s obviously too soon to make judgments, also because of the conditions today, but I would say that this car is a decisive step forwards,” the German driver said. “And you can see how fun it is driving such a big one-seater.”
Teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who won the team’s last drivers’ championship in 2007, had the first run, sharing the 100 kilometers of permitted filming day mileage evenly with Vettel.
“We’re certainly not going at our maximum in the first laps, but the car seems good,” Raikkonen said. “Obviously it’s only the first contact, the real work starts only in the tests in Barcelona. But up until now everything’s good and we’ll start from here.”
The veteran Finnish driver — who is 37 — is excited about the prospect of racing in the new-look car.
“I like the look of this car, very different to last year’s because of the new rules,” he said. “The team has done fantastic work in every little detail.”
The SF70H is redder — the traditional color of Ferrari — than last year’s car. Only the front wings sport a touch of white and part of the rear, which also has stripes the colors of the Italian flag: white, red and green.
The car has a lengthened nose and an arrow-shaped wing as a consequence of the radical overhaul of the sport’s technical rulebook over the offseason.
It is named the SF70H to mark the 70th anniversary of Ferrari.