In front of the whole 300-strong race team, Ferrari have today launched their Formula One challenger for the 1999 Grand Prix season at Maranello in Italy. Drivers Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine, test driver Luca Badoer, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, general manager Jean Todt, technical director Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Bryne were all present to see the new F399 (the name based on the fact the new engine capacity is 3 litres, and the year is 1999) unveiled in front of more than 400 journalists, photographers and TV crews in a marquee erected at the team's test track Fiorano.
"I believe that this car will give me a 50-50 chance of winning the title this year," said Michael Schumacher, "but what is more important than winning a third title is winning the title with Ferrari." Teammate Eddie Irvine, now almost free of the back pain that has afflicted previous years with Ferrari, said that "I need to improve my results. Last year I scored seconds and thirds. This year they need to be firsts and seconds. I believe that I can win this year."
For Jean Todt, the most important thing is "to be competitive from the first race of the year. So we will start testing at the end of this coming week," he explained. Luca di Montezemolo pointed out that the team's partnership as one of Bridgestone's two development teams (along with rivals McLaren) was a significant step, and the one-tyre formula in 1999 was still important to the team, although they expected McLaren to be their main rivals in 1999.
Ross Brawn explained that the new car is designed by design and aerodynamic teams that have been considerably reinforced during the past year. "The F300 was the first car designed by the new technical team," he said, "and they produced an excellent car. The F399 is an evolution of last year?s F300 with important innovations. Both the engine team and the chassis team have worked together and have produced a car that is totally integrated. It was important for us to understand the new Bridgestone tyres before finalising our design, although we made changes after last year?s Suzuka test."
The new car features a new chassis construction system, which has seen an overall weight loss on the car of some 20 kilos. Everything, however, has been redesigned, with a new rear suspension layout, central diffuser and exhausts comprising a new layout at the rear end of the car, achieving a considerable improvement in efficiency. Weight changes have seen a significant lowering of the centre of gravity.
The new car features the elaborate front wing seen at Suzuka last year, as well as relatively small "barge boards" along the side of the moncoque, in comparison to last year's McLaren. The rear end of the car is very narrow around the longitudinal seven speed gearbox, a development of last year's unit. The top of the monocoque forward of the cockpit is still very high in comparison to some of the other cars seen this year.
The 048 V10 engine is a development of last year's 047, working from what Ferrari's head of the engine department Paolo Martinelli described as a good base. "We worked on as many of the components as possible," he explained, "with the intention of maintaining reliability as well as improving driveability and performance. The engine has been on a strict diet. It's already five per cent lighter and it will lose more weight and undergo a development prior to the start of the European season."
"There are three reasons why we have a great chance," said Jean Todt. "The first is that the team has now been working together for three yars. The second is that we have been able to improve on last year's car, which was good to begin with. And our new wind tunnel is now up and running and we're spending some 75 hours a week in that and our other wind tunnel. There is no lack of motivation within this team, even though we've just lost the championship for the last couple of years. It's easier when you've come so close. We were nearly there. We're in a position that in the last 20 years, because of changes, we haven't won. But now we've been able to provide stability, and that's no bad thing when you're trying to win the championship. If you can explain why you lose then you're on the right course to know exactly where you are relative to the competition, and why you're there."
In closing, Ross Brawn explained that "we're nervously confident. The step between the end of last year and the beginning of this year is bigger than the step between the beginning of last year and the end. We have a super car, the team is working very well together and we have consistent drivers. We should expect to win the championship, and we?re going all out to do it."
First tests of the F399 will commence this week at Fiorano.
The F399 Specs:
The F399 is the forty fifth car built by Ferrari to race in the Drivers' Championship, the fourth equipped with a 10 cylinder engine. Its name indicates the total displacement (3 litres) and the year of participation at the championship.
Thanks also to the substantial stability of the technical regulation, the car which has been entirely designed and built at Maranello, represents an evolution of the one which took part in the previous season and is different from by means of the new suspension systems, lower centre of gravity and increased aerodynamic efficiency, fruit of the research and development work conducted in the new wind tunnel.
At the same time, the 048 engine is an evolution of the engine used in 1998. Also in order to improve the stability of the car, the centre of gravity of the 048 has been lowered thanks to modifications carried out on the lower part of the cylinder block. It is also lighter and more powerful. The exhaust tails are turned upwards. The gearbox is sequential longitudinal at 7 gears + reverse gear, a direct derivative of the unit which had its debut in the last season. Weight and dimensions are extremely reduced to improve the mass distribution and the aerodynamic efficiency of the car.
|Carbon fiber and honeycomb composite structure|
|Ferrari longitudinal gearbox. Limited slip differential|
|Semiautomatic sequential electronically controlled gearbox||
|Number of gears||7 + reverse|
|Ventilated carbon disc brakes||
|Independent suspension, push-rod activated torsion springs front/rear||
|Front track||1.490 mm|
|Rear track||1.405 mm|
|Weight with water, lubricant and driver||600 kg|
|Wheels (front and rear)||13"|
|Number of cylinders||10 in 80 degrees V|
|Number of valves||40|
|Total displacement||2.997 cm3|
|Power output||> 750 bhp|
|Magnetti Marelli digital electronic injection||
|Magnetti Marelli static electronic ignition||
Cevolini, Champion, Cima, Lear Corp. Momo, Officine Meccaniche Rezzatesi, Sachs, Technogym, TRW Sabelt, Usag, Valleverde, Ve.Ca.