By Alan Baldwin
REGGIO EMILIA, Italy (Reuters) – Ferrari showed off their 2020 Formula One car with a theatrical show of pride and passion on Tuesday, assuring success-starved fans that it was also very different under the skin to last year’s model.
The SF1000, marking the Italian team’s 1,000th race that comes up this year, is the car Ferrari hope can end six years of Mercedes domination and dash Lewis Hamilton’s bid to equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles.
If the red machine looked superficially similar under the stage lights to the 2019 version, team principal Mattia Binotto said appearances were deceptive.
“We have been as extreme in all the concepts as we could,” he told a global audience watching as the car made its appearance on stage at Reggio Emilia’s opulent Romolo Valli opera house.
“The entire car, power unit, has been packaged to have a very narrow and slim body shape.
“It may look very similar to last year but, believe me, it’s completely different and a lot of the concepts are very extreme,” added the Swiss-born Italian, who is starting his second year at the helm.
Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, on stage with 22-year-old Monegasque team mate Charles Leclerc, gave it his immediate seal of approval.
“I like it a lot,” said the German, who also showed off his Italian in addressing the audience. “And it’s a little bit more red than last year.”
Ferrari won three races last year, two for Leclerc and the other for Vettel, and finished runners-up to Mercedes who won both titles for an unprecedented sixth successive season.
The 2019 season proved a particularly cold shower for the only team to have competed in every championship since the start in 1950, with the car raising hopes by being quickest in pre-season testing only to then fail to deliver as expected.
Both the team and drivers made errors, while a lack of reliability also led to likely wins slipping through their fingers.
Presenting the new car away from Maranello for the first time, in a nearby city famed as the birthplace of the Italian flag and with fans thronging the square outside, Ferrari’s presentation put emotion center stage.
A violin soloist played, cymbals clashed and a youth orchestra performed stirring Formula One-themed music as the team put on a show before the serious work of testing starts in Barcelona on Feb. 19.
Some 350 men and women from the racing department took their seats in the auditorium and were recognized as Ferrari’s ‘unsung heroes’ by president Louis Camilleri.
“We all share a passion for the prancing horse,” he said. “We are all very conscious of the huge responsibilities that lie on our shoulders.”
Ferrari last won a drivers’ title with Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, and a constructors’ championship in 2008.
The season starts in Australia on March 15.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)