Ferrari unveiled their SF-23 car for the upcoming Formula One season at their Maranello headquarters on Tuesday, the Scuderia gunning for Red Bull and world champion Max Verstappen.
The iconic Italian outfit finished second in the drivers and constructors championships last time out after an error-strewn campaign, way behind Red Bull whose top driver Verstappen comfortably retained his title.
A Ferrari driver hasn’t won the championship since Kimi Raikkonen back in 2007 and the most recent constructors title came the following year, a long drought for F1’s most successful team.
“The goal is to win, clearly,” said driver Charles Leclerc, who took the SF-23 for a spin around the Maranello track in front of around 500 of the team’s famously passionate supporters.
“The feeling of winning is what motivates me, motivates all the team too. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car and trying to win the championship.”
There is officially no pecking order between Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz, hence a coin toss that decided who would get the first go on the new car at Maranello.
“If at one point of the championship a driver is clearly in the fight for winning… then I’m sure the team will do everything possible to put him in the best conditions,” Leclerc added.
Sainz — who finished fifth last season with the high point of his win in the British Grand Prix — said he was confident for the new season, which starts early next month with the Bahrain Grand Prix.
“I’ve been working hard over the winter to arrive to this season prepared. Last year I had my bit of success, it was not an easy season but I don’t know any easy season,” said the Spaniard.
“I feel I want to race, make a lot of podiums… I know I’m able to do very good things,” Sainz expressed.
The coming season is the first for team principal Frederic Vasseur, who took charge in December following the resignation of Mattia Binotto the month before.
Vasseur gained a reputation for nurturing new talent, helping win the F2 series in 2005 and 2006 with future world champions Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton respectively.
He has strong links from the junior categories with Leclerc.
“You can feel the responsibility for the team, it’s a great honor but at the end of the day the important thing is to be successful,” said the Frenchman.
“We want to deliver and I don’t want to be happy just because I’m at Ferrari, the most important is to win.”
Binotto was considered culpable for last season’s frequent missteps, including pitlane errors and reliability issues which damaged Leclerc’s attempt to keep up with Verstappen.
Ferrari began with two wins in the opening three GPs but was then swept aside by Red Bull and Verstappen, who won the drivers title with three races remaining and eventually finished 146 points ahead of Leclerc.
The new car is designed with the aim of improving aerodynamics and the reliability of the engine, the latter being one of the key problems last time out.
“Last year is not a secret, it was not the best aspect with the engine, we’ve done a good job and we’re ready for the season,” said Vasseur.
“The concept of the car is the same, the rules are the same. The priority is the reliability. Only Bahrain will tell us where we are.”
Banner image from Scuderia Ferrari on Twitter.