Ferrari braced for challenging home race

Ferrari team chief Marco Mattiacci has warned the iconic team's fans to expect "an extremely difficult" home race at this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

Ferrari braced for challenging home race
Ferrari have not won their home Grand Prix since 2010. Formula One photo: Shutterstock

While most attention will be focussed on the resumption of hostilities between the championship leading Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the fans will be more concerned with the travails of the scarlet scuderia as they bid for some glory on home soil.

"We must keep doing what we've been doing, which is keep very calm, make the right decisions knowing that we are away from the top, and take any opportunities," said Mattiacci.

"That's the approach we have for Monza. It's going to be extremely difficult, that we are aware. Let's see what we can do on the other side."

Ferrari have not won their home Grand Prix since two-time champion Fernando Alonso was triumphant in 2010 – a feeling he wants to repeat in the future, if winning is beyond the team this Sunday, he said this week.

"I want to win for Ferrari, I want to win here and finish the job that we started some years ago and we will see what the future comes," the Spaniard said, in an interview with Sky Sports News during which he also made clear he has no intention of leaving Ferrari for another team.

"Obviously, there has been a lot of talk from the summer of last year, the start more or less, but from my mouth never came any interest to leave Ferrari or any words saying that I will join another team," he explained.

"There are a lot of speculations which is not disturbing, but it creates a bit of tension around and stress, but also you feel proud, you feel happy that the best teams have interest in you and they say it in public."

Alonso acknowledged that he is not relishing racing his Ferrari this year following the radical rule changes that have reduced noise and speed, and increased the frustration.

"It is quite boring in the car," he admitted. "It is a tough year to be in Formula One."

Rosberg reprimanded

The same cannot be said for Mercedes where, following Rosberg's collision with Hamilton at the Belgian Grand Prix, the team reprimanded and punished the championship-leading German.

He and Hamilton, who is 29 points behind with seven races remaining, spoke of continuing to work together, despite their differences and rivalry, but it is difficult to imagine that they will avoid any further conflict as the title race runs down to the wire.

"It is clear that Mercedes keep showing a consistent performance, particularly in the overall package," said Mattiacci, when asked about Ferrari's prospects this weekend at Monza.

"We have been facing heavy races [before] with a concern about our lack of competitiveness, but at the same time, there is always an opportunity. Formula One is about drivers, human beings, and strategy."

On a high speed circuit that famously favours raw power as the cars streak through the woods in the former royal park, Mercedes have a clear advantage with their superior engines, but Red Bull have proved with three wins in six races – all taken by the outstanding young Australian Daniel Ricciardo – that they are ready to profit when Mercedes slip up.

Brake failures, fires and internal strife have undermined the Mercedes machine in that spell and their rivals will hope for more failings – or Rosberg-Hamilton clashes – this weekend.

In theory, the two Mercedes men should have it all their own way this weekend and will have a perfect opportunity to fight fair and prove they can operate as a partnership, as well as rivals.

But Red Bull and Ferrari will be keen to pick up the pieces if another red mist descends on the silver arrows and all three teams may be put under serious pressure by Williams.

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IN PHOTOS: Ferrari unveils its new car for the 2020 season

Ferrari unveiled its new SF1000 car on Tuesday at a ceremony in Italy's motor racing heartland of Emilia-Romagna, ahead of the coming Formula One season.

IN PHOTOS: Ferrari unveils its new car for the 2020 season
The new Ferrari SF1000. All photos: AFP/Ferrari press office

Ferrari unveiled its new SF1000 car for the 2020 Formula One season, which they hope will deliver a first world drivers title since 2007, during a glitzy ceremony on Tuesday.

The single-seater's name acknowledges the fact that the Italian team will start its 1,000th world championship race during the coming campaign, which begins with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 15.

Narrower than last season's SF90, with a deeper red colouring the body, Ferrari is pinning its hopes on the SF1000 car earning them drivers and constructors titles that have eluded them for 12 and 11 years respectively.

“I like it very much,” said German driver Sebastian Vettel.”It's much narrower at the back than last year and it is also redder, it's even better. I'm impatient to drive it, that will be even more fascinating than looking at it.”

The Scuderia broke with tradition and presented its new racing car outside of its stronghold of Maranello, unveiling it instead amid of sea of red on stage at the Teatro Romolo-Valli in the nearby city of Reggio Emilia.

“This is a very important place for our country,” chairman of the Ferrari group John Elkann explained.
“It was in this city that the tricolour flag, which became that of Italy, was created. And Ferrari is proud of Italy and of representing Italy.”

“This is a very special year,” continued Ferrari Team Manager Mattia Binotto.

“It's 70 years of Formula One, we have been there from the start and we are going to reach the figure of 1,000 Grands Prix, which is something incredible.”

Barring a forced change in the calendar because of the deadly coronavirus in Asia, the milestone should be reached in June during the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

“Maybe it looks a lot like the SF90, but I can assure you it is very different,” continued Binotto.

“We still have to make progress, especially on reliability,” he added, recalling that Ferrari, like the other teams, had to face “the double challenge” of preparing the next season in parallel with the following one, when new rules will come into force.

Binotto stressed that this season veteran Vettel and 22-year-old Charles Leclerc, who impressed on his debut last season, would be starting on an equal footing.

“We have seen that they can both fight for the best results. They are both on the same level. It is up to them to race,” he added.

Last season, the association between the experienced Vettel and Leclerc often turned into a duel, coming to a head when the two drivers collided during the Brazilian GP.

But 22-year-old Leclerc, who won two races and finished fourth place in the world championship, said lessons had been learned.

“We have learned the lesson from Brazil. We are free to race, but we are teammates,” he said.

“A lot of people are working behind us, as a team, and things like Brazil should not happen.”

Both drivers said they were impatient to try out the new car, which will be on track next week for the pre-season testing in Barcelona.

“I felt emotional when I saw it,” said Monaco's Leclerc.

“Now I can't wait to be out on track and try it and to show all the work that has been done on this car. It's going to be a great challenge,” he added. “I'm ready to learn from my mistakes to become an even better driver.”