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New Ferrari shows its teeth
May 03, 2003 14:58 IST
Ferrari's 'Red Shark' has finally shown its teeth after months of anticipation and trepidation.
The long-awaited debut of the slippery F2003-GA car at the Spanish Grand Prix opens a new cycle for the Formula One world champions.
Although questions remain about reliability, with Brazilian Rubens Barrichello forced to use the spare on Friday, it will be a definite disappointment for Ferrari's 'tifosi' should the machine fail to win on Sunday.
They have become so used to their team's new cars winning 'straight out of the box' that it will be a shock to the system if someone other than five times world champion Michael Schumacher or Barrichello takes the chequered flag in Barcelona.
The last time the team failed to give a new car a winning start was in Australia in 1998.
Since then Eddie Irvine won the season-opener in 1999, Schumacher in 2000 and 2001 and again when the F2002 made its first appearance in Brazil last year.
Dubbed the 'Red Shark' by Italy's Autosprint magazine because of the gill-like air vents to the rear of the sidepods, the fierce nickname evokes previous creations such as the 'Sharknose' driven by Phil Hill to the 1961 title.
Before that there was also the 'Supershark'.
But just how fearsome a beast is it?
On Friday, it was good enough for Michael Schumacher to seize 'provisional pole' with the fastest lap in first qualifying but the lead over Italian Jarno Trulli was a mere 0.019 of a second.
Impartial experts were impressed however.
"It looks like it swallows small errors very well," commented former champion Jackie Stewart. "It looks a forgiving car. I saw Michael this morning miss two or three apexes and yet the car put in a good time.
"That's where you've got a good car."
With the F2002 winning on its last outing at Imola two weeks ago, Ferrari would not have brought the new car to Barcelona without being convinced that it is both reliable and considerably faster than the old.
That might normally send a shiver down the spines of rivals still struggling to match the F2002 but Ferrari have still got some ground to make up after a poor start to the season.
McLaren lead the standings with 51 points to Ferrari's 32, meaning that even if the Italian team finishes one-two in Spain they still cannot regain the upper hand until Austria in two weeks' time.
There are also bound to be teething problems.
"We've still got to learn it (the car)," said Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn. "However much testing you do, you don't understand it as much as when you go racing.
"The track conditions at a race are different to a test and you've got all the cars running around."
McLaren also have yet to bring out their new car, targeting the Canadian Grand Prix on June 15 as the earliest date possible, while Williams expect to show leaps forward in the coming months.
The battle is on but Ferrari, their car's initials a tribute to late FIAT patriarch Gianni Agnelli, are in the thick of it.
"We are embarking on a new adventure with the F2003-GA," said team boss Jean Todt.
"The best we can wish for, for ourselves, our partners and our fans, is that this car will deliver the same emotion and satisfaction that we derived from the F2002.
"It was a car which will always have a place in the history of Ferrari and of Formula One itself."