Maranello, Italy - Ferrari's new SF71H Formula One car already looks a big step up from the 2017 car before it has turned a wheel in anger, says four times world champion Sebastian Vettel.
The sport's oldest and most successful team is hoping the car, with more red and less white in the livery following the departure of sponsor Santander, will take it to its first championship in a decade. Vettel won five races in 2017 but finished runner-up to Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who is now also a four times world champion.
Now is the time," Vettel told guests at Thursday's unveiling in Ferrari's Maranello factory. "When you see the car, it’s all ready and you want to get in and go out on the track and have a go.
"To stand here now is very special for all of us. I think they are all waiting for us to say how it feels. So we can’t wait to get out on track to see how the car performs, how it behaves.
"I think that’s the answer that we all want to hear and we go from there. For sure, the amount of effort that has gone in and the attention to detail in so many areas is impressive."
The presentation, online and through social media channels, came on the same day that Mercedes was showing off its new F1 W09 car. In an act of sportsmanship, Mercedes made sure reporters attending its launch at Silverstone could watch the Ferrari unveiling on television screens during a break for lunch.
Ferrari technical head Mattia Binotto said the new SF71H, narrower and with a slightly longer wheelbase as well as more aggressive sidepods, was an evolution of the 2017 car which performed well on slower circuits but lacked reliability.
"Every little detail matters," declared Vettel, who won his four titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013. "Every part can make a difference and I think this year’s car is a big step from last year’s."
Finnish team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who is now 38 and out of contract at the end of the season, said it looked good despite the addition of the now mandatory halo head-protection device.
"When it looks nice, the speed is also there. But obviously we will see that next week," said the 2007 world champion who will be testing the car with Vettel at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya next week.