(Reuters) - Ferrari turned a page on their recent past on Friday as they unveiled the Formula One car designed to end an era of Mercedes domination and shatter Lewis Hamilton’s dreams of a sixth championship this season.
The sport’s oldest and most successful team, who last won a title more than a decade ago and finished runners-up last year, presented the SF90 with plenty of fanfare at their Maranello factory.
“I’m looking forward to this year. I think the team is on the right path and hopefully we can continue improving,” four times world champion Sebastian Vettel, winner of five races in 2018, assured the audience.
The German has a new team mate in Charles Leclerc, replacing 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen, and a new principal following the departure of Maurizio Arrivabene and appointment of Mattia Binotto.
“I’m extremely excited to start this new adventure,” said Leclerc. “It’s a dream since childhood. I’ve always been looking at the red cars, hoping to be one day in this car, so it’s a very emotional day for me.”
Ferrari chief executive Louis Camilleri said Raikkonen, now at Alfa Romeo, and Arrivabene would always be part of Ferrari’s history but made clear the team was entering a new era.
Noting that Ferrari had enjoyed their best season in 10 years, he said they had still fallen short of their objectives in a setback that was “never easy to swallow.
“I can assure you that we look ahead with strong commitment and determination,” he added.
Camilleri said Vettel was as hungry as ever, and Leclerc a youngster with a great future.
He hailed Binotto as a “team player, decisive, talented and determined to make a huge difference at all levels.”
“Despite all the obvious pressure that exists, the atmosphere in the team from top to bottom will be one in which serenity will prevail,” said Camilleri.
“It is a precondition to a tightly-knit team where creativity, talent and transparency will flourish.”
Ferrari were far from serene under Arrivabene, adopting something of a siege mentality with the media often shut out and insiders talking of a climate of fear at Maranello.
Binotto said there were a lot of positives to take from 2018 but the new car was a step up.
“We simply tried to raise the bar, raise the level, tried to be as extreme as we could,” he added. “Certainly we tried to push very hard, being innovative. The roll hoop is very narrow and very slim. The bodywork from the back, very slim.
“In terms of engine installation, power unit installation, packaging, a lot of effort has been done and I think the final shape is the result of all these efforts.”
Testing starts in Spain on Monday with the first race in Australia on March 17.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis