Ferrari's 2012 car will make its public debut early next month, the Italian team have confirmed as they aim to roar back to the top of Formula One. The new machine will be presented to the media at the Fiorano circuit near Maranello on February 3.
Its predecessor, the F150 Italia, achieved relatively limited success in 2011, scoring just a single grand prix win in the hands of Fernando Alonso as the team finished a distant third in the constructors' standings, well behind rivals Red Bull Racing and McLaren-Mercedes.
They now believe they have a car capable of challenging for the championship.
Ferrari accept that Alonso got every bit of speed out of the F150 but realise that if they are to restore their leadership position, they have to have a faster car.
"You always expect more and more from everyone, but to be realistic, expecting more from Fernando than what he did last year is difficult," Stefano Domenicali, the team principal, said Wednesday at Ferrari's annual winter retreat in the Italian Dolomites. "If he can perform at that level again it would be fantastic. But it has to come from our side, and the engineering to make sure we're ahead of the others."
Ferrari have won more driver (15) and constructor titles (16) than any other team in F1, but last took the team championship in 2008, and Kimi Raikkonen was the last Ferrari driver to top the individual standings back in 2007.
Alonso finished fourth in the driver standings last season, while Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa was sixth.
Ferrari's problems in 2011 were encapsulated before home fans at the Italian Grand Prix in September. Starting fourth on the grid, Alonso put a tyre on the grass to get around McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and then beat pole sitter Sebastian Vettel to the first chicane, but Vettel then went around Alonso on the sweeping Curva Grande in the fifth lap and cruised to victory.
"[Alonso] really pushed himself over the limit last year," Domenicali said. "Over the last two years he's spent more time at Maranello than anyone else in my 20 years with Ferrari - that shows how much it means to him."
Domenicali's aim is to give Alonso a car capable of winning the championship, and he believes Ferrari are on the right track. They have been working on the 2012 car since midway through last year.
"It's a break with the past, with new concepts never used in a previous car," Domenicali said.
"The exhaust system is the biggest change, and we've been working hard in the wind tunnel to get some extra performance."
Elsewhere, Bahrain's Formula One circuit, which is scheduled to host a grand prix in April after last year's was cancelled, said yesterday it had reinstated employees dismissed in the 2011 unrest.
The move comes amid a "national dialogue" in the state after protests and calls from campaigners for teams to stay away.
"The reinstatement of our BIC [Bahrain International Circuit] colleagues is part of an important initiative towards national reconciliation and unity for the kingdom as a whole," Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, the chief executive, said in a statement.