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Ferrari launches the F310B

FERRARI launched its F310B at Maranello last week with the clear intention of going into the 1997 season with a reliable car, prepared for the season. Last year the team struggled badly for the first half of the season because the car was late arriving and its gearbox proved to be very unreliable.

As the name suggests, the F310B is a straight development of the F310 which has been tidied up with the lessons learned in 1996. Gone are Barnard's unusual sidepods and the low-nose which was run at the start of last year. The cockpit area has followed the lead taken last year by Williams and the raised nose is very much in the Williams mold as well. There have been suggestions that the team plans to run an outlandish wing, perched on the top of the rollbar but this has yet to be seen.

On the commercial side the car has changed to a much brighter red - which is undoubtedly a concession to Marlboro which has a great deal more signage on the car than in previous years. The team continues to be supported by Fiat, Asprey, Shell, Pioneer, Telecom Italia, Magneti Marelli, Goodyear and General Electric.

There are high hopes in Italy that the car will enable Ferrari to challenge for the World Championship, but once again the Ferrari team members are trying to keep expectations low.

Paolo Martinelli, the head of the engine department, said that 1997 would be "a year of development" with the Ferrari V10.

Di Montezemolo said that "We want to win more races than last year and in 1998 we want to win the World Championship." Schumacher felt that "Williams will still be the team to beat" although he hoped that Ferrari would be closer this year than last.

"My real hope is that we can compete for the World Championship and put pressure on Williams. I cannot predict that we will be champions. To be honest, I think this year we are looking for reliability and a big improvement on last year. The real World Championship challenge for us should come in 1998."

Eddie Irvine said that he was looking for more testing and better reliability, commenting that the F310 had been "the most difficult I have ever had to work with."

Testing began the day after the launch with Schumacher lapping Fiorano in the rain. On the Thursday his testing was disrupted by snow.

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