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New Ferrari looks a big step up, says Vettel

By Alan Baldwin
The new Ferrari F1 car model SF71H is seen in this handout photo released from Maranello, Italy, February 22, 2018. Scuderia Ferrari/Handout via Reuters

By Alan Baldwin

(Reuters) - Ferrari's new SF71H Formula One car already looks a big step up from last year's before it has turned a wheel in anger, four times world champion Sebastian Vettel said at Thursday's unveiling.

The sport's oldest and most successful team are hoping the car, with more red and less white in the livery following the departure of sponsor Santander, will take them to a first championship in a decade.

Vettel won five races last season but finished runner-up to Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who is now also a four times world champion.

"Now is the time 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," the German told guests at the Italian team's Maranello factory.

"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 were showing off their new F1 W09 car.

In an act of sportsmanship, the British-based team made sure reporters attending their event at Silverstone could watch the Ferrari unveiling on television screens during a break for lunch.

Ferrari technical head Mattia Binotto said the car, narrower and with a slightly longer wheelbase as well as more aggressive sidepods, was an evolution of the 2017 one which performed well on slower speed circuits but lacked reliability.

"Every little detail matters, every part can make a difference and I think this year’s car is a big step from last year’s," declared Vettel, who won his four titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013.

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.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin at Silverstone, editing by Toby Davis)