MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, Italy, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Ferrari will launch their 2010 Formula One car on Jan. 28 but it will take time to understand how competitive it can be, team boss Stefano Domenicali said on Wednesday.
The launch at their Maranello base will be followed by limited testing opportunities, starting with the first official session in Valencia on Feb. 1.
“I don’t think by the first test in February but maybe by the last test we’ll see how competitive we will be,” Domenicali, who was similarly cautious last year, told a news conference.
“We will be competitive, yes, but winning...we will see.”
Ferrari finished a disappointing fourth in the constructors’ championship last season after a series of hiccups and Domenicali first wants to make sure their cars are reliable ahead of the first race in Bahrain on March 14.
“I believe the prospects are good. Despite last season, which was difficult for a lot of reasons, we have consolidated for the future,” he said.
“The number one objective is to be reliable. We hope we have resolved the problems. Let’s not talk about worries, we’ll see where we are but let’s not panic. The group that has built the car has been the same for many years.
“Winning immediately would be better but let’s stay calm if it doesn’t happen.”
Spain’s former double world champion Fernando Alonso, who had an uneasy relationship with Lewis Hamilton in his brief stint at McLaren, has replaced Kimi Raikkonen but Domenicali does not foresee problems with team mate Felipe Massa.
“We don’t forget that the interests of the team comes before everything. The key thing is to give them a car that’s ready to challenge immediately,” he said, adding that a sponsorship deal with Spanish bank Santander would help finances.
One of Ferrari’s biggest challenges will be to further reduce their near 850-strong staff as part of an F1-wide cost-cutting measure, the team boss added.
He was less worried about rule changes on the track and said discussions would take place in the next few weeks before regulations were set in stone. A ban on refuelling during races and extra teams on the grid are definite changes, however.
“I don’t think taking more fuel around will be dangerous but in the pit lane there will be more teams so a pit stop will be different from last year. We’ll have to be careful,” he said.
Domenicali also confirmed Valentino Rossi will test an old Ferrari in Barcelona on Jan 20/21 as another present for retaining the MotoGP title and reaffirmed his wish to one day have a third car on the grid for Rossi to race in F1.
Ferrari’s reserve driver Giancarlo Fisichella, who stepped in for the injured Massa last year, will be able to leave for another team if the opportunity arises, he added. (Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)