Team chief Todt warns Ferrari rivals to expect a backlash

JEAN TODT has warned Formula One to expect a Ferrari backlash as the former world champions look to avenge last year’s embarrassment.

Ferrari launched their 2006 car at Mugello yesterday with memories of their disastrous 2005 campaign still fresh in their minds.

Aiming for a sixth successive world championship double, the Italian squad struggled to get to grips with rule changes and managed only one victory, when 14 rivals refused to start at Indianapolis.

Managing director Todt admits seeing his cars without the number one plate for the first time since 2000 is a shock which he hopes will motivate the team.

He said: “Seeing the new car with the new sponsor logos and, above all, the numbers five and six, is a return for us to a distant past.

“It will be a great incentive to improve. The entire squad wants to get back to top spot.”

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is entering the final year of his Ferrari contract and he heads into this season unsure whether it will be his last.

He is optimistic the new car will be a major improvement on the troubled 2005 model but, after false hope last winter, is reluctant to predict a return to the domination of old.

“I believe we are ready to show a competitive car,” he said. “How competitive we will only find out when we start testing with the others and finally go racing.

“The indications are very positive. This car is the way we expected it to be. That’s very positive because last year’s car was not what we thought it would be.”

The only consolation Ferrari could take from 2005 was the head start it gave them in developing this year’s car, which became their focus when it became clear Renault and McLaren were in a class of their own.

While those two were fighting it out for the world championship, Ferrari were planning ahead and technical director Ross Brawn hopes he has found the recipe for success in a new era of 2.4-litre V8 engines.

He said: “From the midway point of last season when we realised we could not challenge for the top spots, we began concentrating more on development, especially the blend of the aerodynamic configuration and the characteristics of the new V8.

“Last year we weren’t as fast as our competitors. I hope that this year things will go better.”

Ferrari were expected to face a transitional year this term, with many key technical staff coming to the end of their contracts at the same time as Schumacher.

Like Todt, Brawn is one whose contract expires at the end of this season but he showed no signs of imminent retirement.

“I’m very happy at Ferrari, very pleased with the way things are and would very much like to be involved with Ferrari in the future,” he said.

Chief designer Rory Byrne was tipped to retire at the end of the season but the South African revealed he will stay on until 2008 in a consultancy role, leaving day-to-day running of the department to Aldo Costa.

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