JEREZ, Spain (Reuters) - Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo will have more than a moment’s hesitation in answering his mobile if Felipe Massa rings on Tuesday.
The memory of last year, when the Brazilian Formula One driver called him from the Jerez test track to give his first impressions of Ferrari’s new car on day one, is still painful 12 months on.
“President, it’s a disaster here,” was the gist.
“I wouldn’t wish a call like that on my worst enemy,” Montezemolo said at the launch of his team’s new 138 car at Maranello last week.
The F2012 was born ugly and proved hard to handle but it also became a winner in the hands of Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who took the title battle with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel right down to the wire in Brazil last November.
Montezemolo has dubbed the new car “La Speranzosa” (The Hopeful One) - with the main hope being that it proves competitive from day one and brings the team’s first championship since the constructors’ in 2008.
Alonso, a double champion hoping that the far better-looking F138 will take him to a third title, will not be present when the new cars hit the track in earnest for the first of three pre-season tests.
The Spaniard is not due to be in the car until Barcelona on February 19, with Massa and Spanish tester Pedro de la Rosa doing the initial set-up work, by which time he should be well-rested and raring to go.
“The first test is a general test in which one checks that all the components are put together properly,” said Alonso at the launch.
“Testing in Barcelona is more useful for measuring performance as well as being a circuit we race on,” he added, although Massa begged to differ and some outside Ferrari have wondered if there might be other reasons.
“The first test is very useful to understand the direction in which we should go and where we need to do the most work,” declared the Brazilian.
Tuesday will be the first time the 2013 cars are together on track as a group, with all teams but Williams due to have unveiled their new machines before the pitlane opens for the first time.
Australian Mark Webber will be first in the driving seat for champions Red Bull, having two days in the RB9 before triple champion Vettel takes his turn for the final two.
“I‘m looking forward to driving. Testing is limited for us, I think I’d be happy if Mark would decide to wait a bit longer,” Vettel said at the launch of the new car on Sunday.
“I don’t think you miss a lot if you don’t run in Jerez but we are clearly interested to drive there, to get to know the car.”
Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion with a new team mate in Mexican Sergio Perez now that 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton has moved to Mercedes, is scheduled to be first in the new McLaren on Tuesday with Perez following on Wednesday.
The opening test will also see Hamilton’s first outing in the Mercedes, revealed on Monday, and a debut as race driver for Finnish rookie Valtteri Bottas at Williams.
There will be other less familiar names as well, with Britain’s Max Chilton at Marussia and Dutch driver Giedo van Der Garde at Caterham with Frenchman Charles Pic.
Sauber have Mexican Esteban Gutierrez stepping up from his reserve role in an all-new line-up with Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Force India still have just the one driver confirmed, Britain’s Paul Di Resta who will carry out the bulk of the work in Jerez with compatriot James Rossiter also getting in some laps to help with simulator work.
The immediate task, apart from checking the systems, will be to get to grips with the new Pirelli tyres that the Italian company says should produce more exciting racing with more pitstops required.
Editing by Ed Osmond