Last year's Ferrari F1 car, the F2012, started the year off in a bad way. First, it was ugly as sin. Second, it was also slow as sin. That's a bad combination for a team that is expected to win every time out.
Ferrari corrected the speed issue during the season and driver Fernando Alonso grabbed the car by the scruff, taking it to second in the world championship.
The 2013 car isn't called the F2013 as you'd expect. Nope. It's the F138. Ferrari seems to do this occasionally. They'll have a few years of cars with F followed by the year and then a couple years of F followed by random numbers. In this case the 13 is for the year and the 8 is for the V8 engine.
Ferrari took the FIA's option of adding a "modesty panel" to the nose of the F138. This is an aesthetic feature that will get rid of the step that made last year's car so ungainly looking. I like to think of the F138's nose as Michael Jackson wearing a prosthesis.
Team Principal Stefano Domenicali says that the modesty panel will actually improve aero performance in that area of the car. I spoke to the Lotus F1 Team at the race in Austin late last year, and they told me that the gains from a modesty panel would be negligible in the aero department and would add weight where they don't want it. It seems Ferrari knows something Lotus doesn't.
The F138 is a less radical car than many were expecting and looks to be a honed development of the F2012. That is because all of the regulations are changing for 2014, so teams will be spending a lot of time on their new turbocharged engines and all new designs for next year.
We'll see what Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa can do with the F138 at next month's Australian Grand Prix.