Ferrari test the F2004 at Maranello

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The Ferrari Formula One team held their first test sessions for the F2004 at the Fiorano circuit in Italy at the weekend.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:05 IST
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The 2003 Formula One season was one of the closest fought in recent years. Michael Schumacher and Ferrari were pushed to the limit in both the drivers' and constructors' championships, with both titles decided on the final day of the season. The Italian team would eventually succeed on both fronts, but the gap between Ferrari and their rivals appears to be shrinking by the year. The F2004, Ferrari's challenger for the forthcoming F1 season, was unveiled at the team's headquarters in Maranello last week and received its first test session at the weekend. The car made a faster debut than any of its predecessors, completing a lap of the Fiorano circuit in a time of 56.835 seconds, which was 0.210 of a second faster than last season's F2003-GA. Schumi's dominance over? Schumacher won a record sixth drivers' title in that car, but his fourth championship for Ferrari was only sealed after he scraped an eighth place finish in the final race in Japan, where his main rival Kimi Raikkonen failed to win. McLaren driver Raikkonen finished just two point behind Schumacher in the final drivers' standings and, with Williams drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher also in contention for much of the season, it appears that Ferrari's dominance of Formula One could be coming to an end. Schumacher will need pace, power and consistency if he is to win a fifth successive drivers' title - Ferrari believe that is just what he will get from the F2004. Team bosses have stated that certain areas of the car are far from perfect and work on aerodynamics should ensure that the F2004 will look radically different at the first race of the season in Melbourne, Australia on March 7th. One factor that wont undergo any change is the 053 V10 engine - the centrepiece of a challenger that Ferrari boast is their best ever. The car certainly has a lot to live up to in terms of what has been achieved with previous models. Renault challenge But while Schumacher remains hungry for more success on the track, Ferrari remain the team to beat. Williams, McLaren and the resurgent Renault team will certainly provide a challenge throughout the 2004 season. Drivers from all three teams proved that they have what it takes to beat Schumacher to the top of the podium. All they have to do now is match Ferrari's consistency over the space of 18 Grands Prix, then both the drivers' and constructors' championships could be theirs for a change. (AP)

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