Motor Racing: Formula One's new twist on Henry Ford - any colour car you like, as long as it is red

Murray Walker may well be offering up a quiet word of thanks that McLaren changed their colours from red and white to silver last season following yesterday's unveiling of the new Ferrari and Williams grand prix cars.

Formula One's two main title contenders for the 1998-99 season have thrown off their robes to reveal in the red corner, the Prancing Horse, traditionally associated with a scarlet livery, while in the... er, red corner are Williams.

Tobacco sponsorship has again flexed its muscles and so the blue and white car that has taken both Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill to the world championship in the past decade is no more. Red-packaged Winfield has replaced Rothmans as the Oxfordshire-based team's main sponsor, and so Walker is going to have to hope for some creative helmet design to assist his commentary.

The 1998 Ferrari F300 was launched at Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, Italy, yesterday, with a new objective - winning the championship. Luca Montezemolo, the president of Ferrari, said: "This is the first time we can say with firm belief that next season we want to win the championship."

This is also the first time a car has been completely designed and built at Maranello, the work of their chief designer, Rory Byrne, and the technical director, Ross Brawn, who took Michael Schumacher to two world championships at Benetton. The car will be powered by a brand new engine by Paolo Martinelli, who said that it was the first time in years that the engine and chassis department had worked hand in hand.

The application of a little rouge will not be the only change on the grand prix circuit. Motor sport's governing body has introduced several new measures in an attempt to slow cars down and protect drivers. Cars will be narrower, which affects the aerodynamics, and will run on grooved tyres, which give the car less grip. To keep the grooves at the required depth, teams will have to use harder compound tyres, slowing the cars by about three seconds a lap at most circuits.

But the question everybody wanted answered in Maranello yesterday was whether Ferrari were bothered about Williams' new guise. "I'm sure that if you were to ask 1,000 F1 fans which was motor racing's red car, they would say Ferrari. The last colour in the world I'm scared of is red," Montezemolo said.

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