Continuing Ferrari’s Formula 1 tradition, the Prancing Horse today launched its F2008 car for the upcoming season. The first of the new generation of cars to incorporate the mandatory Standard Electronic Control Unit (SECU) produced by Mclaren Electronic Systems, the F2008 comes a day ahead of the expected launch of rival McLaren’s 2008 car. The many other changes in the 2008 rulebook mean that this Ferrari is quite different from its predecessor. Click through for high-res shots of the F2008 fresh from Maranello.

Among the most notable changes is the increased weight, thanks in part to new rules limiting the types of composite materials that can be used to build the chassis and aerodynamic surfaces. Also new for 2008, the gearboxes - notoriously unreliable throughout Formula 1 - will have to be used for a minimum of four consecutive races. The aerodynamics of the car are completely new, but Ferrari says they will be fully reworked before the first race. Finally, the side protection walls around the cockpit must be built higher for 2008 in order to better protect the drivers.

One of the more talked about features of the 2008 rules - the prohibition on traction control - and a number of other changes, such as the removal of engine braking, in the car’s electronics thanks to the SECU mean that the wheelbase and weight distribution of the car had to be changed. The management sytems for the differential, gearbox and engine are also greatly simplified thanks to the new SECU, although Ferrari has managed to make the quick-shifting sequential shift even faster. Only time will tell how the new rules affect the competition in Formula 1, but we should know tomorrow what McLaren will be bringing to the show - although it will all be conjecture until the cars are taken to the track in anger.