Apologies for the lack of posts here recently. I have been occupied by other things, and the fact that it is the off-season in F1 at the moment makes it easy to choose this blog to put on the back burner.
I did not even get round to writing everything I wanted to write about the 2008 season. But it looks like the 2009 season has already begun as we have had three car launches already, so there is no point in looking back now. Instead, I will post some brief thoughts on the new cars which have been launched so far.
First out of the box was Ferrari. My initial impression was that the F60 is a much better-looking car than I had anticipated. It is certainly much more attractive than the interim BMW car we had already seen.
The car appears to have an elongated front nose, particularly when compared with the Toyota TF109, as this picture on the Sidepodcast drop.io site demonstrates. What’s also notable is the way the sidepod appears to have been moved back in order to create a “blind spot” where aerodynamic devices can go. Ferrari have constructed a convoluted-looking rear view mirror stand, no doubt to maximise the aerodynamic benefits.
A head-on view of the car most clearly demonstrates how radical the changes to the front and rear wings are. The F60’s front wing is a rather brutish looking thing, although it was a bit more refined than I was expecting it to be.
Of note is the fact that the F60 failed on its first outing. Apparently a part fell off the car. The car was fitted with KERS, but it’s pretty clear the team feel they’re behind on development and are none-too-happy on BMW’s insistence to run with KERS. Launching early gives the Ferrari team more time to “debug”, but it’s an inauspicious start.
The F60’s dedicated website has plenty of pictures and video.
Next up was Toyota, whose TF109 is pretty basic-looking compared to the Ferrari. The nose cone appears to sit rather high up compared to the Ferrari’s, giving the Toyota a gappy look from the front. On a side-on view, the Toyota is disappointingly basic-looking. Clive over at F1 Insight said, “If there is going to be a norm for the look of this season’s cars, the Toyota must surely be it.” It must be said, it really looks like they didn’t try very hard, and there is nothing novel here — certainly not on the level of Ferrari’s wing mirrors for instance.
Toyota do not even have KERS up their sleeve. They are even more ambivalent about it than Ferrari are, and will not even attempt to race with it until midway through the season. They are even talking about it being an advantage to run without KERS. We will see about that. But the reluctance to even investigate it puzzles me. This smacks of a total lack of ambition, especially for a group of people who are supposed to like an engineering challenge and who are meant to be looking to maximise every opportunity.
It almost goes to prove Max Mosley’s point that F1 teams have become obsessed with things like trimming weight off their cars rather than genuinely innovating. Whether you agree with the implementation of KERS or not, it must be said that Toyota’s approach is totally baffling and defeatist. It demonstrates a deep-rooted conservatism of the sort we have come to expect from Toyota. I may have to eat humble pie later on, but I suspect Toyota are doomed this season.
At least they gave us a laugh with their really odd “trailer”. Someone really should have pointed out that drivers do not make good actors. I’m still recovering from the way Jarno Trulli says “YEAH”. If you can bear to see more, here is the website dedicated to the TF109 “premiere”.
The third car to launch was the new McLaren. I greatly anticipated this as it is very rare for McLaren to produce an ugly-looking car. They have come up with the goods as always, and I love the look of it already.
What strikes me the most about the McLaren MP4-24 is the nose cone, which is rather rounded, almost cylindrical-looking. It’s almost like the kind of nose cone which would have been commonplace on F1 cars in the mid-1990s, but the like of which hasn’t been seen on an F1 car for a while. When people talked about the new aerodynamics bringing back the look of the 1990s, I don’t think people anticipated it spilling over from the wings onto the rest of the bodywork like this.
The front wing also looks very well refined already. It looks like the team has given a lot of attention to the front end of the car, with the other teams having brought out rather more conservative-looking efforts. Images can be found on the McLaren website.
The big news of the event was Ron Dennis’s announcement that he would be standing down as McLaren CEO to take on another role. Inevitably, Martin Whitmarsh takes his place.
But although certain MSM outlets have made this out to be a bombshell, and even that it might be a blow to Lewis Hamilton (as if Martin Whitmarsh hates him?!), it has to be said that it wasn’t exactly completely unexpected news. It’s been an open secret for a long time that Ron Dennis has been planning on moving aside for at least a few years now. If anything, the surprise is that he did not stand down sooner, but perhaps he feared that announcing it sooner would have dampened Lewis Hamilton’s championship celebrations.
Nevertheless, one should pay tribute to Ron Dennis, who has been an immensely successful leader of the McLaren Formula 1 team. I am sure that, with Martin Whitmarsh in charge, McLaren is in safe hands for the future.
One thing that intrigues me about all of these launches is that we have seen hardly images of the rear of the cars. Are they that ugly-looking that none of the teams want them in their publicity shots?
What surprises me the most about the new cars is that they don’t actually look all that different to what we’ve come to expect an F1 car to look like. Sure, the rear wing looks odd, but I have got used to it already. But we don’t have anything that looks like a lower-formula car — these cars still look like Formula 1, which is good.
This week we’ve got launches from Williams, Renault and BMW to look forward to. It will be interesting to see if these teams have any surprises in store.