The second week of launches

The beginning of last week saw the launches of three more 2009 Formula 1 cars.

Williams FW31

Wow, 31. Williams have been around for a long time now, but while their heritage can almost match that of Ferrari or McLaren, their results of late have been massively disappointing. Could 2009 be the year they make a comeback?

In one sense, it is feasible that Williams will have a strong season. They have taken a radical route with KERS, and are the only team to have opted for a flywheel-based KERS rather than an electrical KERS. Their system sounds mightily impressive, as Grandprix.com outlined last week. If it works, Williams could be onto something here. But is there a reason why the other teams have avoided the flywheel route?

Chassis-wise, the general consensus appears to be that the Williams is a good-looking car. I am not so sure. I think the dark colour scheme means that some of the uglier elements are well-hidden. Of course, the Williams won’t be racing in the “interim” livery which was revealed last week, so we’ll have to wait and see on that front.

To me, the sidepods look rather bulky. Meanwhile, Williams have a big and chunky front nose. Despite the weird and wonderful shapes exhibited by the FW31, nothing could have prepared us for the…

Renault R29

There is no getting away from it: the Renault’s nose cone is certainly an interesting shape. At last, Robert Kubica has a rival in the “biggest nose in F1” competition. It is not so much the width or size of the nose which is intriguing. The almost dogmatically straight edges are almost the polar opposite of what we have come to expect from a super-sculpted F1 chassis. It’s less of a nose cone and more of a nose breeze block.

The front wing is disappointingly plain looking. But this is made up by the endplates, which are purposeful-looking scoops which I find visually pleasing. Equally intriguing is the way the rear suspension appears to be completely engulfed by the chassis. I don’t think I’ve seen something like that before. Is this to accommodate the KERS, or is it for aerodynamic reasons?

Livery-wise, the fact that blue has taken a back seat is a relief, but there is no doubt that the designers have gone totally overboard on the orange. Red, orange and yellow ought to be complementary colours, but the designers have arranged them in a stripy cacophony. It is a brash and noisy scheme the like of which is normally only seen on a Matt Bishop shirt.

I suppose that is at least one good side of ING’s woes — Renault won’t have to shoehorn the ING corporate colours onto their livery. Mind you, Renault might not even be around by then if the rumour mill is anything to go by.

BMW F1.09

The BMW F1.09 has been widely derided for its ugliness. It is true to say that it is not the nicest-looking car to have been unveiled this year.

Much of that is down to the boxy front wing, which does not look much better since it was originally tested all those months ago. As for the rest of the chassis, everything from the sidepods back looks like it has been crumpled up a bit. Are the FIA sure the crash test went okay?

To my untrained eye, it looks as though the philosophy of the BMW car has been to not even bother with any fancy flick-ups (note the absence of anything like the elaborate wing mirror stands, and not even a token bargeboard). Instead, the chassis is now littered with alien-looking indents, rivulets, lumps and bumps.

Even though at eye level there is no doubt the F1.09 has been hit with the ugly stick, this BMW car looks absolutely stunning from above in my view. Simple, slender beauty.

The most interesting thing about the BMW launch, however, was the revelation that they might not run with KERS at Melbourne. It was widely thought that BMW had progressed very well with their KERS and that the team was confident in its system. Not so, it seems. They may be further forward than other teams, but it is still very much up in the air.

Now serious questions must be asked about the FIA’s management of the introduction of KERS. This has been a complete hash-up from beginning to end.

Overall

We have now seen six of the 2009 Formula 1 cars. Of the teams still to launch, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso will both use the same chassis. Apparently it’s radical, and won’t launch until late February. Force India are busy connecting square-shaped McLaren parts into round Force India holes. And Honda are still trying to find someone to buy them.

It is apparent that big, chunky noses are in. All three of the cars launched this week sport wide and square-ish noses. And come to think of it, the Ferrari and McLaren noses are pretty wide too. Only Toyota have retained a 2008-style narrow nose, and I have to say the more I think about it the more Toyota seem doomed. I could be wrong though! I’m no aero expert…

2 comments

  1. Having seen most of the cars, I can only say that they are the most beautiful in years. I didn’t realise how ugly those aerodynamics add-ons, horns and Dumbo ears where until I saw the slender shape of F1 2009 cars. Don’t you think?

  2. I think the cars do look quite good without all of the odd aerodynamic appendages, but I am having difficulty coming to terms with the new front and rear wings still.