Feb.3 (Reuters) Paul Di Resta claimed bragging rights as the first Formula One driver to do a lap in a 2012 car on Friday after his Force India team took the wraps off their ‘Hammerhead-nosed’ VJM05 challenger.
The Scot guided the Mercedes-powered car gently out of the pitlane at a bright but bitterly cold Silverstone on a day when glamour team Ferrari cancelled their track launch due to heavy snow in central Italy.
Williams had intended to run their new car at the Idiada test track in Spain on Thursday but a spokeswoman said they were unable to due to the weather.
The first official pre-season test starts in Jerez, Spain, next Tuesday.
The Force India followed a trend of ‘ugly’ cars in response to new aerodynamic and safety regulations but their’s was less extreme than the Ferrari approach and different to the ‘platypus-nosed’ Caterham shown to the public online a week earlier.
The team, who have Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg replacing compatriot Adrian Sutil in the line-up, have targeted fifth place overall in the championship after finishing sixth last season and just four points behind Renault, now Lotus.
“If you take last year, it’s definitely achievable,” Hulkenberg told Reuters.
“To be fifth you need good, consistent results, that’s clear, because fifth doesn’t come easily just like that with one good result. It’s surely not going to be easy.”
The front end of the car, with it’s stepped nose and T-shaped front, provided the main talking point of the launch.
“We call it ‘Hammerhead’,” said technical director Andrew Green.
“It’s a relatively benign piece of the car. It’s all driven from an aerodynamic principle underneath the nose. We want to drive the nose up and the FIA want to drive the nose down so we have to meet in the middle.
“The bit that meets in the middle is not aesthetically the nicest looking thing. I think you get used to it and in 2014 it will be a different kettle of fish again with a new set of regulations.”
Hulkenberg is returning to the starting grid after a year out as a test driver following a strong debut season with Williams in 2010.
After a few jokes about whether Nico was a ‘faster’ sounding name than Paul, the German said the Briton has a slight advantage from his year racing in 2011.
When Hulkenberg last raced, Bridgestone was the tyre supplier rather than Pirelli – a brand he has only used in Friday practice sessions – when only the medium or hard compounds were usually available.
Using KERS will also be a novelty.
“It will take a little bit of time to get back into shape, to get [rid of] that rusty bit of me for qualifying, racing,” he said. “But I will work hard and try to make that happen pretty quickly.”
Di Resta has been hard at work throughout the winter, linking up remotely with David Coulthard’s former trainer Gerry Convy and training with his now-retired fellow Scot in Monaco as well as some other expatriate British drivers.
The Force India pair have just 38 starts between them, but deputy team principal Bob Fernley said that would be no disadvantage.
“I think outside of, or maybe including, the top four, we’ve got one of the most exciting driver line-ups, so I’m not worried at all,” he said.