Time flies! One spends the whole winter waiting for the new Formula 1 season to kick off and, it sort of does, when teams launch their liveries or cars, and then it’s over in a flash! So before we forget here are some thoughts on what we saw from the ten teams.
For the record, and so you know the angle from the start, apart from a highlight or two, all-in-all I was left somewhat underwhelmed by the past two weeks of 2023 F1 livery reveals and/or new car launches, whatever you want to call them.
To get it started, normally last or thereabouts on track, Haas were first to reveal their colours for the year ahead with MoneyGram and a neat-looking car the headline grabbers, but really a Tweet to launch a F1 challenger set a sombre tone for what lay ahead. It did improve though when 11 days later the real Haas VF23 broke cover.
Next up Red Bull made big fanfare of launching the much anticipated RB19 in New York. Great idea but disappointing execution. Their male MC was a disaster, referring to what was clearly a show car as the team’s new car far too often, and then the use of ‘brother’ repeatedly was cringey as it was clear he never met the drivers before. Wrong bloke for that show.
Then, to pour more cold water on their 2023 F1 project, they decided to use the occasion to simultaneously announce their Ford deal for 2026 which subsequently totally overshadowed the intent of the NYC event, namely the launch of Adrian Newey’s next brainchild, which was for sure left at home.
In other words: Red Bull RB19 launch? What launch? It was the Ford show!
I also need to mention a thought worth mentioning; there has simply been too much Daniel Ricciardo in the picture at RBR since he got the reserve role. Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen are the drivers, and TBH they hardly looked delighted to be there on stage that day, as they churned out much-used sound bites.
I just don’t get the overt Dan presence, if I were Checo, in particular, or even Max for that matter, it would not sit well with me.
Strange flop of a show by the masters of guerilla marketing, this event had all the makings for Red Bull ‘Gives You Wings’ to wow F1 and their hordes of new fans, after all, they own a Grand Prix track, they have stadiums all over the world, are prone to the outrageous and all they can come up with is what we saw!
And then fast-forward to their little team, we were all hoping AlphaTauri would better their elders, but what the hell was that? A fashion show? Again disappointing.
Two fabulous F1 teams, one the World Champions, the other the stepping stone to the big time, and collectively they come up with two forgettable events which seriously lacked Wings. Clearly, a marketing department needing a wake-up call.
Ferrari does it right as the sun shines bright on their launch
In stark contrast, what a delightful and inspirational event they conjured at Fiorano for the launch of the splendid Ferrari SF-23 for Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. The bright sunny day did play ball over Maranello, as the team along with a selection of real Tifosi, sang along, chanted, cheered, and generally had a great old time as they made the most of it and set the benchmark for such occasions.
Furthermore, it was ballsy of the team, now led by Fred Vasseur, to fire up their car and do laps in front of those gathered to witness the birth of their new car, streamed live and nowhere to hide.
Perhaps in 2023, Karma will be kind to them as it was on the day of the launch, the bright sunshine – making that glorious Red pop – amid a generally gloomy Euro winter.
For that launch effort alone one hopes the Scuderia get the rewards they deserve and that fate has a bright history for their SF-23 because, whether you are a Ferrari fan or not, you felt good after that launch.
For me personally, I felt the same when I saw the Mercedes in glorious black. If the W14 is as good as it looks then Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are sure to be up there. Sticking to the side-pod concept with a twist is brave, nevertheless, it certainly ranks as one of the prettiest beasts unleashed this past fortnight.
The return to black has history for the team. The reason the once-white Silver Arrows were silver, over half a century ago was that, was that they opted not to paint the car, and allow the silver aluminium panels to show, a weight-saving exercise because those monsters of the time needed a great deal of paint.
Keeping up the tradition of wight-saving by Mercedes
So Mercedes decided to not paint their cars, but in this era, the skin is black of carbon. Same, same, just different colour chassis material many, many years apart.
I get that the cars of yesteryear were painted with coats of heavy paint and varnish available in those days, and understand how they would have benefitted from a litre or two less paint, that’s a kilo or two in my book.
But today, taking into account paint technology alone, it is hard to imagine much weight is saved by a coat that is likely to weigh far less than the stuff they painted the old cars with.
If you want to save a can of beer in weight, then drivers should drink less, eat less, have a pee and crap more before they jump in the car; save weight that way rather. Maybe PortaPotties on the grid and fewer celebs?
Seriously I am not buying the less paint saves wight BS, though it does sound cool in a tech-nerd kind of way.
Mercedes were not alone in going black, as just about all the new cars have dark carbon peering out of paint jobs which does not offend me, as it has done many keyboard warriors and pundits on social media. For some reason I always liked black F1 cars from the days of JPS Lotus and UOP Shadow. Black is beautiful, of course.
So is Black and Red as the new Alfa Romeo proved, a very sexy colour combo which for the first time shouts out “ALFA ROMEO” to me as a former owner of a Special Edition 159i, in a way the previous cars did not for some reason. Also something very Ferrari about it too; a good effort in their final years as Hinwill partners.
Is F1 missing a trick or two by not maximising the potential of new car launches
Beyond that, as expected, most of the launches were slick rapid affairs, including Aston Martin, McLaren and Alpine. Which all-in-all were fine in retrospect and kept us in column inches during this no-real-F1-news stretch before testing gets underway next week.
However, in closing, it has struck me for some years now that F1 miss a trick by not maximising the potential of a collective season launch, a week or so before F1 testing begins, around now for instance.
Something big, something fancy, with all the teams drivers and key players, and becoming of F1’s boom.
They did in Valencia, an official launch by all the F1 teams ahead of the 2010 season. I watched it at night live on TV from Dubai at the time, and while little is available on the internet to spur the memory, however, I remember it being a success….
Perhaps take the London Roadshow of some years ago as a modern template and tweak it; a collective F1 team effort on, say, the streets of Monaco, Hyde Park in London, Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, the Coliseum in Rome, Abu Dhabi Corniche, Dubai, Tokyo… wherever. And then get Rhihanna to kick it off, Brad Pitt to MC, all live on Netflix.
Get the drivers and team bosses/engineers push the cars onto a stage, Brad asks a few questions under the spotlight and off they go, next… Metallica to close the show.
Just some thoughts while we mark time for the real deal in Bahrain from 23-25 February where there will be nowhere to hide. Watch this space!