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F1 2011 Launch Catch Up – McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Sauber, Toro Rosso, Renault…

Catching up on the launches in one mega post.  Here in you’ll find quick interviews with senior members of the team and photos from the Red Bull, Sauber, Renault Lotus, Toro Rosso, Mercedes and McLaren launches.

Apologies for being somewhat late, the whole blog isn’t running at full power until the season starts again.

Red Bull RB7

The world champions launched their new car, named the RB7.  A clear advancement on the hugely successful RB6, hopes are high that this machine can deliver once again.

“This year is no different to any other,” said Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull.

“I think if we had not have won either championship last year there would have been that expectation and obviously the pressure that comes with that. We’ve achieved that and achieved that in a short space of time and I think it is like winning your first grand prix.

“Out of that comes confidence but not arrogance, but the team goes into this year very, very motivated and very committed but you have to remember we are still an independent team with a customer engine that achieved some remarkable things last year and that is our target again, again, obviously this year.”

 

Sauber C30

The independent Swiss team pulled the covers of their new car, the C30 marking the second incarnation of the team in its modern era.  The new car is backed heavily by Mexican giants Telmex and will be raced by Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

Former Force India but now Sauber technical director James Key said: “Our aim in the development of the Sauber C30-Ferrari has been to build on the strengths of the C29 and to eliminate its weak points.

“In addition, it is also important for us to go into winter testing with a car we understand, and we have worked hard on ensuring the characteristics of the car are heading in a direction we believe in. There will be much to learn about the new Pirelli tyres and in this respect we want to ensure there are no surprises with the way the car is handling.”

“My rookie season was a very challenging, very exciting period,” Kamui Kobayashi commented at the launch as he enters his second full season of racing.

“Now it’s still exciting but it’s a different role. It’s more the experienced driver in the team. I am thinking how I can bring a good level to the team.

“I have to be ready to lead the team. That’s why Peter Sauber and the team chose me for this year. This is definitely my challenge and let’s say I am ready to be the leader for the team.”

 

Renault Lotus R31

Newly backed by Group Lotus, Renault pulled the covers off their new car – the R31 – to a mass of media wondering what the final paint scheme would look like, and wondering how the Lotus name debate would go on.  The debate on the name may still be rumbling, but there is no debate over how fabulous the car looks in classic JPS brown and gold.

Featuring front blown exhausts, it looks fast and could be a title contender.  And with Bruno Senna as a spare driver, it harks back wonderful memories seeing the yellow helmet inside a JPS liveried Lotus.

“I’m happy that we had some creative designs on the car. We clearly back our team and definitely our technical team because we want to be fast, we want to be at the front.” said team principal Eric Boullier

“We know it takes time. You have to be creative. You have to find different ways of creating downforce or performance points. We have been taking this path because we believed, quite early in 2010, that we could find more gains going this way.

“In the wind tunnel, or on paper shall we say, the car already has more performance than 12 months ago. If it’s on the car it’s because we believe it works. But we will see on the track.”

Meanwhile Robert Kubica, the number 1 driver was somewhat cautious on their chances “I think realistically speaking is far too early to say what will be possible to achieve this year,”

“Last season was quite disappointing and let’s hope this year will be different. I think definitely we are more prepared this year, because of the more stable situation in the team than last winter, when I joined the team.

“The winter of 2009 and 2010 was very difficult for Renault and I think this year the engineers and designers had a much easier time and much more time to design the car and I think they have done a really good job.”

 

Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6

Toro Rosso, always in their senior brothers shadow has brought a new design to the table and hopes it will deliver them more success this season in the capable hands of Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi.

The pairing are aiming for 6th place in the Ferrari powered beast.

“My expectations are to do a decent year and we have to have the target to be eighth and as I said, we are good to be ninth but we have to do better. And at the end of the year we have to bring back an eighth place,” said Giorgio Ascanelli.

“Last year we didn’t have a wind-tunnel, the CFD was not mature in order to define the car,” he added. “Therefore, we did not change very much apart from those elements linked to the change of regulation between 2009 and 2010.

“This year the tools which design the car in its performance aspect, which are again the wind tunnel and CFD, are more mature, which means that although we are still learning how to make the best of them I think we have started using them properly.

“For this year, we have to aim for eighth place, because that is our target and I didn’t think that was possible if we had gone with some sort of conventional car.”

 

Mercedes Benz WO2

Mercedes Benz will be hoping that their second modern F1 car can deliver them some more success than last season.  With Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg behind the wheel they have plenty of potential.  A well sponsor backed car now features the light green of Petronas merging into the brushes silver paintwork.  Ross Brawn, the technical mastertmind behind multiple drivers world championship wins will be eager to deliver the German squad some success.

“It is always a thrill to see a new car ready to take the track for the first time and this year is no exception,” said Brawn. “After our first year as the Mercedes-Benz works team, we are now seeing the benefits of our chassis and engine groups working well together.

“With a good technical structure and a strengthened race engineering organisation, both at the factory and the race track, I am confident that we have done and will continue to do a better job this year in all key areas.

“We want to be setting the standard right from the start but if we are not, we will respond very strongly to get ourselves into the game. Everyone is excitedly waiting to see what the new season will reveal.”

Meanwhile top driver Michael Schumacher was upbeat on the chances of the car delivering him a record breaking 8th world championship.

“I very much look forward to the new season. We have said it several times already but again, we are really to building up something big together. I am very confident that this season we will be standing on the podium much more regularly; ideally in the middle!”

 

McLaren MP4-26

McLaren launched their radical new car in Berlin in a ceremony hosted by lead sponsors Vodafone.  The car will be raced by two former world champions, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

The new car features L-Shaped sidepods, and a two tier floor amongst other technical advancements.  The squad are already looking at incorporating a front blown exhaust similar to the Renault Lotus’ design.

Lewis Hamilton was very happy with the machine on launch day.

“I hope the car proves just as innovative once we take to the track next week,” said Hamilton. “I head into 2011 in a relaxed but determined frame of mind.

“I’ve spared nothing during my winter fitness preparations and, in many ways, I feel as fit, focused and refreshed as I did ahead of my first season in Formula 1 in 2007.

“Having spent the past few weeks talking with our designers and engineers, I feel extremely happy that we’ve created a car that will once again allow us to fight at the front.”

 

 

 


Button Steps Up Pre Season Training With Lance Armstrong

Jenson Button teamed up with record breaking cyclist Lance Armstrong, as he continues to prepare for another Formula One season.

The McLaren driver excitedly tweeted that he would be riding with Armstrong, the 7 time Tour de France winner, in Hawaii.

Armstrong responded via Twitter “I hope he doesn’t ride as srong as he drives F1 cars…!”

Lance Armstrong is of course famous too for the Livestrong brand, something he set up after being diagnosed with cancer – and suriving – himself.  The yellow colour of the leader of the Tour de France is replicated in the charities products, most notably in the yellow wristbands.

Lance Armstrong @ the 2006 Indianapolis 500


Button Relaxed About The Championship Ahead Of Final Rounds

Jenson Button has declared himself relaxed and happy ahead of the final rounds of the 2010 F1 Season.

The 2009 World Champion is still in the hunt for the 2010 title but finds himself at the back of a competitive group of drivers with Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel all vying to become champion.

“Confident. Relaxed. Happy. Yeah – I can put it in perspective: for the second year running, I’m right in the hunt for the world championship.

“I’m already the world champion and I’ve still got every chance of holding on to my title. That’s what I’m in Formula 1 to do, and that’s why I signed for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes; to have that opportunity.”


Hamilton: F1 Closer Than Ever Before

Lewis Hamilton, the winner of the most recent Grand Prix in Canada believes that the Formula One field is closer in terms of pace and performance now than at any other time during his career in the sport.

Hamilton, who won the 2008 Championship, believes he and his McLaren team can actively compete to win the title, but it will not be easy to win with strong challenges from Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

“Our sport is so incredibly competitive at the moment – and we’re seeing different teams come to the forefront all the time – that this championship is going to be as much about playing the long game – minimising mistakes, scoring points at every race – as it is about success at individual races,” Hamilton wrote on his official website.

“And, actually, I think that’s the first time you can probably say that about a Formula 1 championship. Whether it’s the changes to the points system, or just the fact that there are maybe as many as 10 drivers out there with the machinery capable of winning races, you can’t afford to just take the points. You’ve got to be on the limit all the time – and I love that, because that’s how I love to race.”

“It’s great to be leading the world championship, but, I have to be honest, Formula 1 is so tough and so competitive at the moment that you can’t take anything for granted – and, while I might be on top right now, I know that I’ll need to fight for every lap of the next 11 races to remain up there,” he said.

“And, I think I’m like the fifth leader of the championship so far this year, so it’s pretty clear that it’s not so easy staying on top.”


Hugo Boss Continues McLaren Sponsorship Deal

Hugo Boss, the exclusive clothing manufacturer has tied up a contract extension deal with the McLaren team.

Hugo Boss have been sponsoring McLaren for around 30 years and this extension confirms that it is one of the longest serving sponsorship deals in motorsport.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “We’re proud and delighted to be able to announce this extension today, not least because it takes our partnership with Hugo Boss into record-breaking territory.”


Button Frustrated By Team Error Causing Retirement

Jenson Button has confirmed that it was an error by the team that led him to retire from the Monaco Grand Prix yesterday.

The British driver, in his first season with McLaren stopped only a handful of laps into the Grand Prix, which he won in 2009, with an overheating engine.  It was caused by a cover being left over the left sidepod during the lap from the pits to the grid ahead of the race.  This caused the engine to reach high temperatures that it should not be exposed to so early in the Grand Prix.  While touring behind the safety car early on, a lack of cooling caused the engine to overheat and Button had to retire.

He was disappointed too for the mechanic responsible, and said he would help try and iron out these issues.

“It is disappointing for everyone in the team and for the person responsible,” Button said. “I know these things happen but it is just hard to accept when it does. Obviously he is devastated. When you are trying to do your best and you make a mistake it is devastating.

“It is a cooling cover usually used in the garage or in transport. It was left in. The car went to the grid with no airflow and was cooked. You do what you can but you cannot recover from that. These cars don’t have fans, they rely on airflow, so if you deny that you are not going to survive very long.”

“It’s a mistake that you would think shouldn’t happen but it does. I’m sure the guy who did not pull it out is gutted. I feel sorry for the guy. We all make mistakes. We just have to make sure we don’t make them again. It’s done now. Last week was annoying because I lost everything on the steering wheel. But this one was a race stopper.

” We thought everything was going to be okay, and it would probably have been fine if we hadn’t had a Safety Car. My car quickly began to overheat and I started losing engine power, so I turned the engine off pretty sharply because the last thing I wanted was to leave engine oil on the racing line.”


Hamilton Targetting Monaco Win – Hoping New Helmet Will Bring Him Luck

Lewis Hamilton is hoping that he can repeat his win of 2008 in this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The British driver, who won the title in the same season as he won the Monaco event is looking to strike a victory on a season which has been so far dominated by Red Bull Racing with patchy moments of brilliance from Ferrari and his own McLaren Mercedes team.

Hamilton, who says Monaco is his “favourite race circuit” is hoping that a new helmet design will bring him the luck needed to win.  The Briton has in the passed had diamonds encrusted onto his tin, following an agreement between Steinmetz and the McLaren team but this year the former champion says he will be using a whole new design for the first time.

“I’ll be wearing a specially-painted helmet for the occasion,” said Hamilton. “When you see it you’ll know why I’ll be hoping for it to swing the odds in my favour.”

“I love the Monaco circuit,” added Hamilton. “It’s the greatest track in Formula One, and my victory there in 2008 is still probably my best win in Formula One, and one of the greatest moments in my career. It was an incredible day.

“In 2008 it was wet, and looking at the week ahead, the weather also looks extremely unpredictable, with heavy rain forecast for much of the week. Even if it doesn’t rain on the Sunday, the possibility of heavily disrupted practice and qualifying sessions means we’ll probably go into the race with a chance of one of the most exciting and unpredictable Monaco Grands Prix for many years.”


Red Bull Want F-Duct But Hamilton Plays Down Advantage

Red Bull Racing’s highly ratie young driver Sebastian Vettel claims that to maintain their dominance, his team need an f-duct as seen on other top cars including the McLaren’s.

The system which affects the air flow across the car on straights activated by the driver placing his hand over a hole in the car is said to give a 5-10mph advantage.  Red Bull use Renault engines which suffer with a lower top speed already, so any system to provide more speed would be advantageous.

“If you compare to the other teams and compare the sector times where you lose times and so on, it is clear on the sectors where you have more straights that you tend to lose more to a McLaren than another car,” said the German.

“It (the f-duct) is something you have to have, no matter if you have a midfield car or probably one of the best cars. It is worth quite a bit, and is quite a big advantage in terms of lap time. It probably depends on the circuit, but it is up to five tenths (of a second.)

“I think you would need to find a lot of parts that work well to give you half a second advantage for one lap – no matter in which conditions and which state of the car – heavy fuel loads and so on.

“So everyone is under pressure to copy and come up with something similar, which is very difficult because McLaren has been planning this for a long time. And, it is not that easy even if you have it to make it work, to operate with it.”

However McLaren star Lewis Hamilton claims that this weekend in China, the F-Duct is of little advantage.

“The car does feel good, but our pace looks pretty similar to some of the other cars on long runs. Everyone talks about us having a straight-line advantage, but that’s not true – other cars have the same speed as us at the end of the straight.

“We’re a little bit quicker than some teams, but, equally, they’re able to run more downforce. It’s about getting a good balance – and we feel we’ve got that. We’re continuing with the good feeling we felt in Malaysia, but we’ve made some further subtle changes and they were encouraging. I come out of today with a positive feeling – we’ll now keep our heads down and concentrate on gaining a strong qualifying position tomorrow.”

Vettel checks out the McLaren duct following qualifying


Button Considers V8 Supercars Future Following Promo Test

Jenson Button, the reigning F1 world champion has admitted he may consider racing in the Australian V8 Supercars series when he retires from Formula One.

The 2009 Champion declared his intentions following a promotional test of V8 machinery in Australia, as part of a Vodafone event where he swapped cars with the champion of the supercars series Jamie Whincup.  Button drove the Holden touring car around Albert park and was surprised with its handling and pace.

“I was surprised how much grip the car had – you are in the braking zone for a lot longer which you hope would open up the possibility of overtaking,” said Button.

“So it is very exciting, it is very heavy, compared to what I am used to, but I enjoyed it all the same. If the possibility arose in the future [to race] it would be very exciting for me.”

Whincup was delighted after emerging from the cockpit of a 2008 McLaren.

“The acceleration and the braking – I’ve never felt anything like it,” he said. “Nothing like it at all. It is completely unbelieveable! I can’t really explain it.

“The car just does everything right. It was great knowing the track and having done a few miles in it in a racing car – but the grip [of the F1 car] was unbelievable.”


McLaren Regain Mercedes Share Holding In Team

McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has announced that McLaren Autmotive Holdings have purchased back a significant amount of the shares owned by Mercedes Benz in the McLaren F1 Team.

Prior to buying Brawn GP and turning it into a works Mercedes Benz outfit, the German car manufacturer bought up a significant portion of the team during their close partnership between 1997 and 2009, approximately 40% of the team was owned by them at the end of last year.

Ron Dennis, the former team principal owns 15% and is now in charge of their road car division, which launched the eagerly anticipated MP4-12C yesterday, a 200mph supercar designed to compete with the Ferrari 458 Italia and Aston Martin DBS.

Mansour Ojjeh, a Saudi Arabian businessman owns another 15% portion, and Mumtalakat, a Bahrain investor owns 30%.

“I think it is about 11 per cent that is still owned by Mercedes, but it’s not an important or significant number,” Whitmarsh was quoted as saying by Reuters.

McLaren and Mercedes on the divorce road