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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.”





Force India and Red Bull Racing To Run F-Ducts In Turkey

Force India and Red Bull Racing have confirmed that they will be running F-Ducts in the practice sessions for the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend as they evaluate whether the air flow control mechanism is a worthy new technical advancement to their cars.

Vitantonio Liuzzi told reporters that the Force India team were very confident of their system, a system which is operated by the drivers wrist.

“We are really optimistic about it,” Liuzzi said. “You can never know. It might change tomorrow, but the team has done a big work in the wind tunnel for the last two weeks to test it and it seemed to work pretty well.

“Tomorrow we’ll get the confirmation because on track you never know, but we are pretty optimistic that it should be spot on.”

“We made a simple system with the wrist so we don’t have to take the hand off the steering wheel,” he added.

Meanwhile Red Bull Racing’s man of the moment Mark Webber told reporters in the pre-race press conference that Red Bull were to evaluate their own F-Duct system as they try and maintain their recent dominance.

“Yes, we will give the F-duct a go tomorrow,” Webber said during a pre-event press conference in Turkey. “We will give it a chance.”

Ferrari, who were one of the first teams to use the system are going to try a variation on the position of the hole that needs to be covered in order to stall the air during practice.

F-Duct air vent

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.”

Teams Agree F-Duct Ban From 2011

Formula One teams have agreed to a blanket ban on the F-Duct systems which were brought into Formula One by McLaren this season.

Combining an air vent on the front of the car with a long shark-fin style engine cover the system manipulates rear air flow, stalling it and allowing for a greater top speed.  it can provide drivers with 9-10km/h more high end power, which is vital on circuits which long straights.

While McLaren came up with the idea, it has had various attempts of reincarnations of the idea by Sauber, Williams and Ferrari to differing levels of success.  No-one knew how they were activated until Ferrari’s was spotted on an onboard camera this weekend as Fernando Alonso takes his left hand off the steering wheel to block the vent.  Others may be operated by knees and even elbows.

Christian Horner of Red Bull, who do not have an F-Duct system, says safety is being compromised by the systems.  “It is a clever piece of engineering and hats off to the guys who invented it, but some of the solutions this weekend look a bit marginal when you see drivers driving with finger tips and no hands,” he explained. “So I think there is a safety issue and a cost issue to take into account.” he said last night.

Nick Fry of Mercedes Benz who do not have an F-Duct either, but have been running a radical engine cover this weekend which has a central fin and side engine air inlets rather than a traditional roll bar, it itself being called potentially dangerous told the BBC: “The trouble with these devices is that most of the top teams, if not all the teams, will have an F-duct-type device before the end of the year”

“We’ll all have got it so we’ll have neutralised the advantage McLaren have currently got and therefore we’re just spending money on it.”

Sauber are now using a front mounted duct like McLaren

Outboard Wing Mirrors Banned By The FIA From Chinese GP

The outboard wing mirrors used by various teams including front runners Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are set to be banned from the Chinese Grand Prix onwards if an FIA source is to be believed.

The source told Autosport Magazine that the mirrors, which amny teams use to be able to incorporate outboard aerodynamic systems, will face a ban from the next round of racing after complaints from drivers about poor rearward vision.   Many drivers were impeded during qualifying, a lot down to the shear number of cars on track now.  Drivers including Michael Schumacher and Pedro de La Rosa have been particularly vocal about blocking in the last round in Australia.

The mirrors were an idea Ferrari brought to the table in 2005, and it was not until 2007 that other teams copied the designs.  Now many cars carry the mirrors which will have to be moved to nearer the cockpit.

“Everyone has got a problem with mirrors,” said Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa in Australia. “The reality is that the mirrors on the sidepods, they give you very small vision of what is happening behind and they vibrate a lot so you see very little.

“So if you don’t have a lot of information coming from the radio, then you have a problem. You can see when you have a car straight behind okay, but when it is two seconds behind you have no idea where it is.

“Everyone has the same problem, but since the mirrors have gone outboard this is a problem – as they are aerodynamic devices now.”

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, who finished 3rd in the Australian Grand Prix says that he is quite happy with where his mirrors are located.

“I have no problem with my visibility,” he insisted. “So, if it is the same I prefer to keep what I have, but we will see how it is going to be. I hope we don’t lose anything moving the mirrors from one side to the other.”

This years Williams features outboard wing mirrors

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

Raikkonen May Take Well Paid Sabbatical For 2010

Kimi Raikkonen is being touted as spending 2010 on the sidelines after contract talks with McLaren hit the rocks.

The Finn has been ousted from his seat with Ferrari a season early after the Italian car manufacturer opted to bring former two time world champion Fernando Alonso to the team.

If Raikkonen spends 2010 without a race seat, Ferrari are set to pay Raikkonen some €17million, but if he gets a seat they will pay him just €10million.  The latter figure sounds a lot, and McLaren think so too with Raikkonen’s contract offer being at just €5million, it means he could spend the season on sabbatical and earn more than if he were driving.

With Raikkonen’s commitment to F1 at a low, he could spend the season out of racing or perhaps trying his hand at WRC, both Citroen Motorsport and Ford have expressed interest in the 2007 F1 Champion.

Whatever happens, McLaren are now looking for another potential driver now it looks like Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg will be forming a partnership at Brawn, as Mercedes Benz look set to pay the salaries.


McLaren Waiting To Decide On 2nd Driver

McLaren have annonuced they will bide their time in the driver market as they make their move for a 2nd driver to partner Lewis Hamilton for 2010.

The team have multiple options, but want to wait until Fernando Alonso is confirmed at Ferrari before making a move on any other drivers.

They are also still considering keeping Finn Heikki Kovalainen, based on his race pace improving and becoming more consistent.

“At the moment we have not, and we are not in any conversations with drivers and we will see in the future,” Whitmarsh told the BBC about his team’s driver plans going forward.

“I think in reality there are some changes probably with Fernando at Ferrari. That frees up the driver market and every year there is a number of pivotal points during the season which determine what is going to happen in the driver market.

“This year I think we all know that the Fernando/Ferrari move has a knock-on and that ripples through the other teams.

“Clearly the BMW withdrawal has also had an impact. I think we don’t see a need at the moment to rush into it, we are concentrating on developing the car and making sure we are more competitive, which I hope we will be this weekend.”

There are many drivers who will be free and available, but out of that list we see these potential candidates:

  • Kimi Raikkonen – Dislodged by Alonso, drove for the team previously but would he want to return? Word is that he is leaving Formula One altogether
  • Jenson Button – Impressive season thus far, could be world champion. Could McLaren deal with 2 Brits together?
  • Nico Rosberg – Talented, and McLaren have resources Williams don’t.  His best chance of a title?
  • Robert Kubica – No seat now BMW have left, he is being heavily linked with Renault
  • Adrian Sutil – Not such a long shot, good friends with Hamilton. He has pace but needs a decent car.

Hamilton’s Test Comes To Early End With Big Fire

Lewis Hamilton might be cut out of today’s testing completely in Jerez after he retired to the pits this morning with flames puring out of the back of his McLaren.

The British driver had completed just 7 laps of the circuit before he returned to the pitlane.

Mechanics were quick to put out the flames, but this is not the first time a Mercedes engine has given up during the pre-season tests with the 2009 MP4-24.  Could McLaren be returning to the unreliability that plagued them between 2004-6?

Hamilton was quick to play down the incident…;

“We had an issue, but I think they’re fixing it and we’ll be back out as soon as possible,” he told reporters.

“But the car was good this morning. I didn’t get many laps, but I’m looking forward to getting back out.”

An engine in the MP4-24 exploded on Sunday too...

An engine in the MP4-24 exploded on Sunday too...

McLaren and Honda Confirm Algarve Test Attendance

McLaren and Honda have both confirmed their attendance at a scheduled F1 test at a brand new circuit in the Algarve.

The test will take place from the dates December 15-17, on the track which will open November 2nd.

The circuit is one of the most advanced in the world, with multiple different track configurations, and a high tech water system which simulates wet track running.

The venue is hoping to get incorporated on the F1 calendar, and the test will be an opportunity to prove that it can host an F1 event. It would see Grand Prix return to Portugal after some years of absence.

Portugal’s deputy sports minister Laurentino Dias said: “The Government will do its best for Portugal to become part of the world’s main championships. This circuit is prepared to host a range of motor races, from the most modest to Formula One.”

Ferrari are also likely to announce their attendance at the test in the near future.