If you think that the F1 season is still over a month away, think again. January rolled on to a stop, giving way to February and the madness started anew (Finally! I thought this winter break would never end). The teams unveiled their cars in a flurry of fireworks, amidst mystery and celebration.
Lotus and McLaren took lead, followed closely by Force India and Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull, Caterham, Marussia and Toro Rosso. We are yet to hear from Williams. But, they will join in soon enough on February 19. The key theme so far seems to be continuity, improvement and evolution. After all, there will be drastic changes in 2014. This is what we will see on the grid this season:
Force India unveiled the VJM06 with their driver Paul di Resta on hand. There was much speculation about the second driver. But that slot is officially still up for grabs. I, for one am keeping my fingers crossed. I would definitely like to see Bruno Senna race for them. We have however been assured by team principle Vijay Mallya that come Australia we will witness “one of the most exciting pairings on the grid”. But for now, the star is the VJM06. The technical director, Andrew Green said in a press release that the 2013 car is an “evolution rather than revolution”. Of course, the biggest difference is the fairing on top of the nose, hiding the ugly step. The team has also given itself a few more options on set-up to help with tyre management and the suspension has been tuned. Green said, “The rear suspension is quite different – for aerodynamic reasons the whole thing has been lifted up to allow the airflow under the lower rear wishbones.”
The Prancing Horse
Ferrari had a tough season last year as it swung between hope and despair, but it demonstrated Fernando Alonso’s talent, and of course Felipe Massa’s much-needed comeback. So I waited for the great unveiling with much anticipation. The F138 however hasn’t changed all that much. Pat Fry, the technical director, almost echoed Andrew Green while describing the car. The changes are subtle, he says. The aim has been to maximise performance. The biggest challenge was the aerodynamics he said. Expect to see a lot of changes through the testing season. Interestingly, the team has introduced the single control unit that will be used next year. The 2014 season will prove to be a challenge he said as, “the 2014 car will be very different – aerodynamically the exhaust effect is changed with the turbo and exhaust positions being different, the front wing development will be new, while the rear wing constitutes another major change – means that a lot of our 2013 work will not carry over, which will put an increased work load on aero departments and the design department as well.”
It Got Wings
Red Bull was without doubt one of the most awaited launches. Three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and his trusty teammate Mark Webber pulled the covers off Adrian Newey’s 2013 baby – an improvement on the 2012 version. Speaking at the launch, Newey said, “Probably the most significant change is not the regulations, but the new Pirelli tyres. We had a quick test with those in practice ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, but in truth we didn’t learn a lot because of the conditions. Pirelli have supplied us data about how the new tyres behave, but past experience tells us that it’s only when we go testing that we really find out.”
The Swiss Surprise
The minute changes to the 2013 regulations did not stop the Sauber F1 team as they launched the Sauber C32-Ferrari, a car that was definitely ‘different’. The team’s chief designer Matt Morris described the new car that now has slim sidepods, which will make it quite distinctive on the grid. “The airflow in this area has a major influence over everything that happens at the rear of the car,” Morris said in a team press release. The rear axle has been developed anew allowing it to better interact with the airflow around the rear of the car. The team also looked at better tyre management and have sought to improve its performance during qualifying. The car’s weight was also a priority, Morris said, and this has been reduced to allow for a better distribution of the ballast. The team says that there will, however, be a major update to the car before the first race in Australia.
Sharpening the Silver Arrow
The F1W04 was perhaps the most anticipated reveal this week. More perhaps for the recent changes – not just in the management, but also in the driver line-up. All eyes were on Lewis Hamilton in his silver, racing suit, a far cry from the distinctive McLaren uniform he has sported all this while. The car now sports a new five-element front wing design and a second-generation Coanda exhaust in the rear. There is also a vanity panel that masks that ugly stepped nose and, a team press release states, offered a “small gain during aerodynamic testing”. This is what Hamilton had to say at the launch, “It’s the start of a new chapter for me, a new adventure, and when I walked through the doors at Brackley, I was so excited to get down to work…I have never seen a group of people that is hungrier for success than this one.”
Caterham, Marussia and Toro Rosso also revealed their cars, focusing on evolving their 2012 predecessors. Caterham’s CT03 became the first car that was produced at the Leafield Technical Centre, an important milestone for the team, even as it used a slightly lighter colour scheme. Toro Rosso’s STR8 is the first car designed by the team’s strengthened technical team headed by Luca Furbatto. Marussia’s MR02, meanwhile, saw the introduction of a few new elements, including significant redevelopment due to the requirement to accommodate the KERS installation. This was also the first time that the team developed a complete car conceived using a design philosophy of CFD complementing wind tunnel.
And so it begins. The Great Battle of 2013. Where will it takes us? What will see? It remains to be seen.