Defending constructor’s champions Red Bull were just one of three teams to launch their 2012 car today in Jerez – the circuit at which pre-season testing gets underway tomorrow.
Sauber and Toro Rosso also unveiled their 2012 challengers on a busy day in southern Spain.
This follows on from Lotus, who launched their new car, the E20, yesterday.
Caterham, McLaren and Ferrari have also unveiled their new cars in the last fortnight.
The Adrian Newey-designed RB8 inevitably stole most of the headlines, although defending champion Sebastian Vettel expects that his Red Bull team will not be quite so dominant this season.
“I think it will be very, very tight this year,” said the German. “Looking at the cars, you know there's not much room we have left to play (with) for designers and to find something extra. You know, the last two years we have had two big things taken away, the double diffusers, plus, for this year, the system around the blown exhaust. So we are missing that and therefore I think it's difficult to really create a difference. We'll see, obviously we hope our car is better than all the others but it will be difficult, and I think the cars will be fairly similar, as in the gaps will be even closer than they have been.”
The new Red Bull features the stepped nose that has also been present in some form on all of the 2012 car launch so far, apart from the new McLaren. Newey agrees with the many fans who thing these noses are somewhat ‘ugly’. but blames the new regulations for this styling.
“The restriction nose height which is a maximum height just in front of the front bulkhead hasn't really changed the chassis shape very much,” he explained. “We've kept more or less the same chassis shape, but had to drop the nose just in front of the front bulkhead, which, in common with many other teams, has led us to I think I'd probably say a slightly ugly looking nose. We've tried to style it as best we can, but it's not a feature you would choose to put in were it not for the regulation.”
The Sauber C31 was the first car to be launch today, and Team Principal Peter Sauber said that he has clear performance targets for this latest model. “We're aiming to start the new season as strongly as we did in 2011, but then also to maintain this level of performance throughout the year,” he said. “Our goal is to finish regularly in the points so as to put ourselves in a significantly better position in the World Championship.”
Chief Designer Matt Morris said of the car: “The C31 is revolutionary where we had fresh ideas, particularly at the rear of the car, and it is an evolution where we knew we could carry over certain approaches. We had to improve on the weaknesses we identified on the C30, but at the same time we wanted to maintain its strengths.
“The current plan is to launch a fairly basic roll-out version of the car, which was defined quite some time ago,” he added. “We will then be testing development parts during the upcoming weeks with a late upgrade for the first race on 18th March in Australia. Therefore the car will look quite different in Melbourne compared to the roll-out car.”
The last of the cars to launch today was the STR7, the new offering from Red Bull sister team Toro Rosso. New drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo were on hand to remove the covers from the latest creation to emerge from Faenza.
“The car definitely looks sexy,” commented Ricciardo. “And it's a bit emotional actually, seeing the first F1 car that will be mine to drive from the start of the season. With the new nose, it's not exactly beautiful, but I'd rather have a quick car than a pretty one. Now I can't wait to drive it tomorrow, when I don't think I'll need an alarm clock to wake up to start the day.”
“A new car unveiled by two new drivers,” exclaimed team principal Franz Tost. “The day before testing starts, we can claim to know more about the drivers than the car! It's too early to make predictions for the coming season, although clearly our aim is to score more points and finish higher in the championship than in 2011. The team has continued to expand over the past year in terms of our facility in Faenza and also in the number of staff who work there, so we are in better shape than at any time in our seven year history.”
- The first of three pre-season tests gets underway in Jerez tomorrow. The Checkered Flag will provide reaction from teams and drivers after each day.