The month of January usually sees the majority of teams launching their new car for 2008. The contender is normally unveiled at a media event and then has a go round a track to show off what it can do.
The media event can range from being very small to an enormous extravaganza. Last year, McLaren shut off a whole street in Valencia, had Alonso and Hamilton drive the new car up and down, doing donuts and entertaining the crowds wherever possible. There were lights, music, and fireworks and it was genuinely a spectacular event. Ferrari went for the complete opposite approach. They chose not to unveil their car to the press, except for to release a few selected photographs and then they took the car out to a test and ran it there, very quietly, no fuss.
Again, the track event can range from being a small, private gathering of the team, driver and a photographer or two, to being a free-for-all at an official test session.
Sometimes you find that the new cars are released when they are not quite ready. Last year, Honda had not confirmed their sponsor (or as it turned out charity idea), so their car was on the track testing but completely black. It was difficult to see what changes had been made on the car without being able to distinguish a black sidepod from a black wing mirror.
The launch of the car is often the time when new drivers are shown off for the first time. They can be held up by previous contracts, and released in time for the first testing session with the new car. It can be interesting to see a new team in it’s entirety, whether it is quite finished or not.
The launches often cause interest among fans due to the new innovations that are being tried. Does anyone remember a couple of years ago when BMW introduced their new “tusk nosed” car? The front nose cone split into a shape not dissimilar to tusks, and everyone was discussing it for weeks. It didn’t deliver the results necessary though, and was soon replaced with a more conventional nose.
It can be the smallest things that cause interest, but generally speaking, any media coverage generated by the event is good coverage. McLaren have chosen to keep things small this year, compared to their party last year. After the controversial year they have had though, this is hardly surprising.
It is worth looking out for the launches over this month and the next, as there can be interesting developments both technologically and in terms of personnel. I will, of course, be reporting on them here.