Monday, 5 January 2009

Prepare to Launch

The off-season. When it comes around at the end of every season, from November to March it's normally seen as a hive of activity for all the teams down the F1 pitlane in order to assess new drivers, cars and regulations. Or in some cases, rather the lack of. So far on this occasion, the only notable things to talk about have been the 3-way driver shootout at STR and the new regulations for this year especially regarding the new wings. In most cases, the reaction to them has been a negative one. Quite substantial at that.

Although, let's continue on with the theme of the new regulations. today revealed that Ferrari will be launching their new car next week, followed by Toyota and McLaren with Renault, Williams and BMW Sauber hot on their heels. We also have a date for Red Bull who have said their 2009 challenger will been unveiled at Jerez on February 9th. As for the remaining teams - not a dickie bird. But to be fair apart from Force India, the other two teams are already occupied with other things to be concerned with.

So, what has each team been up to so far in the period between post-Brazil and pre-Melbourne?

McLaren - Most recently the Woking-based team have been testing alongside Ferrari at the brand new Algarve International Circuit. Before that, they became the 3rd team to unveil a 2009-spec piece of aero with a new nose and front wing. What they will do with their rear wing remains to be seen. Have also been testing their KERS system via Gary Paffett.

Ferrari - Nothing in terms of new aero pieces but they have been sighted running an F2008 with large sculpted hums around the cockpit which was said to be a temporary housing for their KERS system. Reports have said they struggling with the development from theirs.

BMW - What haven't they been doing?! Officially the first team to be running as full a 2009 car as possible without giving everything away. Their front wing, however, does seem overly large compared to those from other teams so far. Also running a flat-edged raised nose and the tall rear wing. KERS development has been continuous and strenuous at every test so far with plenty of testing miles achieved.

Renault - Nothing much to report from France. No new parts have been announced or seen from them. Piquet and Alonso have both been on track in testing working on 2009 aerodynamic data and also developing their KERS system. How far along they are with it remains to be seen.

Toyota - Have been seen performing at tests, but informed us early on their KERS won't be ready until halfway through this season. Still, they've partaken in some development testing of it. Again, no 2009 aero parts seen from them as of yet.

Toro Rosso - Their focus has been on selecting their drivers. Sebastiens Buemi and Bourdais and Takuma Sato have been locked in a 3 way duel for the two race seats. Buemi has been all but confirmed bar an official announcement but all the signs are pointing to an obvious outcome. As for the other drive, Sato is looking likely to be sat alongside the young Swiss. Although between a couple of F1 fans I know, that would see that as the wrong choice. Their car? Well, just look at Red Bull's is all.

Red Bull - Vettel and Buemi have been behind the wheel 9 times out of 10 due to an unfortunate accident for Webber during the Tasmania Challenge in which a head-on collision with an SUV saw him break his leg. He's expected to be fully fit for Melbourne though, so a speedy recovery is wished to him. Apart from that, it's pretty much the norm - no new aero parts and a small portion of KERS development.

Williams - Officially revealed the first 2009 spec wings to the F1 world. They've done a lot of running with them alongside BMW. Haven't heard very much about their KERS system although logic dictates they'll get Toyota's as well. Could be disadvantaged due to their mid-season delay however.

Force India - Has been some kind of hoorah about their drivers. Speculation included Pedro de la Rosa and Paul di Resta taking over from Sutil and Fisichella. Mallya also pulled the preverbial rabbit out of the hat by forming a technical partnership with McLaren to be supplied with Mercedez-Benz engines, transmissions, electronics and KERS. A lot of slick tyre testing but nothing in terms of aero.

Honda - Well what else can you say about them? Promised so much throughout last year boasting they would spend the whole of 2008 concentration on 2009, and then comes the shock announcement they are pulling out. Buyers have been speculated including Mexican Carlos Slim and David Richards. An insider to the team, however, has said the deal to save the team has been done and an announcement is expected sometime soon, probably this week if not the next.

So for some teams, it's all about 2009 and adjusting to the new regulations and trying new things out. Every team at some point has run the new specification Bridgestone slicks and more than half the field has developed KERS on track. Only 3 teams have revealed and begun testing 2009-spec wings and BMW is the closest to running a full 2009 car already. Teams like Ferrari, Renault and Toyota are keeping their cards very, very close to their chest as we have yet to see what their interpretation of the rules will be. Nevertheless, it's going to be a busy couple of weeks for the press reporters.