Now that the first offical test of the pre-season is over and every F1 team except for Virgin, Force India and HRT have unveiled their 2011 cars, I thought I'd post a quick round-up of the last couple of days and my thoughts on the new cars unveiled so far.
Traditionally Ferrari was the first team to unveil their new car. The F150 (called so because of 150 years of Italian unification) does not seem particularly special or innovative at first glance. But, then again, Ferrari have never been known for their innovative ideas, yet they still manage to be in contention every season. The one thing that caught my attention was the fact that Ferrari opted for a traditional push-rod suspension at the rear, whereas it had been widely assumed that every team would go for the pull-rod suspension introduced by Red Bull last year. Nevertheless, Ferrari is confident that push-rod is the way to go, and I'm sure they have researched the benefits of both systems thoroughly.
Lotus, Renault and Sauber unveiled their cars next, all on the same day. The Sauber does not have any striking new features and seems, like the Ferrari F150, a solid car. I certainly hope they are able to make a decent step forward this season. If they do, with Kamui Kobayashi behind the wheel, we might get to see some fireworks.
Lotus found themselves at the centre of some controversy when they unveiled their car. The legality of their "bladed" rollbar, as developed by Mercedes last year, was questioned by some, but Lotus seem confident that their car complies with all FIA regulations.
Renault definitely caught the most attention when they unveiled their car. The media was very quick to find out that their R31 does not have a traditional exhaust system. The better of the first day of testing was spend trying to find out where exactly the exhaust is and what it does. It has since been suspected that their exhaust exits at the front of the car, with the air passing underneath the floor of the car, thereby blowing the air into the diffuser. Apparently this system offers significant gains and we may expect to see it on other teams' cars sooner rather than later.
Next up were Mercedes, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams. Mercedes will be hoping their car will put them in the title hunt this season. They ceased development on their previous car pretty early last year and therefore have had plenty of time to design and built their new machine. I have read that their two-tier front wing is supposedly more of a disadvantage than an advantage, but I'm pretty confident Ross Brawn and his staff know what they are doing.
Red Bull, as defending world champions, drew a massive crowd for the unveiling of their car, which does not seem to feature any controversial or innovative design solutions. Of course, with the car standing in front of a bunch of photographers they will play their cards close to their chest, but for a team that was miles ahead in terms of innovation last year, I felt slightly disappointed. Nevertheless, Adrian Newey is still F1's best designer in my book and I have no doubt the Red Bull will be fighting for the title again this season.
Williams did not really unveil their car in the traditional way. Rather, they painted it in interim colours and just let it do its laps on track. Therefore I have yet to get a decent look at the Williams, but as a team that always gets my sympathy, I hope they're capable of making a decent step forward.