January – it’s a mixed bag for Formula One fans isn’t it? So far away from the neon and halogen fuelled season-ender in Abu Dhabi and seemingly ages away from the first wheel being turned in some sort of anger at the first test in Barcelona.
DISCLAIMER: Yes, I am aware that there was a wet weather test at Paul Ricard this week, but that was using 2015 cars. Pipe down.
But in between this rubber-smoke-less period lies the now heartless car launches, as we see ever more dates eke their way onto millions of calendars.
It’s a formality. Sheet comes off at the hands of PR trained drivers, followed by a timid golf clap from the 4 onlookers. We don’t want to scare it now, do we?
19 years ago, McLaren woke up their new MP4-12 akin to that of a late sleeper being summoned from their slumber with a bucket of ice cold water. Dramatic change of title sponsor and thus livery, glitzy plinths, Alexandra Palace and the Spice Girls. It was actually more impressive than their 1997 campaign, although that may still apply now with the soulless ritual that occurs each winter.
It’s part of the lifestyle. Formula One and glamour and extravagance have and should always go hand in hand – it’s a spectator sport first and foremost and that shouldn’t be forgotten. The fastest cars, drivers, tracks and the best engineers – hence taking the prestigious tag of ‘the pinnacle of motorsport’.
Paul Stoddart immediately seized Melbourne’s attention when he introduced the wonderful looking Minardi PS01 in 2001 with Fernando Alonso and Tarso Marques grinning sheepishly.
Rocco Benetton was also a man to revisit his roots, often taking the new eponymous car to sit on a plinth overlooking Rome to let the public and the world’s press to admire. Jaguar even used Lords to launch the menacing yet unreliable R1 in 2000 after the Stewart GP takeover had been finalised.
Jordan were always one for starting the year with a bang. Bright yellow liveries adorned with copious Benson and Hedges logos, Page 3 girls, the London Palladium and even taking over Moscow’s Red Square in their final year, 2005. But then again, how many team owners are like Eddie Jordan nowadays?
The only personality that comes close to the affable (at times) ‘EJ’ is Ferrari’s Maurizio Arrivabene, who certainly has lived up to the literal translation of his name this year. Back at the start of the 21st century, it would have been hard to believe the tension and excitement that gathered around Ferrari’s PR stunt #ReadySetRed this year. It could have been something different, a nod to yesteryear when Ferrari set up swanky meetings to reveal their new, probable championship winning cars. However when the clock ticked down to zero, we all found out that it was to win 4 tickets to their probably dire car reveal.
But at least it’s something, like half a middle finger to everyone else.
Red Bull invited the media to see Messrs Kvyat and Ricciardo at an indoor ski slope in Milton Keynes at the start of 2015. The slope was accurate in relation to their season as the two Dan’s plummeted downhill. Makes you wonder if McLaren Honda partook in a secret bungee jump off the Grand Canyon.
Force India were so delighted with their new Telmex deal that they took the 2014 (in a new 2015 livery) car to Mexico. In exchange for what though? A few complimentary tequilas and a look at the then unfinished track and the old car in new clothes?
As for the rest, a live stream from a cold Jerez in front of closed garage door will do. Come on Mercedes, you have one of the world’s most marketable athletes and a superior package to everyone else. Maybe dominate the launch as well?
Oh well, maybe next year things will be different. New look cars, new ideas? Doubt it, though.
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