The Ben Evans Column: Launches

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These months are perhaps the longest of the year for racing fans.

Spring, Summer and early Autumn are fine, every weekend you can gorge on a feast of racing action. Or, alternatively, stay in and watch the Hungarian Grand Prix.

But January and February can be a little dull and frustrating. For this is the time of the annual car launches.

Now, I have mixed feelings about these:

On one hand it is exciting to see the kit that will racing during the upcoming year.

On the other, it is also a little like knowing what toys you’re going to get for Christmas in October and then not being able to use them until Boxing Day.

That, plus I find interviews with engine men and gearbox fabricators about their new creations rather dull.

This week the launches have started in earnest with Ferrari and McLaren unveiling their new cars. At McLaren we have Alonso and Hamilton sporting haircuts suggesting both have come back from service in Iraq.

Ferrari are frantically trying to design a paint scheme that doesn’t identify their principle sponsor (Marlboro). At Toyota the problem is more serious, as even if they unveil the greatest car of all time, they still have Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli driving it.

At least the publicity shots of the drivers in their shiny new overalls gives us a chance to see who has spent the winter ‘doing a Montoya’ (i.e. putting on weight).

What makes this worse is that F1 cars are not particularly aesthetically exciting. Sure they are fantastic pieces of machinery and devastatingly effective at what they do, but I have to go back to the ‘walrus’ nosed Williams of 2004 to find a car that I couldn’t wait to see in action.

The computer-generated, appendage-heavy nature of current F1 cars was thrown sharply into perspective at last week’s Autosport International. The grid of F1 cars looked good no doubt, but in comparison to the collection of Group C endurance cars across the hall, there was no competition.

The Group C cars looked like a racing car should – sexy, instantly memorable and iconic.

In turn I would struggle to allocate any cars of the current F1 grid to the correct team, without their liveries to go by. Unlike, say, John Barnard’s 1990 Ferrari I don’t see the possibility of the any contemporary grid being shipped off to art galleries in New York.

The predictability of current F1 car styling, together with the driver market being sown up early means that team launches are a little predictable. Gone are the days of not knowing who would drive for the team until the last minute, or of Tyrrell unveiling a car with 6 wheels.

What I would have paid for Ferrari to unveil Zsolt Baumgartner instead of Kimi Raikkonen as their No.1 driver, or for Nigel Mansell to croak out of retirement again for Toro Rosso.

But one thing that doesn’t change, is that with every car launch, every press release, every interview about a new pedal spring that could take 0.0001s off a lap of Silverstone, my anticipation for the new season keeps building.

By March I know I will be frantically sprinting to the newsagent’s on Thursday morning to get my Autosport fix, because whatever the problems are with motor sport the prospect of the new season is always enough to set my heart racing, and my alarm for 13:00 Australian time.

59 days and counting??????

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Ben Evans
Motorsport commentator Ben is RaceFans' resident bookworm. Look out for his verdict on the latest motor racing publications on Sundays....

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One comment on “The Ben Evans Column: Launches”

  1. I so agree with you…. I’m getting really impatient, especially since the launches started.

    Can’t they start the season sooner?!?!?!?!?!


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