22nd March 2021
There’s a question we’ve been mulling over for a while and it’s time to ask for your honest opinion. Aside from the tech journalists and meme-makers, is anyone actually still interested in the Formula 1 pre-season test and team launches? Isn’t it all a bit of a waste of time?
Hear us out.
With the development freeze in place this year, the 2021 cars are essentially carry-overs from last year bar some aerodynamic changes and a few spent tokens. Did we get a good look at those changes at launch? Heck no, it’s all smoke and mirrors with these sneaky teams. The reigning World Champions had modesty covers on the car, McLaren photoshopped their best bits, and Red Bull launched with... two images of a car render. Not exactly the headline-grabbing antics we’ve come to expect from one of the boldest brands on the grid.
Why not just whip the covers off at the pre-season test? At least that would give us something to liven up endless laps on undetermined fuel loads, often with odd bits of metal strapped to the car. This year’s test was at least shortened to three days, offered up a sandstorm, and generated enough worries for the World Champions to sustain the headlines for five days until Drive to Survive Season 3 came out.
So, having thought it over, here’s our suggestion for 2022. Scrap team launches, scrap the pre-season test. Let’s kick off 30 minutes before qualifying at the first race with all 20 cars under wraps on the grid. Each team pulls off the cover on their new challenger in reverse Championship order. Jean Todt peruses the grid and places a rosette on the car with the most aesthetically pleasing livery. Then it’s lights out, let’s get racing!
In all seriousness, after some deliberation, there are certain elements of a pre-season, COVID-secure, virtual launch that no team should do without.
For starters, most F1 fans only really care about getting the first look at the new livery and, typically, a launch loses thousands of viewers from the live stream shortly after it has been revealed. Chit chat with drivers is of note, but shouldn’t teams prioritise the commercially campaign-critical elements up front, such as nailing that all-important partner love, before the big reveal?
Other key ingredients? Well, let’s see and hear from the drivers and team bosses after the winter break and let’s have a good look at the car. Top marks if it’s had a full makeover from last year or is sporting a controversial colour scheme. It’s all about the intrigue after all.
Once that’s done, we’re really just looking for a bit of x-factor. The je ne sais quoi of the F1 car launch. We’re thinking less recording studio and more star power. Step in Aston Martin, who well and truly won that battle with a cameo from Daniel Craig. James Bond? We were shaken and stirred.
Some insight on the tech front is welcomed but let’s keep the real detail until wheels turn in anger – especially with such a benign off season as 2020-2021.
Whilst on the topic of tech, it was not just the engineering updates on the F1 cars that kept the teams on their toes. Thanks to the pesky pandemic, the majority of teams switched to some kind of virtual launch for 2021, and whilst we can only hope that 2022 sees a return to the good old days, there are some key learnings to draw just in case.
They say fortune favours the brave… although in this case, the hackers had other plans by meddling with Williams’ inventive new AR app. This failure really hurts Williams, and we feel for them. With new owners, we were thrilled to see them trying something different (which is surely what F1 needs so badly) but for what is essentially a technology company to fail to deliver something… technical, is a bitter irony.
However, we shouldn't be too hard on them. Crunch’s motto is to Be Brave and pushing into new space always incurs a factor of risk. Too much risk on this occasion? Possibly - the cost of this failure was too high - but hindsight is a wonderful thing and whilst it didn’t work this time, hopefully Williams' efforts can be revived at another point this season as we’d love to see an F1 car in our living room.
For those opting for a live stream launch, there were some key essentials to consider. A strong and stable internet connection for starters. But here’s a question, do ‘live’ launches really need to be broadcast live?
Would anyone mind if they had been pre-recorded and aired ‘as live’? Surely a few of the teams could have escaped a few headaches by doing an ‘as live’ stream recorded an hour or two ahead of time?
This is of course idle speculation, born out of frustration as we wait for the real track action to start this week. The reveal of a new car is a ‘moment’, it is tradition and, for the larger OEMs, an important event for the team to reflect on its new baby but, as we approach an exciting season, the mood is changing. F1 is slowly becoming more welcoming of new ideas, even if they don’t always make the cut.
So, with the memories of the launches already fading, just focus on that image of Mr. Todt walking out onto the track in Bahrain with a gold rosette in one hand as the world looks on from the edge of its seat! :)
Photo credit: © Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN