For the TV-viewing F1 fan, Formula1 2011 season is about 50 days – the 2011 season’s first GP in Bahrain. However, fans who follow Formula1 otherwise (via the internet or print) will know that this is the time when F1 teams choose to spend time in building their 2011 car and then test them in February.
With the pre-season testing restrictions and mid-season testing ban, testing in Formula1 has become ever-critical (This topic deserves a special post in the near future). The 2011 season sees the entry of Pirelli, which will make the pre-season tests most critical. The teams will be tweaking their cars and accumulating tyre data from the new Pirelli tyres. Not many know that the success of an F1 car largely depends on its tyres and the 2011 season is already being proclaimed to belong to the team and driver who will use their tyres better.
This pre-season time is also used by teams to launch their 2011 challengers. The teams usually host a ‘media meet’ or press conference to showcase their new car to the public. For 2011, the pre-season tests start in late January or in the first few days of February. Most teams try and launch their car before the pre-season test.
However, there are two teams currently that are choosing a different route with respect to their car launches. Mclaren and Force India are one of the few teams who are launching their car after the first pre-season test in Valencia. Funnily, their delay in the launch has raised concerns and questions regarding their preparedness for the 2011 season and if their 2011 car development program is off-schedule!
In my opinion, there is no advantage or disadvantage of launching one’s car before or after the first test. Infact, it could just turn out to be an advantage. With the new Pirelli tyres being used in 2011, the first test will largely be used to accumulate tyre data and focus on tyre usage and wear. Mclaren and Force India have chosen to run their 2010 cars with 2011 updates for this particular test.
This move might help them in further tweaking their 2011 car basis the data gathered in Valencia. Whether this move particularly works in their advantage is left to be seen.
Either ways, there is seldom a connection between the ‘car launch’ and testing times and race pace of any team. Case in point would be the Brawn GP car that was launched weeks prior to the first GP of the 2009 season and went on to win the World Championship that year.
Most of the times, the car used in the launch is completely different from the car that appears in the first GP of the season. Hence, this correlation doesn’t hold any ground. F1 teams usually have an annual development cycle for their cars. Now as long as the Mclaren and Force India cars are on schedule for the 2011 season, their car launch date shouldn’t worry their fans.