New-look cars take to track to prepare for 2018 season

2018-02-28 06:01

THE level of innovation and sheer technical brilliance that is infused into a new Formula 1 car never ceases to amaze.

To understand how much work goes into the design, development and building of an F1 car, consider that the creation of the Mercedes W09 has comprised 1 000 years worth of man-hours or a staggering 8,7 million hours.

For the second year running, Mercedes has launched its car with a shakedown test at the Silverstone circuit.

Painted in the characteristic silver, with flashes of turquoise, the design of the W09 looked more akin to an evolution rather than a revolution.

Given that Merc had the quickest and most reliable car in 2017 it makes sense to build on the already successful design elements that delivered both championship titles. While there are few obviously visual changes to the Merc, reigning champion Lewis Hamilton says, “it [the car] looks quite similar but inside, underneath the shell and even the bodywork, it’s all refined to perform even better than last year”.

One of those major changes centres on reliability, as drivers are permitted to run only three engines and two ERS (Energy Recovery System) for the season before accruing penalties. “The biggest challenge we’ve got is lifting our durability limit,” said Mercedes managing director Andy Cowell. “[There is] a 40% increase in the distance that the hardware needs to do for this year compared with last year”.

What is evident from nearly all of the cars launched so far is the significant focus on the bargeboard and sidepod area.

Where most teams have adopted Ferrari’s 2017 design with slight adaptations, the Italian team has gone a step further with an even more innovative design philosophy in this area for the 2018 season. The sidepods, especially, are narrower than in 2017 with a considerably different approach to the air intakes, which are now split in two.

Similarly, the wing mirrors on the SF71H have been transformed to include a small winglet that will serve to clean up and direct the air around the newly introduced halo.

The team has also opted for a return to all-red livery and has, so far, been the best at visually integrating the halo by painting it the famous Ferrari-red.

While Sebastian Vettel believes Ferrari have made a “big step” forward, it remains to be seen if they’ve done enough to challenge for championship glory.

Not to be outdone, Red Bull launched the RB14 with a striking, but once off, dark blue camouflage livery. Immediately evident is that Adrian Newey’s influence is present in the car’s design. From the undercut of the sculpted sidepods to the ridiculously fitted and clean bodywork around the gearbox and engine, the RB14 is a beaut.

The hope for Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be that Red Bull hits the ground running in 2018 with a competitive enough car to consistently trouble the top of the timing sheets.

Elsewhere, McLaren has launched its Renault-powered car with a new-look orange and blue-accented livery with a glaringly absent title sponsor. The first images of the car reveal a somewhat stark design.

However, the good news is that the design team is hard at work on a major upgrade before the first race of the season.

And after driving the 2018 McLaren for the first time, Fernando Alonso says he believes “good times are coming” for the team.

The first preseason test started on Monday at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

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