Launch Season: McLaren MP4-24

McLaren-Mercedes MP4-24
The 2009 McLaren was unveiled at the Woking factory earlier today, along with the announcement that Ron Dennis was moving out of his F1 role to concentrate on McLaren’s ever growing portfolio in other areas.

The McLaren group of companies is active in electronics, engineering and is currently designing and building it’s own road car, as well as many other things which I’m not quite sure about…

Martin Whitmarsh, Ron’s long-time Lieutenant, will take over the day-to-day running of the race team as well as being the Top Dog at the racetrack. Dennis will remain as Chief Exec and will still oversee the general running of the F1 operation.
This has been coming for a while and was maybe due a 12-18 months ago, but the whole Stepneygate affair seemed to galvanise Ron into staying longer than maybe he’d originally planned. Still, it wasn’t expected that he’d announce it at the ’09 car launch.

The car itself looks absolutely gorgeous, save for the stupid-ass rear wing. On the other hand, now that we’re seeing true designs the front wings are growing on me, and they are sure to become further refined before we reach Melbourne. The rear wings definitely do need more work. The MP4-24 overall though looks absolutely fantastic in this colour-scheme without all of the aerodynamic and cooling devices on the main bodywork. This is the third car which looks better than the ’08 cars, discounting the main wings, so I’m very quickly becoming a fan of this particular new regulation!

By the way, is anyone else absolutely loving the return of slick tyres? They look brilliant on these cars. Racing cars should always run on slick tyres except when it is raining.

Here’s a pic from

This chassis is actually the second ’24 constructed, the first car is already at the Algarve circuit in Portimao for a shakedown on Saturday, where McLaren have booked an exclusive test day. Other teams will join McLaren at the same venue next week. Check the news sites for on-track photos!

Previous launches (now with photos):


I will return on Sunday. I’m thinking of doing something on British coverage of motorsport now that some announcements are coming through, although I may hold it for a while. In the meantime it looks like A1GP is falling to pieces so that could be an interesting talking point. The Furious Wedge is keeping tabs on things and I tend to agree with his assessments when it comes to A1GP.
(I’m developing a habit of ending my blog posts on a tangent, maybe I should reign that in a bit..)


Launch Season: Toyota TF109

Toyota TF109

Today the 2009 Toyota F1 car was unveiled in a special ‘virtual launch’ online. This means the press have only seen what we’ve seen, they’ve not seen it ‘in the flesh’.

The car looks somewhat different to previous Toyota F1 cars, which always seemed a little bulkier than the competition. It has a higher and shorter nosecone section than both previous cars and those of other teams. I hope they’ve tested it and it won’t pierce sidepods of other cars in a crash.. It looks like a much improved car on the previous efforts, but we really can’t tell too much yet as Toyota have only released a small selection of photos.

EDIT – here’s a pic:

*** and have the pics – although they are identical on all sites.

Unfortunately the recent trend among all teams is to ban photographers from these events in favour of a strictly controlled PR environment where they supply studio shots of the cars, where journalists are only allowed to ask banal questions and they only receive banal answers. This is the reason you will not find any team or driver quotes from the launches on this blog. There isn’t any point, you know what they are going to say before you read it. How things have changed since the late 90s! No dry ice and elaborate presentations these days.

Tomorrow sees the launch of the new McLaren, with Williams and Renault both launching on Monday, then BMW on Tuesday. This is followed immediately by the first ‘group test’ of the season, to be held at the new Portimao circuit in the Algarve, Portugal (although it seems BMW will be at Valencia). The F1 press will get some good photos next week. I really must investigate the rights and wrongs of posting other people’s photos here..

Launch Season: Ferrari F60 (w/video)

Ferrari F60
Today saw the first official new car of the 2009 Launch Season, which in the current economy is a little muted compared to normal. Even so, this year has the excitement of the new rules changing the look of the cars, making it much more interesting than any January/February for several years!

The first car to be unveiled was the Ferrari F60, the team breaking with recent naming tradition to mark the occasion of their 60th season of competition within Formula One.

Interestingly the car looks much like the F2008 but with the aero devices chopped off, the ugly new wings fitted, and the whole thing generally shrinkwrapped a bit. I’m pleasantly surprised because I was expecting something as ugly as the BMW test hack that has been running around since autumn.

The new rules make for a much cleaner car along the chassis, and you can really see how tightly packaged the rear bodywork is. (insert joke about team PR girl here) Still, that doesn’t mean the extended front wings and compressed rear wings are any easier to look at.

EDIT – here’s a pic from the official Ferrari website


Here is an onboard from today’s installation lap at Mugello:

YouTube link found on the DigitalSpy F1 Broadcasting forum (posted by Fergie1).

For official videos and photos go to: Also check out the galleries at the usual suspects.

Other Cars
Expect the remaining teams to launch their cars in this order:

Jan 15 – Toyota
Jan 16 – McLaren
Jan 19 – Renault & Williams
Jan 20 – BMW Sauber
Feb 6 – Red Bull
March – Toro Rosso & Force India
Will they make it?? – The Team Formerly Known As Honda

Entry List
In other news, the FIA has released the official entry list as it presently stands:

1. L.Hamilton – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
2. H.Kovalainen – Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
3. K.Raikkonen – Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
4. F.Massa – Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro
5. R.Kubica – BMW Sauber F1 Team
6. N.Heidfeld – BMW Sauber F1 Team
7. F.Alonso – ING Renault F1 Team
8. N.Piquet – ING Renault F1 Team
9. J.Trulli – Panasonic Toyota Racing
10. T.Glock – Panasonic Toyota Racing
11. S.Buemi – Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
12. ?? TBA ?? – Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari
14. M.Webber – Red Bull Racing Renault
15. S.Vettel – Red Bull Racing Renault
16. N.Rosberg – AT&T Williams Toyota
17. K.Nakajima – AT&T Williams Toyota
18. ?? TBA ?? – Honda Racing F1 *
19. ?? TBA ?? – Honda Racing F1 *
20. A.Sutil – Force India F1 Mercedes
21. G.Fisichella – Force India F1 Mercedes

* To quote the FIA:

The Honda Motor Company announced their withdrawal from Formula One on December 5th, 2008. The Honda Racing team has not withdrawn its entry from the 2009 Formula One World Championship. The FIA understands the team is now for sale.

Car numbers are assigned by Driver’s Champion and team-mate first, followed by teams in Constructors’ Championship order, excluding #13 because these guys are superstitious!

Blog Note: I’ve ditched my planned entry about the FIA / FOTA goings on of last week because I got bored of it, as well as the entry about the Autosport International summary because you can find all that on I should be back on Thursday for the Toyota launch!

Work under way at Donington Park

Planning permission was granted to Donington Park on Thursday evening for the upgrades required for the 2010 British Grand Prix. Work had already started in December on the first stage: a new access tunnel to the infield. A slice was taken out of the track, a tunnel dug, and it’s about to be covered over to allow racing to resume when the 2009 season starts in a couple of months.

The tunnel will be used by construction traffic so the track itself won’t be disturbed while the new pit/paddock buildings are being constructed. The other changes to the racing surface, including realignment of the back straight and hooking up to the new loop to the existing track all won’t take place until the 2009 racing season is in the books.

That means the MotoGP, British Touring, and whatever other events they may choose to hold will all continue to take place in 2009 with only minor disruption. This also means that by watching those races we can keep up with developments without having to remember to check the websites for updates!

Simon Gillett, the owner of DP, was at the Autosport International Show this week. Keith the F1 Fanatic was there and has a great piece on what was said – here are a few quotes:

“We’ve already started – we began about two weeks ago on the expectation that we would get planning permission. We have the tunnels bored through so there’s a big hole in the circuit at the moment. That will be completed by February 20th so we can re-open the track. And we start work on the pits and paddock on Monday morning.”

“From Redgate corner to McLeans is being left untouched – we’re not even re-surfacing that part of the track. It’s wide enough, the run-offs are big enough and it’s fantastically good so I’m not going to touch it. One of the main elements of Donington Park’s character is that from Hollywood all the way down to Schwanz you’ve got a grass bank for spectators, which is staying. It’s where I go to watch the racing from.”

“Why is it that you turn up at an event and the first person you see is someone who doesn’t want you to get in? It’s ridiculous. Look at what Asda have done introducing greeters at the front of their stores. It’s not ‘I don’t want you in’, it’s ‘I want you in – with the right ticket’. For food – gone are the polystyrene tubs with the polystyrene burgers in them. People still want burgers, but what’s wrong with a ciabatta with a 100% beef burger in it? And the toilets. There will be no blue plastic toilets. We’re putting in eight permanent toilet blocks and more under the suites. You have to get the basics right and allow people to get in and out easily.”

Gillett also talks about the debenture scheme, the logistics of a racetrack being sited at the end of a runway of a growing airport, and asks how the 90,000 people who go to Wembley and Twickenham aren’t allowed to drive there and why DP shouldn’t be different, and there’s lots more too.

Check out the full story!
F1Fanatic has a lot more quotes from Gillett than most of the other sites out there and what I’ve posted is only a fraction.

So, Donington will become everything Silverstone isn’t! Silverstone has a bit of a reputation for focussing their attention on the ‘champagne and cucumber sandwiches’ crowd who get helicoptered in. I’d like to attend the race this year to see how true that is, and I’d like to go to Donington next year to see how they do it.
I tell you what, now I’ve seen their plans and heard their approach I really like what they are doing. I’ve been to Donington several times despite it being bloody miles away, and it is a great place to watch a race. Okay so the facilities as exist right now fall considerably short of Silverstone, but I really do see that changing.

The question then becomes…. what will happen to Silverstone?

In the comments of F1Fanatic, someone provided a link to the BBC local TV news who have a short piece on the development. You can see it here although it may only work for UK viewers (others should try it anyway).