Renault, Sauber and Lotus 2011 Car Launches

The 2011 car launches are now coming thick and fast after Ferrari’s F150 was unveiled on Friday. Renault and Sauber showed off their new cars at the Valencia circuit today ahead of tomorrow’s first test there. Team Lotus decided to launch the car in their email newsletter known as Team Lotus Notes. They will arrive at the Valencia track on Wednesday and film for an extra day on Friday.

The new Renault looks much more streamlined than the last version, especially at the front of the car. Last year’s nose cone was very big and bulbous compared to most of the other cars. This year’s R31 is slimmed down and looks similar to the other new cars we’ve seen so far.

This year’s Sauber also looks very sleek and as we expected is covered with advertising for Mexican sponsors due to Sergio Perez‘s financial backing. It’s a nice looking car though and an improvement on last year. As far as performance, you would expect them to be a bit better this year but we’ll find out in Bahrain as in testing pace can easily be disguised as happened last year.

The Lotus T128 is a big improvement over the first entry by the new Norfolk based team. Not only do they now have championship winning Renault engines, but also the Red Bull technology gearbox and hydraulics. These are along with the completely redesigned aerodynamics of the new chassis. The new car is still green and yellow but beyond that the similarities appear to end. Obviously it’s still an F1 car so it can’t look too different, but the team say they have made big improvements in every area of the car. I hope they really can establish themselves as a midfield team this year but the proof will be on the track. I have a little doubt also cautiously optimistic at the same time.

As far as the livery, I really like it. They’ve made a big change the the engine cover and wing design with a prominent Air Asia logo on the engine cover. This is probably nice preparation for if and when they are forced to change their team name to that.

Mercedes also teased their new car today. The picture can be found on their own site as well as the official F1 site and Autosport. The picture is a front view of the car as rendered, so you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the actual physical car to make its appearance. From the image though, it appears that the new car will have a higher front nose unlike last year’s which was one of the most dramatically downward facing. As I mentioned earlier, this appears to be one of the key trends among all of the newly shown cars.

I should also mention that Renault have announced both Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean as reserve drivers for this year. It’s nice to see that Bruno is getting a chance to keep his F1 career alive after being relieved of his HRT race seat after a season in which he wasn’t really able to show what he could do in a good car. Like Nico Hulkenberg, he now has that chance so hopefully he can do well in any practise sessions he gets to drive in and put himself in the frame for a race seat in 2012. The same applies to Romain Grosjean who was replaced by Petrov at the end of 2009.

Tomorrow will see Red Bull, Mercedes GP, Williams and Toro Rosso unveil their cars. That will leave McLaren’s launch on the 4th of February, Force India on the 10th and Virgin and HRT still unconfirmed.