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.


F1: Silverstone GP Review

Last week’s British GP I thought was a really interesting race. It all came down to the start. Mark Webber got off the line fantastically well to get up the inside of Vettel. Hamilton was looking for a way to slot into second but went into the first turn too hot and slightly tagged Sebastian’s back right tire. That seemingly insignificant tap was enough to puncture the tire and wreck Vettel’s race.

From there Webber led a controlled and fairly comfortable race. Hamilton pushed him hard but in the end his pace just wasn’t quite there to catch Webber, and it was fairly clear to see that the red Bull had speed in hand. Jenson Button started 14th and after a fantastic first lap and a good pit stop strategy he finished off a great recovery drive to 4th.

Vettel was almost a lap down after he rejoined the race after a long slow lap on the punctured tire and a very early pit stop. He went to the end on the hard tire and overtook most of the grid before finishing 7th. The overtake on Sutil for that position was very aggressive and could have ended badly but he just about got away with it. It was a great recovery from a terrible situation but 7th is still not where he thought he would be.

Other notable performances include both Williams cars getting into the top 10. Barrichello proved again that the team are making good progress with their car and he was unlucky to not have stayed in front of Button after the stops. Hopefully they can keep improving or at least maintain these steady results.

Nico Rosberg had his third podium of the year and shows that Mercedes are still there and this season is only half way through, so people shouldn’t be writing them off yet at all. Michael Schumacher was less impressive in 9th but he will likely continue to improve.

It was also another impressive display from Kamui Kobayashi who followed up his 7th place in Valencia with a 6th at Silverstone. He’s really starting to show the form he had at Toyota last year in those couple of races he had in Timo Glock’s place and is justifying his seat at Sauber. Pedro De La Rosa is still struggling but hopefully he’ll get the reliability and speed back in the next race and get into the points.

The next race is coming up this coming weekend from Hockenheim in Germany. I don’t know much about that track so I’m excited to see how the layout is for F1.