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Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Red Bull RB10, Mercedes-AMG W05 and Force India VJM07 Appear At Jerez

Red Bull RB10
Mercedes-AMG W05
Force India VJM07
Today is the day that the initial Formula 1 2014 winter tests get underway at Circuito de Jerez (pronounced herreth). All the teams are here aside from Caterham, Lotus and Marussia, who all have reasons that definitely aren't "it isn't finished yet" or "we haven't got it to work yet". Regardless, this means that the three teams who haven't yet shown us a car have nowhere to hide, so here are the new Red Bull, Mercedes and Force India, the latter now shown from more angles than just the side view. I can see why they went with a side view earlier...

Let's start with the Force India. Yesterday evening Taureau Rouge unveiled the STR9 and its massive, er, "nose" to the world (see here). This morning, the VJM07 appears to have out-measured it with a similarly provocative loophole exploitation at the front.



The fact that you can describe it as "big and black" doesn't help...
Squeezing into this automotive gimp suit will be Sergio Perez and, in a flashback to 2012, Nico Hülkenberg. I want this car to be fast and reliable so that The Hülk can impress people again this year. He deserves a top seat, dammit! As for Checo, he had a season in a top seat last year, only for McLaren to go and have their worst season since 1980 and get precisely zero podium finishes. This isn't really his fault, although some of his bolder overtaking moves and fierce battling with team mate Jenson Button caused a little controversy. Having been dumped after just one year he nearly went back to Sauber where he came from, but instead ended up at the Silverstone-based team. What does it mean for his career if he's been to the top and then dropped back down again in just two years? I suppose if at first you don't succeed...

Also trying and trying again are Mercedes GP, who have kept showing promise and then not quite delivering throughout an entire season. Last year they managed 2nd behind the all-conquering Red Bull, which under the 2009-13 aero rules is the best any team could've hoped for... apart from Mercedes, who in 2009 won the title in the much smaller guise of Brawn GP. The Stuttgart-based car manufacturer then bought the team in 2010 having supplied them with an engine (in 2008 this team was Honda Racing, but Honda pulled out because of the global recession and the team was bought by tech boss Ross Brawn). They didn't get a victory until Nico Rosberg's maiden win at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, and even then they ended the 2012 season in the middle of nowhere due to poor development. Last year was promising though, with both drivers snatching a couple of wins each against the expectations of some, and many predict that Mercedes will have a strong engine in 2014 and be very competitive. One small victory they've already got is that they don't have a phallic nose, as you can see:

2014 Mercedes-AMG W05
This is perhaps the prettiest (least ugly?) F1 car of them all, going for the same leafblower-esque solution as Ferrari but doing so much more smoothly, which is complemented by the liquid silver paint finish. With those regulation-height camera mountings it even looks a bit like a bull. Symbolic of their hopes, perhaps?


Mercedes are using the same driver lineup as last year in 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton - now with hair - and his best buddy Nico Rosberg, who has been at Mercedes GP as long as Mercedes have. The Brackley-based team has recruited Paddy Lowe (second from the left) from McLaren to be their technical chief, as Ross Brawn retires from Formula 1, most likely ending a long and illustrious career. While he first entered F1 in 1978 as a machinist for the brand new Williams team, his time as a technical chief goes back to 1991, when he designed for Benetton. He would stay there until 1996, at which point they had won two world championships thanks to his keen eye for race strategy and also in part to some German guy called Michael Schumacher, whoever he is. The two reunited at Ferrari in 1997, where they used their strengths to bring the ailing Italians up to championship glory in 2000. And 2001. And '02. And the next two years after that. Then they were beaten by Renault (formerly Benetton) and Fernando Alonso in '05 and '06, after which both of them left Ferrari, Brawn taking a one-year sabbatical and Schumacher retiring for good... until 2010 when he reunited with Ross the boss, who had been trying to work his magic at Honda without a huge amount of success. It didn't come until Honda pulled out and their thoroughly-developed "Brawn GP001" had a more powerful Mercedes engine shoehorned into it. They promptly won six of the first seven races - partly with their controversial "double diffuser" - and took the title with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. Five years later, Mercedes GP will be trying to win without him for the first time.


Ross Brawn was once almost hired by Red Bull Racing as the Milton Keynes-based team (formerly Jaguar Racing and Stewart Racing before that) were trying to tempt Fernando Alonso to join them. In the end neither accepted, and I bet a part of them regrets that now that RBR have won the last four driver's and constructor's championships in a row, under the discerning eyes of aero wizard Adrian Newey. This year they will be trying to match Brawn's Ferrari and their five consecutive titles, with their own dream team still in place in the form of Newey and Sebastian Vettel, although their Aussie number two is now a younger, smaller one called Daniel Ricciardo (and actually he's number three, thanks to a new system where drivers pick a number between 2 and 99 for the rest of their careers). But anyway, here is the Red Bull RB10:

2014 Red Bull RB10
Trust the reigning world champions to come up with the most elegant solution for the nose penis. Their nose protrusion is blended in by joining it into the main nose surface instead of letting it dangle like a dong, plus it's un-painted so it's not as obvious as the others. It helps as well that it just doesn't protrude out as far. With the paint scheme it's almost reminiscent of a toucan's beak, but with something stuck to the bottom of it. The rest of the car looks equally slimline and smoothly-done. See? You can make a car fast without making it ugly...



Rumors that the nose protrusion on Vettel's car will be painted like a finger are hitherto unconfirmed
So there you have it! We now know what all the front-runners and mid-fielders will look like. The only teams we're waiting on now - as usual - are Caterham and Marussia, neither of whom are at the first day of testing because of technical glitches and stuff. Lotus are also absent from the first test, because their car isn't finished yet. Maybe they couldn't afford to finish it quicker...

The first day of testing has been... quiet so far. Lewis Hamilton has done a few single-lap runs in the Mercedes, while Kimi Räikkönen in the Ferrari and Sergio Perez in the Force India took to the track and promptly broke down. We may see a lot of that this year. You can follow the testing day live here.

Oh! Lewis Hamilton has crashed! Suspected front wing failure. He had a crash on day one last year, though, so it's not the end of the world. Now you have to follow the testing day live!


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