Here come the 2014 cars: Five topics to watch out for as launch season begins
Questions that are likely to be answered as the 2014 cars break cover
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 22/01/14 5:11pm
2014 launch season: Kicks off with McLaren on Friday
After years in the making, the F1 world gets its first look at the sport's new-generation turbo cars this week as the most anticipated launch season in years lurches into full swing.
On Friday McLaren kick off five consecutive days of car unveilings in the run up to Day One of the Jerez test, and with so much uncertainty surrounding F1's new era, here are five questions that should become clearer over the next seven days...
What will the new cars look like?
While the whole point of any F1 'launch' is to reveal the design of an all-new car, there is particular intrigue surrounding this season's unveilings thanks to the radical redrawing of the sport's technical blueprint. Aside from the ungainly advent of boxer's noses in 2012, there have been few 'wraps off' gasps of surprise amid the relative rules stability of recent years, but this time the feeling is different.
While the aspects of the 2014 cars that are likely to make or break a team's season will be hidden under the sculptured designs, the lowering of both chassis height and, more dramatically, noses (from 550mm to 185mm) are set to ensure plenty of attention is placed on the front of the car when the machines break cover. Technical experts have predicted that, in addition to drooping noses akin to the 2009 Brawn or 2001 Ferrari, the front is set to feature a thinner protruding section, which have already been christened 'Anteater' noses.
Aerodynamically efficient, yes, but hardly the kind of aesthetic masterpieces to impress the design purists.
What will the McLaren launch reveal?
If the fact McLaren will become the first team to unveil a 2014 challenger wasn't fascinating enough then last week's dramatic news that the legendary Ron Dennis had effectively returned to the helm of the Woking outfit's F1 operation has served to ratchet up the level of scrutiny on the team ahead of launch day.
Little detail is known about what exactly the team's complex-titled 'online-only digital launch' will consist of, but certainly the avoidance of a 'live' online reveal like last year would allow the team to manage the sudden uncertainty surrounding Martin Whitmarsh's future as Team Principal. In any case, should the words 'Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal McLaren Mercedes' not appear on the team's subsequent MP4-29 press release then opening launch day has its headline story.
Who will eventually replace Vodafone at McLaren?
Then there are more two long-standing questions over McLaren's 2014 season: the identity of any new title sponsor and the colour of the car. With their seven-year association with Vodafone having ended at the end of 2013, the MP4-29 launch was expected to be accompanied by the unveiling of a new title partner. However, the team confirmed on Tuesday that this will not happen.
With that the case, and with one final season running Mercedes engines to come before their 2015 reunion with Honda, it appears likely that the chrome/silver livery that has become associated with the team since the late 1990s will be retained despite much renewed winter speculation that the orange colour that adorned Bruce McLaren's original cars in the 1960s might be reinstated.
We'll soon see for certain.
Who else won't make it to Jerez?
Lotus may still be the only team to have confirmed their non-attendance at next week's opening test, but rumours continue to abound that other teams might join them on the sidelines from January 28 owing to tight build deadlines.
"None of the Formula 1 teams really are ready for the season to come, not least ready for winter testing," Sky F1's Ted Kravitz commented. "A measure of how things are getting really tight for time has come from the Caterham factory, where their engine suppliers Renault have confirmed to us that the first time a Renault-powered team will fire up their engine will be right here on Wednesday. So that means the reigning World Champions, Red Bull, have not yet even fired their new car up with their new engine a week away from testing. It's absolutely extraordinary.
"What we do know that some of the other teams in F1, like Williams, who are powered by Mercedes, fired their car up last week. If Williams, a customer Mercedes team, have done that last week you can be sure that Mercedes have already fired their [works] car up."
If confirmed unveiling dates are an accurate indication of who will definitely be at Jerez - and it is by no means certain that they all are - then, at the time of writing, Force India and Marussia are the two teams yet to outline their Jerez plans. Eric Boullier confidently predicted that others would eventually follow Lotus's lead and delay their car's introduction until the first of the Bahrain tests - this week we should get our answer.
Who else will strike new deals?
No McLaren title sponsorship announcement, then, but the launch season is still usually the time when important new sponsorship deals are announced. Williams are one team under the spotlight after they revealed their new FW36 would run in an interim 'historic blue' livery at Jerez - presumably the all-navy one that last appeared in 2011.
Does an interim testing livery mean a new colour scheme is on the way for Williams?
Back then, the Grove team held a separate livery launch on the eve of the racing season when their PDVSA-prominent livery was revealed for the first time. With branding from the Venezuelan oil firm not appearing on the car this year after Pastor Maldonado's switch to Lotus, a prominent replacement is therefore required. Indeed, having not had a title sponsor since AT&T departed at the end of that season, recent murmurings have thrown up drinks firm Martini, famous sponsor of Brabham in the 1970s, as a potential arrival.
Who will Caterham name as their drivers?
A question that has already been answered. With 2013 pair Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde's respective exits having already been confirmed, the smart money was on Caterham announcing an F1 return for Kamui Kobayashi and a promotion for GP2 race winner Marcus Ericsson - and that is exactly what happened on Tuesday.
2014 car launch schedule
January 24: McLaren MP4-29 - Online.
January 25: Ferrari - Online.
January 26: Sauber C33 - Online.
January 27: Toro Rosso STR9 - Jerez.
January 28: Red Bull RB10, Mercedes W05 and Caterham - Jerez.
February: Lotus E22 - Pre-Bahrain test.
The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests, starting in Jerez on Tuesday January 28, with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News.