On 25 March, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship season will kick off in Melbourne. With the new halo requirement, we have been eager to see how the teams respond with specific livery designs. So far Haas, Williams, Red Bull, Sauber, Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari have unveiled their new race cars.
Haas was the first team to reveal its F1 race car. The VF-18 is an evolution and refinement of the team’s second car, the VF-17. Haas was eighth in the standings last year and for this year the team aims to close the gap between itself and the top cars. The VF-18 is powered by a Ferrari power unit and transmission, and Gene Haas, the American team’s founder and chairman believes that they “need to be within a half-second of the Ferraris in order for us to be competitive.” The majority of the livery is in grey, incorporated with red and black. VF-18 will be driven Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the same line-up as last year.
Following a disappointing last season, Williams has presented a 2018 challenger with major changes. The FW41 is the first race car to feature inputs from the newly-joined Chief Technical Officer Paddy Lowe and Head of Aerodynamics Dirk de Beer. Its obvious aerodynamic element probably is the distinct fin that goes along the centre of the engine cover, while there are also a few radical changes to the car’s packaging to incorporate further developments from the Mercedes power unit. Hopefully Lance Stroll and new team mate Sergey Sirotkin, replacing Felipe Massa, will be able to make the best of the revamped race car.
Red Bull opted for an earlier launch this season and the RB14 has already hit the track at Silverstone before official F1 testing begins. Powered by a Tag Heuer-branded Renault engine, the RB14 is designed according to the new exclusion zones at the rear with the monkey seats, T-wings and shark fin engine cover removed. Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will be piloting the car, and the latter claimed the halo is not causing any problems on track. “I can see fine … I really didn’t notice it was there,” said Ricciardo. Red Bull launched the car with an eye catching “launch livery” in black, blue and white, but this design will be replaced by the proper “race-ready” livery starting from next week’s testing in Barcelona.
We saw the show car demonstrating the new livery direction and heard about the driver line-up of veteran Marcus Ericsson and rookie Charles Leclerc as early as last December, but the unveiling of the C37 is still a pretty big moment. After all, this is the first F1 car Sauber has launched after signing the partnership deal with Alfa Romeo. The C37 was created based on a new car philosophy, with new and improved aerodynamic parts being the focus, and is fitted with the 2018 Ferrari engine. Sauber was at the end of the constructors’ standings last year, but the team is positive that the new concept can offer more opportunities and improved performance.
This is the third season since Renault has returned to F1 as a full works’ entry. Developed in Enstone for the chassis and Viry-Chatillon for the power unit, the R.S. 18 is more of a progression and refinement of the concepts seen last season, with improved suspension and greater aerodynamic downforce being the highlights of the new car. Renault finished the 2017 season in sixth, and the focus for the team is surely how to compete against their customer teams Red Bull and McLaren, which use the Renault power unit. The driver line-up is the same as last season with Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz staying behind the wheel.
In the same fashion as Red Bull, last season’s champion Mercedes also chose to launch its new car at Sliverstone Circuit. The Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ is an evolution of last year’s W08 EQ Power+ and the automaker claims this is the fastest Formula 1 car in Mercedes racing history. Other than changes due to the updates of 2018 regulations, the new car runs slightly more rake, while staying true to the general design principles of last year’s winning challenger and keeping the same wheelbase. “This is better than last year’s car in every aspect. It looks quite similar but inside, underneath the shell, and even the bodywork, it’s all refined to perform even better than it did last year,” said last year’s World Champion Lewis Hamilton. He will team up once again with Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas.
Hours after Mercedes launched its new F1 race car, Ferrari unveiled the SF71H on stage at its headquarters in Maranello. The first thing to notice is of course the return of the all-red colour scheme, which has not been seen for years. The controversial halo device is also painted in red, making it less visible against the body of the car. Chief Technical Officer Mattia Binotto explained that the main points of difference in the new car is its longer wheelbase and more aggressive side pods and ducts – overall the body is much tighter and very narrow. He also commented that the halo affects a few aspects of the car, such as the centre of gravity, the weight and the airflow and the team has made an effort to make sure it works properly. Reliability was the focus during engine development, addressing issues from last season. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, both present in the unveiling event, continue to race for the team.
Stay tuned for more F1 car launches next week.