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06 February 2012

Silly season starts: First three F1 teams launch 2012 machines

Words by Niky Tamayo
 
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For the first time in Formula One history, the Caterham F1 team (formerly Team Lotus) came in first... to unveil their 2012 contender, that is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t count towards the season’s point tally and means little for their standings in the championship. Still, the Caterham CT-01 is a good preview of what many F1 cars may shape up to be this season.
 
With new rules imposing a stringent maximum height for the nose and a minimum height for the bodywork behind it, the Caterham’s duck-billed countenance is no surprise. It’s not pretty, but Caterham’s road cars have never been praised for their beauty, anyway. Still, it remains to be seen how competitive this fledgling team will be this year.
 
Unlike the Caterham, McLaren’s MP4-27 uses a more conventional shaped nose, yet still meets the new rules requirements. Even more important are the changes occurring elsewhere on the car. McLaren has dropped the innovative and unusual L-shaped sidepods for more traditional looking vents. These are still pinched in the center, though, which may help push air up into the rear wing. The rear end is also cleaner, with dramatically undercut sidepods with a view towards improving rear diffuser performance. 
 
Ferrari, on the other hand, had to go geek and launched the F2012 online after their gathering in Maranello was snowned in. And just like the CT-01, Ferrari also went with a step-nosed front end.
 
On top of limiting the nose's height, new rules mandate upward pointing exhausts to prevent exhaust-blown diffusers. McLaren’s solution points the exhausts at the rear wing and will likely be a very popular trend amongst the teams, while Ferrari's layout points them toward the rear brake ducts. 
 
Whether McLaren will finally beat Red Bull Racing this year or not, one thing seems for sure: They're currently leading the points race for prettiest car. And that’s all that matters for press launches, right?
 
For F1 junkies who don’t work up some froth at F1 car launches, take heart: The season itself starts in a few weeks. With the new rules this year, we’ll either have fantastically close racing or we’ll be witness to Sebastian Vettel breaking another record, as the youngest triple-World Champion. Hopefully, his car won’t look like a big blue platypus.
 
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