As the 2023 Formula 1 season recedes in the rear-view mirror and 2024 looms large ahead, fans are starting to mark their calendar with each team’s car launch, the unofficial start of the pre-season.
McLaren surprised everyone by revealing their livery unannounced – and it’s a mean look especially with those chrome numbers – but there’s still nine more teams to go, so when will we complete the set?
Car launches are always a mixed bag, and McLaren have drawn particular ire from fans for drawing out their car launches for hours on end before apparently revealing the previous season’s machinery by mistake, though clearly went in a different direction this time around.
Another troubling trend that gained traction in 2023 was each team incorporating more black into their livery design, so on race weekends they can leave that unpainted and let the bare carbon fibre show to save weight.
Mercedes took it to a new extreme by reverting away from the Silver Arrows back to black in 2023, but when Alfa Romeo brought a similarly dark special livery to Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, the teams looked virtually identical at a passing glance.
Unfortunately, there’s not much scope or incentive for teams to reverse this direction of travel unless the FIA mandates a minimum paint weight that would be unpopular with engineers, while the gorgeous McLaren chromed looks are almost certainly a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, we can’t rule out the possibility that Red Bull sacked their livery design team in 2016 – potentially as a pre-emptive cost-saving measure to prepare for the budget cap era – as they’ve rocked pretty much the same aesthetic for eight seasons and counting.
It’s not exactly held them back either, which is the other point of contention towards launch season particularly from those more embedded in F1 – former McLaren chief mechanic and Jordan technical director Gary Anderson once said the moment a car’s look affects its performance then he’ll pay attention to launch season.
But despite the cynicism, it is still an exciting milestone as supporters wake up from F1 hibernation over the winter. For fans of each team it’s a first look at what will be their focus for 24 weekends in the grandstands or on the sofa, and makes the coming season seem all the more real.
They can be exciting too. Aston Martin included Daniel Craig as James Bond in their first launch after taking over Racing Point, and used their 2023 event to show off their new Silverstone headquarters.
And this season will be the first Sauber livery since 2017 too, with the team promising their ‘most exciting identity yet’ from 2024 despite launching one of the least inspiring team names in recent history: Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber.
Though hopefully they didn’t spend too long thinking about it, as it will be canned by the end of 2025 when Audi swoop in.
When is each F1 team’s car launch?
Ferrari became the first team to reveal their launch date, setting off the usual cycle of optimism diluted by foreboding for the Tifosi – especially given a rumoured fracturing of the relationship between the team and Carlos Sainz – and seven other constructors have now followed suit. Haas will kick it all off though, as their Guenther Steinerless era begins on February 2.
Williams are going Stateside for their event to celebrate the Logan Sargeant effect (it could be their last chance), and Visa Cash App RB are also crossing the pond to host their launch in Las Vegas. Meanwhile Stake will launch their first car under the rebrand in London and Aston Martin are staying home at Silverstone.
Mercedes will also host their launch at Silverstone as the Silver Arrows and McLaren both launch on the 14th a day before Red Bull are provisionally set to round out car launch season, while Alpine are combining their F1 show with the WEC team that will boast Mick Schumacher in 2024.
The first time fans will see the true version of each car will be at pre-season testing, which takes place in Bahrain from February 21-23.
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