Another year, another F1 season, another set of four-wheeled carbon-fibre lust machines. This is basically just brazen automotive porn, but who cares? Click through to see some hot-and-heavy hardcore rear spoiler action.
Lotus were the first team to reveal their new car, the E21. It bears a striking similarity to last year's car, which is no bad thing considering their driver Kimi Raikkonen's third-place finish. According to the Lotus technical director:
"The detail (changes) add up to a significant amount of performance. The rules for 2013 are very, very similar to those for 2012, so you can expect a lot of family resemblance from the 2012 car, but as ever in F1 the devil is in the detail."
One of the obvious changes is a revamped system for harnessing the exhaust gases for aerodynamic effect -- the bodywork guides gases into the gap between the rear bodywork and the rear wheels, 'sealing' the gap and creating downforce, a technique pioneered on the 2012 championship-winning Red Bull.
Caterham have the modest target of "catching the main midfield teams" this season -- basically, they don't want to repeat 2012, which saw them battling Marussia for last place.
Their car is visually similar to the 2012 model, continuing to have a rather ugly/unaerodynamic 'step' on the nose, despite a new rule allowing a panel to cover it up. They've also made changes to the aerodynamics, and tried to adopt a McLaren-style exhaust-gas-capture system. Their technical director said:
"We have made a number of significant changes to the car that takes it from the package that gained us 10th place in the 2012 championship in Brazil. Among the most obvious are around the lower chassis where the sidepods have been significantly undercut to improve airflow to the rear of the car. The diffuser, engine cover and cooling exits have also seen major changes and there are more subtle improvements to other areas of the car, such as the sidepod turning vanes and the lower tea-tray area."
In addition to poaching Lewis Hamilton from McLaren, Mercedes have a few subtle changes from their 2012 car. Notable are the more-aerodynamic nose piece, a re-worked exhaust gas system, and convential push-rod suspension -- Mercedes have chosen not to go the way of Ferrari and McLaren, who have both adopted pull-rod suspension, which is supposed to lend a slight aerodynamic advantage.
Hamilton took it for a spin at the launch, and he didn't exactly seem to be singing its praises:
"Feels like we definitely have some work to do but we were on demonstration tyres so I can't really get a feel for it. (It feels) different. Doesn't feel too bad at all."
Last year, McLaren's car was wicked quick but notoriously unreliable. For 2013, they claim to have made a few minor tweaks -- most notably the new, more aerodynamic pull-rod suspension -- but most of all, they reckon they've fixed the reliability gremlins. According to Jenson Button:
"Unreliability is a massive no, no for McLaren; failure should not exist within McLaren so we shouldn't be making the same mistake twice. We've fixed a lot of the issues which were mechanical and also issues made by the human hand hopefully won't happen again...under the skin, this is so, so different."
Last year's Ferrari performance was a masterclass in coming back when you're down: Fernando Alonso started the season with a car that was a horrendous 1.5 seconds off the pace, but dragged himself up to within 3 points of the title by the end of the season. There aren't many obvious differences with the catchily-named 2013 car -- the F138 -- although the BBC reckon that the rear end of the car's been tidied up significantly. We'll just have to wait and see the results of the first pre-season test -- happening today -- to see how the car performs.
Although this might look like the same car as last year's Force India, according to the technical director it's a brand-new automobile through and through:
“We discussed carrying over big chunks of last year’s car, including the chassis, but decided not to. There were still some gains to be had with the chassis, so we elected to take the performance benefits. The biggest change that everybody is going to notice this year is the fairing on top of the nose to hide the ‘step’. It’s neutral as far as the car’s performance is concerned but tidies up the flow over the top of the chassis.”
Force India have progressed from the also-ran of F1 up to a half-decent midfield team; with a new car and new driver, they might become a real competitor in 2013.
Sauber saw a fair leap in performance in 2012, getting up to sixth in the constructor's competition. The only real change to the 2013 car is aerodynamic -- slim sidepods. They've not even chosen to go with a 'vanity cover' for the stepped nose, choosing instead to leave us with something that looks like it would be best used lifting slices of cake.
Red Bull cleaned up last year, taking both the driver and constructor championships. Apparently, there's not much different in this year's car -- the aerodynamics wizard for Red Bull, Adrian Newey, claims that the biggest change for 2013 are the new Pirelli tyres rather than any regulation change. Still, I guess there's not much to change on a car that won both championships last year.
Toro Rosso are under pressure from their owner to improve this year, and with both drivers staying the same, it's safe to assume that the car's going to have to find a lot of performance down the back of the couch. To this end, the car's apparently "97 per cent" new, and has been produced under the leadership of the former Sauber employee James Key, who has produced some stonking machines for Sauber.
With a target of sixth in the constructor's title, up three places from last year, the car's going to have to do something magical to compete in the hotly-contested middle leageus of F1.
Marussia finished last (excluding the now-non-existent HRT) in 2012, so there's really nowhere they can go but up. The new car is the first Marussia car to feature Kers, which should help; however, they've lost star driver Timo Glock as they couldn't afford his salary, so who knows if they'll be able to overtake Caterham this year.
Williams will launch their car at the second pre-season test in Barcelona in two weeks.