Opinion: Has F1 launch season got off to a good start?

Formula 1 is entering a new era of car design, whereby technical regulations billed by many as the most prescriptive ever seen are tasked with revolutionising the racing experience for fans and drivers alike.

At the time of writing we have been treated to four 2022 F1 car launches – some more genuine than others – and one car on circuit in the hands of its two drivers.

The season kicked off with Haas cleverly jumping the gun and revealing its VF22, in a series of digitial renders. Overall it felt like a letdown with many fans noting how the anticipated ‘all-new’ aspect of the car’s appearance was not as expected, with a largely similar look from afar and to the untrained eye.

Image: Haas F1

Aerodynamically the car in fact was very different to last year, reassuring us technically minded people that the revolution we were promised was here. To me it was the widely similar livery combined with the fact that its a somewhat underwhelming livery anyway, which made the car – and so F1’s new rules – markedly unpopular from the off amongst the expectant onlookers.

Red Bull soon revealed its RB18, which the team promised would provide plenty to be excited for. But rather predictably if I’m entirely honest, the reigning drivers’ champions under the mastermind of technical genius Adrian Newey, chose to use an original Formula 1 show car adorned in its revised livery.

Image: Oracle Red Bull Racing

In the case of the Milton Keynes-based outfit, their hand had been somewhat forced by the requirement to publicise the promotion of the Oracle brand as their title sponsor.

In the midst of the waring necessity for disappointingly repetitive phrases such as ‘keeping their cards close to their chest’ and ‘will be completely different come testing’, the excitement was building for what Aston Martin confirmed would be a ‘real’ car!

And it was real! The AMR22 was launched in a spectacular show in their road car manufacturing site in Gaydon which I think did justice to Lawrence Stroll’s lofty ambitions for the once financially strained team. The car itself is similarly spectacular in appearance, both on the livery front and the shape itself, with the revised dark British racing green contrasting beautifully to the lime green accents. Even the Aramco blue on the back of the rear wing doesn’t look out of place at all.

Image: Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team

The louvres – or gills as some call them – atop the dramatically undercut sidepod shape, which does away with the now traditional coke bottle shape, tops off an extraordinarily interesting car which even hit the track the very next day. So thank you very much Aston Martin.

Moving on to Friday and McLaren. The Brown and Seidl led outfit actually revealed their 2022 MCL36 alongside their three other McLaren Racing teams competing in IndyCar, Extreme E and F1 Esports. Whether this was a masterful marketing tactic leading the team’s newest F1 fans into also following the team’s other competitors, or whether the show detracted from each championship’s individuality and cost them air-time is a matter of opinion which McLaren definitely won’t disclose extra information on.

Personally, because I’m fully aware of each of McLaren’s other championships it competes in, the show did cost, for example, the unveiling of the team’s first ever Extreme E design the social media fanfare it truly deserved.

Focusing on the MCL36, this again is an intriguing car which I analysed at first glance right here. James Key did admit though that they’d hidden some “sensitive” areas, which I can totally understand.

Image: McLaren Racing

As for the livery – these things are of course subjective as the beauty is always in the eye of the beholder – but I like it. The previous idea of dark blue didn’t really work for me. The car always looked good but dark blue on a McLaren Formula 1 car left much to be desired in my opinion. This lighter blue is a new direction for the brand, but a welcome one which brings it ever closer to the highly-valued Monaco Gulf livery.

Perhaps the design as a whole could look a little bit less ‘busy’, but on the whole its a tidy looking car.

As of now the Formula 1 launch season is in full swing, and those first four cars have been uncovered for us all to gander at. Do expect changes to come, especially with the absence of any TV cameras for the first pre-season test in Barcelona. Most will look radically different in Bahrain.

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