Mercedes this morning officially unveiled its 2012 car, with team principal Ross Brawn describing it as “detailed and sophisticated” and highlighting the very close integration of the AMG engine and chassis departments in Brixworth and Brackley as key to the progress the team has made.
“We’ve set our objectives over the winter and we’ve met most of them,” said Brawn, who admits that he has only two ambitions left in motorsport: to see Michael Schumacher take a 92nd Grand Prix win and to see Nico Rosberg win his first.
The W03 got down to intensive testing alongside its peers following two days of solo shakedown testing at Silverstone and Barcelona. The car has already covered over 400 kilometres over the two days. Mercedes were able to run on Sunday in Barcelona because they saved a day’s testing from the first Jerez test.
Nineteen days after McLaren took the covers off its car, Mercedes has launched the car F1 has been waiting to see. Mercedes took the odd one out step of taking extra time to develop the car, so they could work on the Melbourne specification car for longer. In the mean time they issued several “teaser” images and videos to whet the appetite. It has got everyone in F1 wondering, “What’s special about this car?”
According to Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug, there is nothing visible which takes the game on to a new level, but there are some “intelligent solutions” under the skin.
That said, Haug is playing down the significance of the late launch and of the car’s potential to fight for the championship, saying that “to compete with the big teams we need other development. To become winners takes time. Even Red Bull took five years to get their first win. We’re trying to do it sooner.”
This rather ignores the fact that Mercedes acquired the team from Brawn in 2009 when it had just won both the drivers’ and constructor’s world championships. But of course, the team had also undergone a dramatic staff reduction programme at the same time, leaving it unable to compete with Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari. Mercedes has been carefully putting in place key engineers like Geoff Willis, Bob Bell and Aldo Costa since then, whilst “rigidly observing the Resource Restriction Agreement” as Haug pointed out.
According to the team, “The F1 W03 project was begun in May 2011 and is the first full car produced by a technical team that was strengthened last year with recruitments at every level of the organisation. The new car, which is composed of some 4500 parts compared to 4300 parts in 2011, has nevertheless achieved a lower core weight than its predecessor, is better packaged and more efficient.”
Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg were on hand at the launch, Rosberg freshly committed long term to the team, Schumacher taking it a year at a time at the ripe old age of 43.
“I have done quite a few roll-outs and launches of new cars, but even after all these years, I must say it still feels special,” said Schumacher, who is driving the car today in Barcelona. “Days like this are precious moments, as they are always filled with hope and anticipation. Already last week, when we were driving the F1 W03 for the very first time, it instantly gave us good feedback and sensations.”
I’m on my way out to Barcelona later today to take a closer look at this car and the rest of the 2012 F1 field.
Meanwhile, check out this behind the scenes video with new BBC technical analyst Gary Anderson at the Silverstone shakedown analysing the design and chatting with Brawn and Schumacher. Click HERE