In an age of technology and relative austerity, F1 launches aren’t what they used to be. Back in the old days, there were some truly gratuitous publicity stunts as teams tried to out-do each other in their bid to make a statement.
Take Benetton in 2001, when the brand new B201 (which would be driven to an unspectacular seventh in the manufacturers’ championship by Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button) made its debut in Venice, arriving by gondola.
Or the Jordan launch one year later, when the DHL-sponsored car was flown into an airfield by cargo plane in front of the assembled media and Eddie Jordan had to sign for the delivery. He probably wishes he hadn’t – because the car scored just nine manufacturer points that year, although it did somehow salvage sixth in the championship.
And who could forget the McLaren MP4/12 launch to the accompaniment of the Spice Girls in 1997 (a season in which the team finished fourth, rather than challenging for the title as they had hoped). While the less said about BAR-Honda’s ‘My Earth Dream’ launch – at London’s Natural History Museum in 2007 – the better. Despite plenty of promises and a healthy budget, the team finished the season last.
There’s a consistent theme here. The more elaborate the launch, the higher the risk of looking foolish if the final results don’t quite match up to the ceremony. And for Formula One teams, looking foolish is the ultimate shame. This is partly why recent launches have tended to be much quieter affairs than in the past, with the cars often unveiled just on the internet, and team principals keen to talk down their prospects.