It has been a busy day here in Abu Dhabi, with the Pirelli press conference revealing the Italian company’s F1 plans for the coming season, followed by the opportunity to mess about in cars of various sorts, driving (badly in my case) and being driven around by people who know what they are doing. Pirelli got their point across and the fun (which continues for some tomorrow) is reward for those who made the trip.
Being a tyre company in Formula 1 is not easy because it is really hard to convince newsmen that tyres of any kind are sexy. Still, this has been a very good effort.
Elsewhere in the world there has been much excitement about a virtual image of the new Caterham F1 car, which will be officially launched in February. The problem with virtual images is that they pop up when you least expect them, so it all happened a day too early. The car is not very pretty, but I have a nasty suspicion that there are going to a lot of pretty ugly cars in F1 this year, because of the new rules about the noses having to be lower. If one team has come up with this solution in the wind tunnel, you can bet that others will have done the same.
But what is the perfect F1 launch?
I do remember many years back now, Sauber decided to push back the new frontiers and announced the first virtual F1 launch, which meant that there was no need to find an expensive venue, no need for the media to travel because it was all done online (although I am pretty sure the system overloaded dramatically).
However, it was not without humour. Shortly before the big event a wooden box was delivered to the home of each member of the F1 media, inside which was a suitable lunch… complete with wine, Sauber table napkins and so on.
Over the years I have seen many a weird and wonderful attempt to grab attention. I have seen cars unveiled on barges in the middle of rivers; in museums, amid countless laser and dry ice shows and I was long ago unimpressed by with cars driving unexpectedly through paper walls. I have seen a car helicoptered into place, and even a bunch of out-of-work actors rushing about throwing paint-filled eggs at a white wall. There was the odd McLaren launch in Berlin where members of the public brought bits of car and it was built up before the eyes of the media. My favourite launch I think was Jordan’s spectacular Cirque de Soleil performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London (I cannot remember the year), although in 1996 Sauber (again) had a wild launch at an experimental theatre near Zurich. It is hard to explain what happened, but it was a musical, which was like Rocky Horror Show meets Star Trek (in German).
These days, without time to play with, the F1 teams have rollouts more than launches… but who knows, with a virtual world out there, there are no limits to what can be done. What next? A virtual Transformer launch, in which a hot air balloon transforms himself into the new HRT; or a virtual Red Bull tin that suddenly sprouts wings and wheels and becomes an F1 car; or perhaps a team owner sitting rubbing an old lamp in order to make an Formula 1 car magically appear.
Perhaps the best idea, with the movie The Artist making such an impact in Hollywood, would be to have the sport’s first silent F1 launch: No wild expectations; no fluffy talk; no bull. Not even a performing dog (except, perhaps, if the car is no good).