February 03, 2013

F1 Prawn: Red Bull RB9

It used to be that when a team had a roll-out, you could actually, y'know, see the car.  Pictures would be taken, questions would be asked, people would "ooh" and "ahh", and we'd all be impressed.  And the World Champions would be the most anticipated debut of all, with everybody flocking to the event and documenting every nanometer of the chassis with a fine-toothed comb.  And then, you have today's coming-out party for the Red Bull RB9, the Adrian Newey design that will defend the team's three consecutive championships... where they didn't allow media photographs.  Where all the team has released are a couple of computer renderings of the new chassis.  And a video called "Rhythm of the Factory," showing the basic steps of constructing the car.  This makes it very difficult to do a F1 Pr0n for the RB9, because I'm NOT going to review a render, no matter how pretty.  I made that mistake a couple of years ago with the HRT... never again.  So what do we have to work with?  Well, a screencap from the video:

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What can we tell from this?  Well, the obvious thing is the nose... the RB9 has a hybrid platypus.  It's using the modesty panel, but it's a short one to improve airflow over the bump, while saving weight at the same time.  I hate to admit it, but that's clever.  The double-step isn't unattractive, either.  They've also changed the color scheme, to reflect the new Infiniti sponsorship.  I like the pearlescent purple; I'm actually surprised nobody else has used pearlescent colors on their cars.  True, they're no longer "The Blue Cars" but oh well.

I want to get more and better pictures of the RB9 before I do a real F1 Pr0n for it, so this'll have to do for the moment.

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February 02, 2013

F1 Pr0n: Sauber C32

I'll admit a certain affection for Team Sauber.  As one of the last of the true privateer teams, they were a throwback to the old times of F1, where corporate sponsorship was not a guarantee of success and a man in a shed could build a race-winning machine.  Team namesake Peter Sauber was one of the true gentlemen of motor sports as well.  He sold his team to BMW in 2005, who ran it until 2009 before deciding to get out of F1.  The team looked like it was dead, but Sauber bought it back from BMW because he could not stand to see "his" employees lose their jobs like that.  That's class, and that's reportedly the way that Team Sauber operates every day.  It was thus with some sadness that the F1 world received the news last season that Peter Sauber had decided to retire (again), handing the keys to his team to Monisha Kaltenborn, the first female team principle in the sport.  In the recent past, Sauber cars have been mostly white, as befitting the nice guy image of the team.

This ain't Peter Sauber's team anymore.  It's also no longer the C31, and it's the first car this season to have some serious changes made to it.  It's gone on a serious weight reduction program, with changed air intakes, and much, much smaller sidepods.

Forward of the cockpit, there's not much change.  Everything aft of there, though... Apparently, when then-Sauber driver Sergio Perez had his serious accident at Monaco in 2011, one of the car's sidepods was heavily squashed.  Car designer Matt Morris took a look at the result and said "I wonder if we can do that for real?"  Here's the result.  Slimmer sidepods, with the McLaren-style exhaust pipe exiting from the side of the pod.  A much more compact rear end, with better aerodynamics around the rear suspension.  Considering that there's nothing on the design that'll be able to be carried over to 2014, it's a remarkable job of design... makes me wonder when they started work on it?

And dear merciful heavens, that livery!  I'm sorry, but Peter's Saubers all looked friendly in their white schemes, but Monisha's?  That's one badass-looking car!  Menacing... not something I'd want to see coming up behind me.  Maybe we'll see some movement in the standings from Sauber this year... I hope.

Red Bull are up on Sunday.

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February 01, 2013

F1 Pr0n: Force India VJM06

I don't think I'm alone in believing that Force India is the most disappointing team in the paddock right now.  Just a couple of years ago, the team was a KERS unit and some runoff area away from winning their first race, but now?  Seventh in the Constructor's Championship, and nobody giving a thought to them seriously contending for podiums let alone wins.  They are, as they say in baseball, "organizational depth," out there because, well, someone has to be the backup shortstop at Triple-A Charlotte.  So, what are Force India bringing to the track this year?

According to the guys in the white lab coats and the perpetually tired looks, the VJM06 is completely new, with nothing being carried over from the 2012 design.  One of the advantages of being mired deep in the midpackers with nothing to really race for is the ability to give up a year, and that's what Force India did; they quit developing the VJM05 and concentrated all their efforts on the 2013 design.  That all being said, other than a wider nose and the twin vanes on top of each sidepod, there doesn't seem to be all that much difference from the 2012 chassis... at least from the nose.

I'd just like to point out that the VJM06 is the first of the cars to come out that you can really see where the modesty panel is, mostly because it looks like it doesn't fit well on the Force India.  Definitely less of an undercut to the sidepods in comparison to, say, the Ferrari.

One thing they aren't doing is borrowing from the RB8 with the exhaust end of the sidepods; they look almost bulky when compared to, say, the Lotus E21.  That isn't a bad thing, per se, and easily fixed if it turns out to be the wrong way to go, but one wonders if it's the right way to go.  All in all, while the team may say it's an all-new design, I suspect there's less change involved than the team would have us believe.  The technical regulations changed very little this off-season, so it's not like the car was suddenly going to be sporting bat wings and moose antlers in any case.  If there's one team I'd like to see do well, it's this one... I just don't see it happening, though.  We've been surprised before, however.

Sauber rolls out on Saturday, and the World Champions on Sunday.

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F1 Pr0n: Ferrari F138

I do wish Ferrari would stay consistent with their numbering practices.  Everybody else follows a pattern... last year's Red Bull was the RB8, the previous chassis was the RB7, the one before that was the RB6, and so on, and this year's will be the RB9.  McLaren has the MP4-28, preceded by the MP4-27, -26, -25 and back through the years with nary a bobble.  But Ferrari!  The team that should be the MOST tradition-bound, the team that should be all about history?  "Hey, Guido, it's your year to name the car... whaddya want it to be called?"  The F138, which name will undoubtedly be considered a boon to the highlight editors at NBCSN, the BBC and SKY, comes from the calendar year (2013) and the number of cylinders in the engine (as a tribute to the last year of the V8 in F1).  Tradition?  We don't need no steenkin' tradition at Ferrari... we're the SCUDERIA, we do what we want and you'll like it.  Because, whether or not you want to admit it, you want us on that track.  You need us on that track.  Without us, there is no great enemy to root against, and no prancing horse to root for.

After last year's technical reorganization at Ferrari, the designers took a conservative approach to this year's car, making it much more of an evolution of the F2012 than an all-new car.  Other than the obvious cosmetic difference from the modesty panel, it's really hard to see any difference at all from the nose.  Oh, they cleaned up the front suspension, allegedly causing less drag, but other than that?  I dunno, I can't really see anything.

There's some fine sculpting to the sidepods visible from the 3/4s view, and the team is claiming that the entire rear end has been reworked, but I just don't see it.  This isn't a bad thing.  While not the most aerodynamic car in the world thanks to the team's windtunnel problems, the F2012 in the right hands (ie: HWMNBN) was awfully close to being a championship-winning chassis.  If they get over the aero hurdle, maybe they'll be back to being 800lb gorilla FERRARI again, as opposed to...whatever it was they were at the start of last year.

While I got used to the platypus nose, even thinking it gave the cars a certain charm, they do look better with the modesty panel.  Not, it must be said, as good as two years ago, but better.  And I DO have to take Ferrari to task for that white stripe along the bottom of the car.  You're FERRARI.  What color are your F1 cars?  RED.  The shade may change slightly, but it's RED.  Idjits.  All of 'em, idjits.

Force India is up next.

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