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Formula 1

‘Brave’ Ferrari has rescued 2023 F1 launch season

by Matt Beer
5 min read

“I don’t want to speak about the others,” said Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur of rivals’ 2023 Formula 1 car launches. But then he pretty much did anyway. And then Carlos Sainz well and truly emphasised the point.

An F1 launch season that began with pretend 2023 cars, livery-only reveals, renders and teases has truly come to life this week thanks to the efforts of Aston Martin and Ferrari in particular. McLaren too, the fact its new car appears little changed from last year’s seemingly being more a sign of it being behind on development than an attempt to hide its real MCL60.

But it’s Ferrari that really raised the bar as it held its first fully-fledged live launch event – rather than a simple online stream – since 2020, and did so with a swagger.

It wasn’t just the media invited to Fiorano. The Tifosi were there too, in their own grandstand. And the car wasn’t just on display, it fired up and did its shakedown – under 15km ‘demonstration run’ regulations – in front of the live audience. And its drivers weren’t hanging around either.

“I think it was amazing – and I’m going to allow myself to give praise to the team for what they could organise,” said Sainz.

“Formula 1 needs these kinds of events, where you bring all the media and fans and partners and engineers and mechanics, all together, and do a proper presentation with the car running without too much privacy.

“We were brave as a team to do it. It’s the first ever installation lap we did with that car. It can always go bad.

“We took the risk and I hope you enjoyed it because I definitely did.”

The contrast with 2022 title rival Red Bull’s expansive but coy on what really mattered (the car) launch was absolute. Where Red Bull revealed an ‘RB19’ that looked like an RB18, then Christian Horner admitted “what you’ve seen today isn’t a total reflection of what will hit the track in a few weeks’ time”, and then released only sketchy distant clips from its shakedown, Ferrari proudly splayed itself before a global and in-person audience.

Back to Vasseur’s take.

“I had a look at the launches of the other teams,” he said on stage. “It was a bit virtual or online.

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“I don’t want to speak about the others.”

Oh go on Fred, you’ve started, you may as well do it implicitly at least.

“But I’m more than proud to do something like this with all the Tifosi around the track, with guests.

“It’s a really big event and for us it’s the best way to start the season.”

Absolutely right.

Aston Martin didn’t put its new AMR23 on track in front of its fan club on Monday, but it had been adamant for weeks that it was going to show off its real car at the launch and be proud of it. Both technical director Dan Fallows and star driver signing Fernando Alonso revelled in that approach.

“I think the fans will appreciate as well that we’ve launched the real car,” said Alonso, who used it as another chance to take a general shot at past employers.

“They’re sometimes disappointed to see just a show car with different stickers. This team is just more fair on everything.”

Over to Fallows.

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“It’s important to show to our fans that we do want them to see the real car,” he said.

“It’s very difficult from a personal point of view standing around looking at last year’s car and saying, ‘Well, this is obviously clearly different…this sticker’s different’.

“So that was a big thing for us. We’re very fortunate to have built up a very strong fanbase over the last couple of years and it’s very important to us that we give them something today as well as media and our families.”

And Fallows went as far as putting on a slightly comedy voice for the ‘this is obviously clearly different…’ part, a voice that may or may not have been intended to be reminiscent of anyone else in the F1 paddock.

The primary purpose of an F1 team is, of course, to win. Last year Red Bull wasted everyone’s time with a very basic show car at its launch then went on to destroy all opposition in both championships.

It may steal a march on everyone else this year because its real RB19 features ideas that others have no time to copy, and it may be fully vindicated in buying itself extra weeks of keeping them concealed by handling its launch and shakedown as it did. It’s there to win the racing season, not the launch season.

But – and even with Mercedes and Alpine still to come – there’s no doubt now about who the launch season champion would be, and that’s Ferrari and its admirably bold and open people.

The Race says

Scott Mitchell-Malm

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There are different ways to hold a car launch either well or badly. And to do it well, a physical event is not actually necessary. But it does elevate the spectacle and Ferrari’s launch was a great example of how to nail such an event.

Sainz is right to call what Ferrari did ”brave”. Gremlins can strike very easily at a shakedown so to hold an installation lap in front of the watching world was a show of confidence in its processes but also a great gesture.

Ferrari could have been conservative and conducted a little demonstration in private to make sure things were all in order then made today a follow-up. Instead it weaved together two exciting elements – the car reveal and the car appearing on track for the first time – to give fans a surprising but exciting double up.

As Sainz said, it’s not just a good thing for Ferrari – this was a good thing for F1 as a whole.

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