Hacking, Russian oligarchs, Tom Brady, James Bond – it all sounds like something out of Hollywood, doesn’t it?
But in reality, this was just the beginning of the 2021 Formula One season, set against the backdrop of the COVID 19 pandemic.
All 10 teams have unveiled their new cars for the new season, and here we look at the best and worst of the cars and the events where they were unveiled.
The best and worst of paintings
This is always a tricky question because it is purely subjective.
Just like last year, there are striking cookies in Formula 1 this season. Some were still exactly as they were before: Mercedes kept their mostly black car from last year and added some brighter red and green, Red Bull and AlphaTauri stayed true to their great designs from previous years, McLaren kept the papaya, and Alfa Romeo basically flipped their red and white colors.
Everyone knows that the Ferrari F1 will always be red, but the 2021 efforts caused a stir when it was revealed that the hood of Mission Winnow (which represents Ferrari sponsor Philip Morris International) has a very unconventional drop of green. It’s worth noting that Mission Winnow’s branding was not present in any of the 17 games in 2020, and it’s unlikely to be very present this year (or at all). PMI has often been accused of using the Mission Winnow stigma to circumvent tobacco sponsorship in Formula One.
The green distracted from the two-tone paint scheme, which consisted of the usual red and a touch of burgundy at the rear, a nod to the color used on Ferrari’s first race car in 1947. On his thousandth. During last year’s race at Mugello, Ferrari drove in a single wine red livery.
Of the four completely new cars, two are made by renowned teams. The new Renault group, Alpine, has opted for a car with a predominantly blue livery with red and white stripes forming the French tricolour. Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point) has rolled out the green for its return to the grid for the British race.
Both were excellent on the track, and it’s hard to consider them the best – personally, the Aston could have reached the top of the Alps.
The Aston Martin AMR21 has been unveiled at the manufacturer’s factory in Gaydon. Aston Martin
While these designs are good, it should be noted that with the omission of Racing Point Pink this year, some darker shades of race cars are represented (Mercedes, Red Bull, Aston Martin, Alpine).
Two other brand new cars caused a sensation.
Williams seeking Nemo tribuut
Judging by social media, Williams’ design seems to be the least popular. Many thought it resembled a design you can create in the popular game Motorsport Manager, while others thought it resembled the character Dory from the Pixar movie Finding Nemo.
Williams’ press release was the best example of marketing – the speeches around the launch of the car. The team said the colour scheme recognises our incredible past and retains the spirit, drive and motivation that remains at the heart of Williams’ DNA, but also looks to the future and sets out our long-term goal of returning to the top of the grid.
Red, white and blue for Hare
The new Haas livery for 2021. Haas
The fourth team to make a radical change was Haas. Fans of the American team have often lobbied for the team to race in the red, white and blue colors of the American flag, and it has finally happened … but in reference to Russian company Uralkali, the new title sponsor. The Russian company is owned by billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, the father of Nikita, who has signed a new contract and whose money will keep the Gene Haas team on the grid this season.
The design is not without controversy. This year Mazepin is travelling under a neutral flag after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruled that Russian athletes would face a four-year ban for representing their country at championships – a decision later reduced to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The Russian Automobile Federation has confirmed that the ban applies to FIA events.
Reuters reported last week that WADA was investigating the matter before the season began.
Which team did it best?
The Red Bull and McLaren teams are virtually unchanged. So, what’s your favorite color of the new 2021 livery?
Tom Brady and current James Bond actor Daniel Craig send messages to the team about the AMR21 launch.
The Aston Martin seemed a bit stiff at first. While they unveiled a beautiful all-green car for their return to the season, the team did a great job of reminding everyone of the iconic nature of their brand. He played a big part in the car’s references to James Bond with a message from Daniel Craig, while his Quantam of Solace counterpart Gemma Arterton hosted the event.
To emphasise the British theme of the event, the Union flag was draped over the float before it opened.
Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel present the Aston Martin AMR21. Aston Martin.
It also included a message from NFL legend Tom Brady, weeks after his seventh Super Bowl victory. Brady is an ambassador for Aston Martin, but his presence and references to Bond gave a good idea of how Aston Martin can play off its heritage and brand status as a competitor on the grid.
But the start was not perfect. Despite the live broadcast, the event was tightly scheduled. Team owner Lawrence Stroll gave his lines in a funny, robotic way, while Arterton sometimes sounded like her prompter was broken. The video of Lance Stroll has been repeated over and over in various comments because he is very engaging. It also went viral within days of its launch.
Given the current inability to take appropriate action amid the COWID-19 pandemic, several other introductions are commendable.
Alpine didn’t have Fernando Alonso at the launch event (more details below), but Esteban Ocon was beamed in as a hologram to talk about his new car while spinning in the middle of the screen. Host Lee McKenzie also unveiled a new vehicle in a similar fashion, leading to Star Wars references across the event.
Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope#A521Launch #A521 pic.twitter.com/xi4YAJeBuL
– Motorsport.com (@Motosport) 2. March 2021
Alpha Tauri has managed to get a taste of last year’s brilliant launch by promoting the fashion collection with an event shoot in Austria featuring Pierre Gasly and new signature Yuki Tsunoda in the company’s clothing.
McLaren made up for the lack of fans in the building with an interactive wall where Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo were interviewed about the new car from afar. It wasn’t perfect, and the faces seemed out of sync with what was happening in real time, but it would have been hard to poke too many holes in this creative idea.
Norris and Ricciardo also took part in a pre-recorded music session in the studio. It was different, but at times it felt a little overwhelming, as the team relied heavily on the personalities of the two most popular drivers on the grid. Clearly, we should expect this from McLaren all season.
Ferrari split its launch event into two parts – one for the team, where Carlos Sainz unveiled his new signature alongside Charles Leclerc, and one for the SF21 car. It’s what you’d expect from such a traditional team, and they’ve done a good job of giving the fans and the media everything they’d expect from a new car and a new team.
Strangest parts of virtual F1 start season
Fernando Alonso was not present at the launch of the Alpine. The Spaniard suffered a broken jaw in a motorcycle accident in February and is recovering in Lugano, Switzerland, for the new season.
The Alpine race was filmed in the UK and the team explained that health conditions and rules prevented the two-time world champion from taking part. Incidentally, Alonso’s accident did delay his preparation for the new season, and the fact that he should have dropped out on arrival in the UK would have made the trip unnecessary.
Alonso’s absence made headlines, but a recurring theme in the virtual launch season was leaked images.
The most notable case is Williams, which had to abandon its ambitious plans for a launch via augmented reality when hackers hijacked the app on the morning of the launch. Instead, Williams had to make do with a rather mild method, namely posting photos on social media.
Considering the work that went into creating the idea of AR, it’s a shame that Williams had to abandon it so late. This tweet from George Russell shows what fans missed with the hack.
You may have missed the @WilliamsRacing app, but @GeorgeRussell63 didn’t want you to miss it! #GR63 pic.twitter.com/AaWXGkZwzO
– GR63 (@OfficialGR63) 5. March 2021
A photo of a Ferrari with a very unusual green Mission Winnow logo on the red car had leaked hours before the launch. The Alfa Romeo leak was odd, as someone who worked at the event tweeted a photo of the car hours before it was unveiled.
The Aston Martin car also circulated on the internet before the unveiling.
It is always difficult to know where these leaks come from. Williams has not yet disclosed any details about the hack, although he has cleared his partners, including cyber security firm Acronis, of any responsibility.
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