McLaren and Lotus showed their new F1 turbo hybrids today. McLaren did a proper job with its MP4-29. Lotus was rather more scrappy with the new E22. But then again Lotus probably didn’t expect McLaren to apparently nick its Team Principal Eric Boullier this morning, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened. We’ll get to that in a second.
First the cars. Well, when you comment below please be aware that every possibly reference to male and female genitalia was made on Twitter within five minutes of the cars’ launches. The two cars do most certainly have faces only their mothers could love, but get used to it; that’s just how F1 is going to be for now, and beyond the noses the new cars are properly awesome and, in the case of the McLaren, absolutely stunning.
The plain silver livery helps — remember at this point McLaren have no title sponsor — but the MP4-29 is a beautiful piece of kit, packaging the Mercedes V6 and its turbo and its KERS and ERS system in a rear that if anything looks even tidier than last years’ ‘simple’ V8. Speaking in a video released this morning, McLaren’s Sam Michael explained together the brake and exhaust gas energy systems are worth two seconds a lap. KERS alone was worth just 0.3secs. These are going to be spectacular cars to see race.
Maybe it’s the smaller fuel tank — just 100kgs this year don’t forget, not enough to get the car to the flag without KERS and ERS — but nose aside, the MP4-29 is also great looking F1 car. Look at the beautiful front wing, those significantly bigger air intakes, that tidy swept rear to give the emasculated 2014 rear wing the best chance. The nose itself, meh… what can you say. The Lotus E22 takes a very different approach, and that’s really all we know about the car Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado will compete this year. I don’t think Lotus had any intention of showing the E22 and a couple of bad-tempered tweets suggested it was just done to rain on McLaren’s parade.
The MP4-29’s launch was held at arms-length, on-line and away from the media; there are just too many questions for McLaren right now.
Most pressing is who will run the team this year. Since Ron Dennis’ coup last week which saw him return to executive power at McLaren, the team has effectively been without a leader. Ron replaced Martin Whitmarsh as CEO but immediately made it clear has no intention of taking back Whitmarsh’s parallel role as Team Principal. Significantly he also failed to endorse Whitmarsh in the role instead announcing a new structure would be in place by February. Early money was on Ross Brawn joining McLaren – he’s been a free agent since leaving Mercedes on 1 January this year.
However, considering Brawn left Mercedes because he was denied absolute control it was never really on the cards. Sam Michael, although front of house today, is also not in the frame as he’s seen as too close to McLaren’s terrible last two years. Since the start of 2012 the team has managed to lose one world title despite having the quickest car (2012’s MP4-27) and evolved that car to the donkey that was last year’s MP4-28 thanks to a bizarre switch to pullrod front suspension geometry (the new car reverts to a pushrod layout).
McLaren also lost Lewis Hamilton and Paddy Lowe to Mercedes; were either mistaken in hiring or firing Sergio Perez (one or the other), let Nico Hulkenberg slip through their hands and will start this season without Vodafone, or any main sponsor, though the team does say it has more money than ever to spend on Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen’s campaigns this year thanks to its secondary partners (led by Santander).
It’s still a mess, but one Dennis is more than set to sort it would seem, and this morning’s news that Eric Boullier has left Lotus in a hurry would suggest Ron now has his team principal to replace Whitmarsh. Along with a whole bunch of other hirings from Red Bull and from Lotus, #TeamRon is gathering momentum. This might be the start of one of the great comeback stories. Surely that’s more interesting that pointing out that the front of the car looks like a big silver gentleman’s sausage?