As Formula 1 testing started today, all the teams that have been hiding stuff during their launches and shakedowns over the last couple of weeks lost their veils. Mercedes’ floor, Red Bull’s entire car, close shots of AlphaTauri’s nose, McLaren’s bargeboards and diffuser – all these and more have been disguised during launch season. Some have gone to greater extremes than others and there are different reasons why. Some reasons make sense and others done.
Mercedes, for example, said it wouldn’t reveal where it has spent its development tokens for the W12, and openly admitted it was not showing us the real floor. Trying to keep things secret in F1 as long as possible makes sense if a team is trying to hide an innovation.
But there are different development restrictions at play this year. Aero development is still completely free and there are new rules at the back of the car that have hacked away at downforce levels and the big development war has been trying to recover as much of that performance as possible.
So hiding floor details for a week or two longer might just buy a performance edge for the opening race or two. Keeping that stuff hidden I understand.
But not disclosing token spends makes no sense to me. The tokens govern which mechanical parts teams have been able to change in the winter. They could all pick one major item – like the front crash structure, the survival cell or the gearbox – or two smaller items (but this would be pointless for most teams) to change. But everything else mechanical had to stay the same.
These spends were locked in a long time ago and if you spent your tokens you can’t make more changes.
So whatever Mercedes or Aston Martin (something to do with the chassis) or Red Bull (it might be the gearbox) have changed, even if it’s a stunning design nobody else has and is worth half a second, other teams can’t just copy. They are not allowed to add it to their 2021 car, which means telling us the token spend now or waiting until it emerges in testing or the early races is irrelevant.
That seems like teams are keeping it hidden just because they can, like it’s a habit, and I don’t really see what it achieves other than keep fans and media in the dark.
That’s a shame, just like Red Bull’s decision to keep its RBR16B almost entirely hidden. We’ve seen two renders and then a bunch of RB15 photos and videos from a filming day – but nothing real of the 2021 car.
Again, if they are hiding something incredibly innovative, it might make sense. But it’s highly unlikely they will be. I wonder if they are hiding poor reliability or something. There are some rumours that the Honda engine had some problems on the dyno and at the shakedown. The team insists the car completed its mileage but presently there is no proof of it going on track – and pictures exist of every other team’s shakedown so it’s fair to question why.
Now that we’re into testing it’ll be interesting to see what they’ve been hiding. With the exception of one or two items, I suspect it probably hasn’t been worth the trouble. But at least it’s cause for a little intrigue if nothing else.