While the days of glittering and star-studded F1 launches are long gone, leaked photos and on-track images meant that this year’s launch season hardly generated enough excitement.
Given ever-rising costs and the rush to get cars ready ahead of the new season, it’s perhaps unfair to expect teams to host grand events at their factories or major cities around the world.
Yes, some teams still keep up with that tradition, but many have chosen to showcase renders online or roll out their cars a few hours before the start of the first test.
However, some teams can’t even get that right. Take the example of Sauber, whose partner Alfa Romeo uploaded an unlisted video of the new car on YouTube. The URL of the video got leaked at least an hour before the launch time, allowing people to take screenshots of the car and spread them across social media sites. To make matters worse, the images were subsequently picked up by several news sites, including some highly-reputable ones.
Toro Rosso’s case is also interesting. The Red Bull junior team was expected to reveal its new Honda-powered car at Barcelona on Monday. However, images from the STR13’s secret filming day leaked on the internet, forcing Toro Rosso to share a proper image of the car themselves.
Perhaps the worst case of all is of Williams. The British outfit, despite relying on two drivers who come with a budget to make its end meet, hosted a grand evening at Shoreditch in London. While Williams definitely deserves credit for hosting a proper launch, it equally needs to be criticised for not livestreaming the event for fans around the world.
One team that did decide to broadcast its launch online was Mercedes, albeit a few hours after uploading pictures from a shakedown held earlier in the day. One wonders what’s the point of doing a live launch (read presentation) if the pictures of the car are already out in the public domain.
For all the poorly-executed launches, there was one team that got it right: Red Bull. The energy drinks giant surprised everyone with a blue camo livery, arguably gaining more press coverage than any other team. Yes, there was some confusion about the timing of the launch, but the team did catch everyone by surprise when it shared pictures of the RB14 online - and for all the right reasons.
However, it was Ferrari who delivered the perfect launch. At a small yet sizeable event at company’s HQ in Maranello, the team showcased its (almost) all red SF71H. More importantly, it invited selected fans around the world and streamed the event on Facebook for those who couldn’t make it.
The 2018 F1 launch season isn’t over yet, with several teams yet to take covers off their new cars. One can only hope they take cues from the failed launches and prevent their cars from getting leaked - and make efforts to do a live stream of the event, no matter how small it is.
by Rachit Thukral