Nine teams have launched their 2012 Formula One cars so far. Of those, all but the McLaren feature a stepped nose that dominates the appearance of the front half of each car. The initial reaction of many was to declare the cars “ugly”. After a bit of consideration, I have to strongly disagree. The 2012 cars are beautiful.
To back that up, let’s look at the purpose of Formula One cars. No designer creates a racing car for how it looks. An F1 car has only one purpose: it is made to win. To do that, it must be as fast as possible. There are no points for aesthetics. So if the car is made to win, and therefore to be fast, then the fastest car is without doubt the most appealing. From that perspective, the Red Bull RB7 is the best looking Formula 1 car ever made, because it is the last car to win the World Championship. The same could be said at the time for the RB6 in 2010, the Brawn in 2009, the McLaren in 2008, and so on. Each has been beautiful because it has won and the design is crucial to that success.
This year, many of the cars feature stepped noses. They do so because the designers worked out that a stepped nose was the optimal solution for the front of the car, given the technical regulations. In other words, the stepped nose is going to help the cars to be fast. And fast is the point.
There is nothing remotely ugly about the 2012 cars. They are just different to what has been seen before. When these cars are roaring round F1 tracks at astonishing speeds, viewers will understand and appreciate that the cars are beautiful.
I take your point – McLaren usually design good looking cars (with the exception of 1995), but they don’t always perform. The first shots of the cars when we moved to narrow rear wings and wide front wings around 2009 were awful, but within a couple of races we got used to them.