Mercedes will launch their new Formula One car, the W03, on Tuesday 21 February at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. Theirs will be the last of the front-running cars to be revealed, and is therefore highly anticipated.
Mercedes chose not to run the W03 at the first test in Jerez. That decision is a little odd – with only 3 pre-season tests (12 days of testing) this year, the teams would ideally like to do as much running as possible with their new cars. Mercedes have deliberately limited the amount of pre-season testing they can do with their new car.
There are two plausible reasons for Mercedes to delay the launch of the W03. Firstly, the car might not have been ready for the first test. The team may simply have needed more time to prepare the car for the racetrack. In the case of the smaller teams, like Marussia and HRT, that is a likely scenario. For Mercedes, it seems fairly improbable. Mercedes has one of the largest budgets in Formula One and employs hundreds of the best people in the sport. It seems doubtful that they would get their build schedule wrong.
The other, more likely reason for the delay, is that Mercedes are hiding some sort of innovation on the car. If they have found a unique way to interpret the rules that gives them an advantage, they will be reluctant to show it off until absolutely necessary. They won’t want the other teams to copy their design too quickly, or the advantage will be lost.
Red Bull’s Adrian Newey is one of those who expects to see innovation on the W03. He told Sport Bild: “I assume that they want to hide something from the competition… It must be something that can be copied quite quickly; otherwise they wouldn’t try so hard to keep it secret.” Helmet Marko agreed with Newey, saying: “They seem to have something special at the front of the car.”
If Mercedes are hiding an interesting technical innovation on the W03, it won’t be hidden for long. The car will be launched in the pitlane in Barcelona on Tuesday morning, and driven shortly after by Michael Schumacher. There will be photographers and Formula One experts getting as close to the car as they can in order to find out what is going on. All should become clear quite soon.