What to expect from F1 launch season in 2022
The dust may not have fully settled from the 2021 finale in Abu Dhabi, but Formula 1 fans will get a first taste of 2022 today as ‘launch season’ begins.
Haas will be the first team to present its 2022 colours at 11am GMT when it drops a series of renders featuring its livery for the new season, starting a busy three-week period leading up to the start of winter testing in Barcelona.
Launch season in 2021 was a strange affair given the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing teams to get creative, particularly as they were essentially unveiling updated versions of their 2020 models.
But 2022 is a very different story as F1 embarks on the start of a vital new rule cycle that threatens to shake up the pecking order - meaning teams will want to be particularly careful in keeping any creative design pursuits under wraps for as long as possible. It has made online launches the typical route, although some are finding ways to get fans involved and hold physical events.
Teams have taken a variety of different approaches towards launching their cars in recent years. Some like Haas opt for a render drop followed by a look at the real car once testing begins, while others such as McLaren and Mercedes have opted to get on-track straightaway with a shakedown to coincide with the launch - albeit without giving away too much.
The overall presentation has also varied from team to team, but there should be plenty for fans to get excited about in the coming weeks as they cross off the days before testing begins on 23 February.
Haas - 4 February
Haas has a decent track record for snap unveils in recent years, making its announcement on Thursday that it would be revealing its livery with less than 24 hours’ notice no surprise. It is a good way for the team to gain some early coverage and stand out by offering a first glimpse of the 2022 grid - even if it is just the livery, not the car itself - particularly when things are quiet.
Haas switched to the red, white and blue colours of title sponsor Uralkali for last year, and it would be a surprise to see anything major change for the new season. But the VF-22 is a significant car for Haas after its decision not to develop its 2021 model, preferring to throw all of its resources at the new regulations. Barcelona will be the first proper chance to see if it got things right or wrong.
2022 F1 car
Photo by: Formula 1
Red Bull - 9 February
Like Haas, Red Bull also left it relatively late to announce its launch plans, only confirming on Thursday that it would be presenting its RB18 car on 9 February.
In recent years, Red Bull has opted to release a couple of renders and complete a shakedown - with the decision not to issue any actual pictures from last year’s initial runout fuelling intrigue - but plans are in the works for a fan-centric launch this year. The team is set to invite up to 5,000 fans to sign up via its platform to then stream the launch via their own social media channels.
But after such a close fight with Mercedes last year, don’t expect Red Bull to give away too much through the launch as it looks to keep the momentum going from Max Verstappen’s championship win last year.
Aston Martin - 10 February
Aston Martin made a big statement with its launch in 2021, drawing on star power from ambassadors such as Daniel Craig and Tom Brady to kick off the team’s new era in serious style.
On-track, it proved to be a more difficult season as the team slipped to seventh in the constructors’ championship, but team owner Lawrence Stroll has always been clear about the long-term plan in place to build it into a front-running operation.
The AMR22 launch may give Aston Martin another chance to call on the star power of the brand - after all, why not? - but the novelty of its return will be less of a story this year. More important will be the proof of progress heading into the new regulation cycle to prove it is really on the right path.
McLaren - 11 February
McLaren has been one of the first teams to bring back in-person events as the COVID situation has improved, and will continue that trend with a proper launch in Woking on 11 February.
The launch will be attended by media on-site, and the team has also given the opportunity for some fans to attend through a competition. Fans were at the heart of last year’s virtual event, which largely centred on the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo, but some will get the chance to be there in person this time around.
McLaren will use the event to launch all four of its racing programmes for 2022 - F1, IndyCar, Extreme E and Esports - and has plenty of breathing room to complete a shakedown with the MCL36 ahead of the start of testing in Barcelona.
AlphaTauri - 14 February
AlphaTauri has rarely been one of the big hitters when it comes to F1 launch season, with its only major event coming after the rebrand from Toro Rosso before the 2020 campaign started.
The plan this year is for an online launch set for 14 February, but given the team’s excellent social and digital output, there is no reason why it won’t offer a surprise or two.
Williams - 15 February
Williams became the last team to confirm its launch plans. It will hold an online reveal on the 15th February, which is the week before pre-season testing gets underway at Barcelona in Spain.
Typically, the team has opted to drop renders of the new car ahead of testing, and last year tried to reveal the car via an interactive augmented reality app, only for hackers to spoil the plans and cause the design to be leaked out.
The breakthroughs in 2021 and return to battling in the midfield gives Williams plenty of good momentum going into the new season, while the arrival of Alex Albon is also a cool story as he teams up with Nicholas Latifi.
Ferrari - 17 February
The new regulation cycle is a natural opportunity for all teams to take a step forward, yet it is Ferrari who arguably faces the greatest expectation to return to the very front of the pack after slipping back in the last couple of years.
The F1-75 - named to mark 75 years of Scuderia Ferrari - will be launched online on the afternoon of 17 February. The car completed its first fire-up yesterday, and will likely complete a shakedown at Fiorano after being launched ahead of pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Mercedes - 18 February
Mercedes has operated with quite a traditional formula for its launches in recent years, opting to initially reveal the car via renders before then releasing pictures of it on-track during a shakedown at Silverstone.
Like Red Bull and Ferrari, Mercedes will be particularly eager to ensure it does not give much away to its primary rivals before testing. But encouragement can be taken by how early the W13 was fired up back in December. Rumours of a failed crash test have also been scotched via confirmation from the team it completed all of its FIA requirements back in mid-January.
Alpine - 21 February
Similar to Aston Martin, the narrative around the rebranding of Alpine that was leant on so heavily in 2021 is no longer going to be such a story - nor will be the comeback of Fernando Alonso. Instead, this is a team that will want to signal its push to build on its breakthrough last year that saw Esteban Ocon score a shock win in Hungary, helping it clinch fifth in the constructors’ championship.
The management reshuffle at Alpine has been the main talking point over the winter, with ex-Aston Martin F1 boss Otmar Szafnauer widely expected to join following the exit of Marcin Budkowski, although nothing has yet been confirmed. No firm details have yet been revealed about the launch plans for the A522 car besides an unveil date of 21 February.
Alfa Romeo - 27 February
Alfa Romeo’s launch announcement initially sparked some confusion, given it was slated for after the opening pre-season test in Barcelona (23-25 February) had already been completed.
But the team was quick to clarify that the C42 car will be featuring in the opening test, decked out in a special livery, before the final design is revealed at the launch on 27 February.
It is an unusual approach, but it means the event will be more of a ‘season launch’ for Alfa Romeo rather than a car launch, given we’ll have already seen the full thing on-track. The new line-up of Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou means the team arguably has one of the stronger narratives going into this time of year.
Aston Martin AMR21
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
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