In a unique event attended by hundreds of fans, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes this morning brought together members of the public to construct and reveal its new MP4-26 chassis, the team’s challenger for the 2011 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Revealed at Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz, the famous public space that sits on the fringe of the old Berlin Wall, the car was built up by dozens of Vodafone competition-winners, fans and customers carrying components into the arena, where the new chassis was gradually pieced together in front of a huge crowd.
This culminated in our race drivers – 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton and 2009 world champion Jenson Button – assembling the very final pieces to reveal the completed racecar.
Looking radically different from last year’s race-winning chassis, MP4-26 features a range of aerodynamic features designed to take advantage of new rules significantly limiting the amount of downforce that can be derived from the car’s underbody.
These most notably include distinctive U-shaped sidepods – to feed air more efficiently to the car’s rear-end – and an electronically adjustable rear-wing system, introduced for 2011 to increase the potential for overtaking.
Beneath the skin, the car houses an all-new electric hybrid system. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, along with our engine partners Mercedes-Benz HighPerformanceEngines, became the first-ever Formula 1 team to win a grand prix using a hybrid device in 2009, and this new system is expected to further refine that race-winning package.
The team continues for 2011 with the proven driver pairing of world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Between them, they helped Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to five grands prix victories, three one-two results and second overall in the 2010 constructors’ championship.
Following today’s launch, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes’ Gary Paffett will shake down MP4-26 during a private session at the Idiada Proving Ground in Spain on Tuesday February 8 before the team begins track testing at the Circuito de Jerez on Thursday February 10.
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s great to see how many fans braved the Berlin weather to come to today’s event. I hope it’s been an exciting day for everyone: I think people saw a unique way of revealing our 2010 car, something that’s never been done before. I hope the car proves just as innovative once we take to the track next week.
“I head into 2011 in a relaxed but determined frame of mind. I’ve spared nothing during my winter fitness preparations and, in many ways, I feel as fit, focused and refreshed as I did ahead of my first season in Formula 1 in 2007.
“Having spent the past few weeks talking with our designers and engineers, I feel extremely happy that we’ve created a car that will once again allow us to fight at the front.
“This will be my fifth season in Formula 1. I’m an experienced driver now, and I’ve won the world championship, scored lots of pole positions and taken many race wins. So my aim for this year is to ensure that everything comes together in the best possible way and that, like last year, I’m able to fight for the title right down to the final race.
“Of course, Jenson and I will be racing alongside three fellow world champions in 2011, and that’s a testament to the strength of Formula 1 right now. It’s incredibly hard to say who’ll be up at the front, but I’m an absolute racer and I’m looking forward to some fantastic, close racing and another thrilling conclusion to the season – hopefully with a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver on top!”
Jenson Button: “It’s strange to think that this is only the start of my second season at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, because I’ve felt so comfortable since joining the team last January.
“Even so, I’d still consider 2010 something of a building year, albeit, with two victories, a pretty solid one! For the new season, I’ve not only got a year’s Vodafone McLaren Mercedes experience under my belt, but I’ve also been able to offer input into the design and development of the new car – something that I was naturally unable to do last year.
“Now I really feel I know how Vodafone McLaren Mercedes goes racing, and I’ll be driving a car that’s been fully developed around Lewis and myself – that’s a very empowering feeling.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to drive the new car for the first time. Our pre-season simulations suggests that the new Pirelli tyres should be well-suited to my particular driving style, so I’m hopeful of being able to derive a good advantage from the tyres during the races.
“Today really marks the beginning of our 2011 season after what seems a very long time away from the track. It’s been a really exciting event for all the fans who attended, and now I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of MP4-26 for the first time next week.”
Martin Whitmarsh, Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes: “I think today’s innovative launch demonstrates the enthusiasm within Vodafone McLaren Mercedes to engage the general public; to show them that our sport is intense and exciting, and that we’re very keen to showcase Formula 1 to the wider world.
“Through the efforts of FOTA, we really want broaden the sport’s appeal while also introducing innovative and energy-conscious new ideas that will simultaneously improve racing and help generate new technologies within the motor industry.
“I’m hopeful that Formula 1 stands poised on the cusp of an incredible new era.
“With Lewis and Jenson, we have two of the most exciting, charismatic and high-profile personalities in the sport, and the whole team feels a powerful sense of responsibility to provide them with the very best machinery with which to showcase their very evident talents to the world.
“The MP4-26 is the result of an incredible amount of hard work, innovative thinking and dynamic teamwork. Under the leadership of Paddy Lowe [technical director], Tim Goss [engineering director] and Neil Oatley [director of design and development programmes], our design department is more integrated than ever: in fact, I’m particularly proud of the contributions made by our project engineers, many of whom have taken on leadership roles for the very first time and who had worked so well together to create this very striking and individual-looking car.
“While we’re all hopeful of once more adding to our tremendous record in Formula 1, this sport is so unpredictable and finely pitched at the moment that it’s impossible accurately to forecast the state of play until the season starts next month. That’s a tantalising prospect for Formula 1’s many millions of existing fans – and, I hope, something that will attract many millions more by the end of what looks set to be an absolutely fantastic year.”
Morten Lundal, Group Chief Commercial Officer, Vodafone: “We were delighted to see Vodafone customers playing a part in the innovative launch event for the new Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 car, presenting parts of the car to the team mechanics as it was assembled and revealed for the first time today in Berlin - a real 'power to you' experience. As part of our 2011 Formula One plans, Vodafone will be developing many similar events that engage and empower fans, our customers and the wider public to really get close to the Formula One action - making it more accessible and inclusive for all. We wish the team and drivers, Lewis and Jenson, all the best for a successful season ahead."