F1 title race could be an ugly battle
London: Formula One cars are not a sight for sore eyes this season but, on the basis of the first four launches, at least one ugly duckling looks likely to turn into a swan as the year progresses.
Gary Anderson, the northern Irishman who designed the first Jordan F1 car more than 20 years ago, said he saw both missed opportunities and original thinking in what has so far emerged from under the wraps.
If car noses are out of joint at Caterham, Ferrari and Force India, all teams where things look distinctly ugly in response to 2012 rule changes, he felt McLaren may have missed a trick with their more refined approach.
Anderson, now a technical analyst for BBC television where Eddie Jordan is a pundit, indicated the Force India presented at Silverstone on Friday had impressed him the most.
"Looking at their car, relative to other people`s, I see a car here that I believe is a big step forward," he said at Silverstone. "And they weren`t slow at the end of last year.
"As I said to (technical director) Andrew (Green), you could be a pain in the ass for quite a few of the guys up front.
"I`m not saying they will go out and beat Red Bull, McLaren or Ferrari but I think they (the top teams) could be looking at these guys lap times just to make sure they are not going to get beaten," added Anderson.
"The whole concept looks to me as though it functions.
"The move of the front wing from last year to this is for me absolutely excellent. The concept, the vision of it is what I`d liked to have seen...unless there`s a real Achilles heel in there somewhere, I think it will be pretty good."
Green worked with Anderson at Jordan in designing that team`s first car and so did Mark Smith, now technical director at Caterham.
The latter`s new car drew fewer plaudits, although Anderson felt it too was travelling in the right direction with its solution to the change in exhaust and aerodynamic regulations.
"To exploit the nose the way they did, pretty good," he said, emphasising that the Malaysian-owned team`s car had been seen only online and in photographs rather than in the `flesh`.
"But ugly. Nothing special in the front wing that I see. It`s a technical three piece front wing that doesn`t exploit the areas where I believe you need to exploit.
"The area of the sidepods, the `coke bottle`, there`s nothing exciting," he continued.
Ferrari, who launched their car online on Friday after heavy snow in Maranello forced them to shelve a track presentation, raised gasps of shock when the F2012 was first seen.
Team boss Stefano Domenicali said performance mattered more than whether it was ugly or pretty and Anderson agreed.
"You criticise it (the nose) on the first car but when you see it on the second or third you sort of accept it," he said.
"They (Ferrari) have exploited the high chassis, low nose, which you have to do. I think it`s probably the ugliest one in a way...there`s a big ski ramp there, or a `sleeping policeman` on top of the chassis.
"Aerodynamically, the top of the chassis is not that big a deal, it`s not that critical to anything but on the way there there`s different things you can do," he added.
Ferrari and McLaren appeared to have gone in opposite directions in positioning the exhausts but that can all change.
The first pre-season tests begin next week and cars could look quite different when the season starts in Melbourne on March 18.
Kimi Raikkonen`s Lotus and world champion Sebastian Vettel`s Red Bull break cover on Sunday and Monday while Michael Schumacher`s Mercedes will not be seen until later in the month.
Anderson was not impressed by the McLaren, seeing nothing to have the hairs standing up on the back of his neck, but with the usual caveats and a suspicion that perhaps they were hiding something clever for Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to exploit.
"The front wing is the same as last year, the nose section and that area of the chassis that looks ugly (on others), they haven`t done it," he said.
"And I think they missed a bit there because although it`s all small, you`ve got to exploit every aerodynamic avenue possible.
"They didn`t have a diffuser on the car so you can`t comment on what you don`t see," added Anderson.
"The (new) diffuser regulations, as we know them and as I read them and the way I think 99.9 percent of the teams agree with them, is that you can`t do much.
"So if McLaren have gone to the effort of making a dummy one to put on there, maybe they have found some loophole they think is legal. Maybe their secret weapon is in the diffuser. But we will have to wait and see."