We all know that when the covers start coming off the cars in Formula One, we’re well on the way to a brand new season. As teams gear up to unveil their newest challengers, we have a look back over 5 of our favourites!

Marussia Virgin – 2011

We’re only slightly biased towards this one, having been in attendance and what with Badger now counting former MVR man Geoff Collins amongst its writers. Held at BBC’s television centre, the launch of the 2011 Marussia Virgin machine stands out chiefly for being a bit flashy and fun in an age when most cars are unveiled in the pitlane, or on awful internet streams that buckle under the pressure of seven people trying to watch at once.

This event was a bit like an eighties chat show, with David Croft playing the host and various MVR staff pretending they were Richard Gere or Susan Sarandon. What’s more Geoff penned an excellent piece about launches that is thoroughly worth a read.

Jordan – 2005

To some it became one of the most recognisable symbols of Soviet communism, while to others it’s just a city centre, like the ones you’ll find in Farnborough or Doncaster.

But for the Jordan Grand Prix team Moscow’s Red Square was viewed as an ideal place to launch a Formula One car. This wasn’t one of Eddie Jordan’s desperate lunges for attention: no, EJ had sold the team to disinterested billionaire Alex Shnaider by this point, and the Russian-born Canadian thought it a top idea to launch his new plaything in Moscow. Drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Thiago Monteiro donned ushanka hats and massive coats (because it’s freezing in Red Square in February) and got on with the task at hand.

It was, in all honesty, a dull launch, but the strange scene of a bright yellow F1 car parked in Red Square, its drivers wearing ushankas, is quite difficult to get out of your head. Karthikeyan commented, “I think Russia, like my home country India, is a nation which would very much like to host a race in the future Grand Prix calendar,” proving that, whilst he may be a bit useless as a peddler, Narain does have a good sense of the F1 zeitgeist.

BAR – 1999

When BAR launched their maiden F1 challenger they did so with two liveries, one for Jacques Villeneuve (Lucky Strike) and one for Riccardo Zonta (555). This, however, was seen as totally unacceptable. Two liveries? No, people would get confused. They need two identical cars in which you can barely see the driver’s helmet, and tiny numbers so you can’t tell them apart. That’s what the people need.

Villeneuve aboard the 1999 ‘zippy’ BAR – Photo: The Cahier Archive

Both were actually really nice (in my most humble opinion), but when you stuck one on either side of the car and put a stupid zip down the middle the effect was pretty rubbish. Still, as launches go it caused a bit of a stir and gave BAR their only press that year that was linked to the car breaking down or Villeneuve having massive shunts through Eau Rouge.

Sauber – 2004

Want to see an all-female pop group play a set in an aircraft hanger dressed in F1 overalls? Then crank up the time machine and travel back to 2004.

Because that was the year the Sugababes performed at the launch of Sauber’s C23, which took place inside Hanger 7, Austria. The girls wore Sauber racesuits, or half wore them anyway, as they gyrated about in the darkness and Peter Sauber looked on in confusion.

At the time Sauber were fielding Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, whilst The Sugababes had Miisha, Liisha and Shiisha on signing duties. This has probably changed by now because being a ‘Sugababe’ is a bit like being Doctor Who: once you hit 30 you regenerate into a younger, more with-it version of yourself..

McLaren – 1997

Things you associate with McLaren: ruthless efficiency, incredible attention to detail and spotless floors that make you so nervous you don’t even want to walk on them. Things you do not associate with McLaren: the Spice Girls.

But in 1997 these two very different forces of nature collided in what was undoubtedly the oddest F1 launch ever seen. Held at Crystal Palace in South London (an area that isn’t short of motorsport history, in fairness), Ron Dennis’ team gave an unusually glitzy welcome to their MP4/12 that included brightly-coloured lights (ooooh), smoke (aaaah), and the Spice Girls (nooo!).

Yes the Spice Girls, whose passion for grand prix racing is patchy at best. The Ginger Spice Girl seems to pop up on the grid at Monaco every year, but her interest in the sport is limited to frolicking in the principality. The Sporty Spice Girl once claimed in an interview with Smash Hits magazine that she could out-run a Formula One car, but when they asked her to prove it she refused and hid at her Nan’s house in Rotherham for three weeks. The Scary Spice Girl hates engines, the Baby Spice Girl still isn’t old enough to drive, despite being well into her thirties, whilst the Posh Spice Girl is an American, and so prefers NASCAR and Abraham Lincoln to Formula One.

For a a full photo gallery of the launch check out zigazig-ha.com, a Spice Girls fan page I had honestly never seen before writing this article. Honest.

 

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