The 2023 F1 car launch season came to an end yesterday with Alpine being the last team to reveal its challenger. Next week, we will have a 3-day pre-season test in Bahrain before we go racing. Most importantly, the 2023 F1 season has begun! We know what the cars will look like this season (at least we know the liveries) and we know we’re just weeks away from the official start of the season in Bahrain.

Having said that, we just got done with the car launches and it begs an important question. Did we learn something? And if we did, what was it? Let’s take a look at what little droplets of information we were able to gather during these car launches.

#1 Ferrari and Red Bull seem quietly confident

Red Bull was the first team to do a car launch and the team pretty much ‘copy-pasted’ the 2023 F1 livery on last year’s car. While there’s no dancing around the fact that the challenge of reduced development times will be tough to navigate, the team appears quietly confident of its prospects this season and is up for the challenge.

Similarly, Ferrari seems to have an aura around it. There have been plenty of rumors about the Scuderia producing a gem of a car this season, including talks of a 30 bhp gain in power which will be massive throughout the season. It had by far the best car launch of the pre-season and ran the car for the first time on a live show. The team seems confident of its prospects this season and so far, nothing seems to have gone wrong.

#2 Mercedes is playing the long game

Now, this particular takeaway comes with a disclaimer that Mercedes is notorious for playing down its chances before the start of an F1 season. The team has done this far too many times and then sealed the front row in the first race of the season. Hence, take this one with a pinch of salt!

The initial impression from Mercedes, at least based on the comments made by both Mike Elliot and Toto Wolff, is that the team is not where it expects to be. It is slightly behind its target and is banking on the first major upgrade in Baku to join the fight at the front.

The German team has shown tremendous ability to develop a car during a season but playing catch-up at the start is not ideal in any way. The picture, however, will become clearer during the pre-season test in Bahrain.

#3 There’s something different about Aston Martin this season

Let’s be fair, Aston Martin has become the butt of jokes in the last few seasons. Ever since Lawrence Stroll took over, the team’s DNA has changed. It’s no longer the team that led the midfield despite being on a shoestring budget. Now, it’s a team that has ample resources but struggles to finish 7th in the championship, as evidenced last season. The only time it has caught attention is when allegations emerged of it copying the designs of other teams.

It happened with the entire “Pink-Mercedes” debate in 2020 and it happened again last season when the team’s upgrade made the car look eerily similar to Red Bull. This season, though, things look different. Not only does the team look confident (because that is something that could be faked), there seems to be a steely determination behind that as well.

Moreover, the off-season rumors revolving around Aston Martin have been positive. Although the team’s aim to be at the front of the midfield this season seems lofty, it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

#4 Alarm bells ringing at McLaren?

The last time McLaren won an F1 world championship was in 2008. The team has not won an F1 constructors title in the 21st century! There was a wave of optimism around McLaren after the 2021 F1 season after it secured its first pole position in almost a decade and the first ‘1-2’ finish as well. In the eyes of many, it was a dark horse for the 2022 F1 season.

However, none of that materialized last season. The team lost to Alpine and finished 5th in the championship. Much was expected for the 2023 F1 season, but new team principal Andrea Stella has already poured cold water on those expectations.

Stella admitted during the car launch that the car development was not where he wanted it to be. In a bid to be the best midfield team, McLaren, in all likelihood, is starting on the back foot.

#5 What is an F1 car launch without the, well, “CAR LAUNCH”?

In what was a first, F1 teams received some backlash over the dull and monotonous nature of car launches this season. To be honest, this has been the norm in recent years.

Car launches have been reduced to livery showcases for a while now owing to fears of concepts being copied by rival teams. To do so, teams paint stock/year-old cars with new liveries during launches in what has become a somewhat acceptable practice. This time around though, in what was an indication of the changing demographics of F1 fans, there was pushback.

The Red Bull launch, although done on a grand scale in New York, was called out for being rather dull. So were the others until Ferrari showed the grid how it should be done.

The Italian team’s launch was not a corporate affair. Rather, it was aimed at the fans, just like it should be. Teams can keep the car hidden all they want, and the “F1 Car Launch” could just be a pseudonym for the teams showing new liveries, but somewhere the entire event has to cater to the fans.

The F1 demography is getting younger and they are fickle as hell. If they see a product that’s not catered to them, don’t expect them to sit around and be loyal to you.