A comprehensive guide to F1's car launches

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The Formula One season officially starts in Melbourne at the Australian Grand Prix over the weekend of March 14-15, but to many it unofficially gets underway when the new cars are unveiled to the public.

The term "launch week" has become synonymous with what will happen over the next 10 or so days, a period of time in which each team will reveal its car to the world. There are no rules as to when a team must launch its car, and the word "week" is a bit misleading -- Haas has already released images of its car, and Racing Point, Williams and Alfa Romeo will all unveil their cars in the days before preseason testing starts on Feb. 19.

This is when excitement for the new season starts to properly ramp up, so here's your guide to everything that's going to happen between now and the first day at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

What's happened/happening?

Feb. 10 - Mercedes unveiled its 2020 livery. It was largely unchanged from last year's look, save for some splashes of red to mark a new five-year partnership with Ineos.

Feb. 11 - Ferrari launched its new car at a lavish event at Reggio Emilia, 30km from its HQ at Maranello.


Ferrari's SF1000 revealed

Ferrari reveals its 2020 challenger, the SF1000, in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

Feb. 12 - Renault to launch at an event in Paris, and Red Bull will unveil pictures of its car online.

Feb. 13 - McLaren to launch at its HQ in Woking, England.

Feb. 14 - Mercedes to take to UK circuit Silverstone for a filming day, before posting images of the new car online. The same day, Toro Rosso's rebrand to Alpha Tauri will be made official at an event in Salzburg, Austria.

Feb. 17 - Racing Point to launch at an event in Mondsee, Austria. Williams will also unveil its 2020 car online.

Feb. 19 - Alfa Romeo to officially launch in the morning ahead of the start of preseason testing at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

Will any car look radically different?

Absolutely. One in particular will look and sound radically different -- Red Bull's second team is being rebranded from Toro Rosso (Italian for 'Red Bull') to Alpha Tauri, the name of the Austrian company's clothing range. The team has run a spectacular blue and red colour scheme for the past few years but will move its look in line with the Alpha Tauri brand -- the clothing company uses a white and black logo, but it's unclear exactly what the car will look like.

Toro Rosso's Twitter account has been teasing snippets of the car ahead of the launch, albeit with something that looks like a very basic shell of colour so far. The team has kept its social media channels unchanged and has done a good job of keeping anticipation for its launch high.

Haas has already revealed a different look to last year, having reverted to its "traditional" paint job in line with the colours of owner Gene Haas' machine tool company, Haas Automation.

It's also worth keeping an eye on what Williams does.

The British team ran a simple white and blue car last year but confirmed a title partnership with technology company Rokit on the eve of the season. Red, white and black Rokit-branded cars have since launched in Formula E and while unveiling its title sponsorship of W Series. Williams has not had a red car since its infamous Winfield-branded cars in 1998 and 1999, but a move back in the direction of the car below for this season is easy to imagine.

Beyond that, it remains to be seen whether any other team will decide on a radical departure from previous seasons. Red Bull has captured headlines in previous years by unveiling a striking camo livery for testing (in 2015), as well as a special edition one just for its online launches in 2018 and 2019. This was then followed by its actual colours for the season being revealed at a later date, but it's always a good way of generating extra clicks and excitement for your new car.

Will the car design change dramatically?

From a design perspective, there is no radical rule change for 2020. The 2021 campaign will be marked by a major revamp of everything, so for this season most teams will follow an evolutionary, not revolutionary, approach to car design. Not all teams will unveil all their secrets at their launch, with finalised parts all likely to be kept under wraps until testing.

General concepts and design philosophies can be noticed at launches, however. Many were quick to point out that the rendered images of the Haas VF-20 released on Thursday had many striking similarities to last year's Ferrari -- another reminder of the close relationship the American team enjoys with the Scuderia.

There have also been suggestions in the media that Mercedes will adopt sidepods similar to Ferrari's novel approach of recent years and rumours that Ferrari will run a higher rake angle, similar to Red Bull's.

Why don't all the teams do events?

Any veteran of the F1 media circus will tell you launch season is not what it once was. Glitzy launches used to be the norm -- the Spice Girls were on hand to help unveil the 1997 McLaren, for example -- but in recent years some of the gloss has come off these unveilings.

Some teams still choose to have physical events with their drivers taking actual covers off a car. Those putting on events are usually the better-funded teams or those unveiling a new sponsor: in 2019, Haas held an event with then-title partner Rich Energy, while Williams had an event to mark a new livery and partnership with Rokit, despite the fact its car was behind schedule and actually missed the opening days of preseason testing. Obviously Toro Rosso has a big rebrand to reveal to the world, so it has invited the media to Red Bull's impressive Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg, Austria.

Mercedes is holding an event but, unlike those planned by Ferrari, Renault, McLaren, Toro Rosso/Alpha Tauri and Racing Point, one without a designated media segment. It will instead launch its new car during a filming day -- one of the two allowed to teams per season -- at the UK's Silverstone circuit and distribute images accordingly. However, team boss Toto Wolff will brief the media ahead of the launch at a sponsor event with Ineos on Monday.

This year Haas was the first to offer any glimpse of a car. There is usually one team that will release images like this ahead of the busy week of launches as there is a buzz generated by being the first to do so, even if it is just a rendered image of what the car will look like. In last week's case, Haas was also revealing a return back to its "traditional" colours.

Haas had originally stated that it would launch on the morning of the opening test, which Alfa Romeo is currently scheduled to do. This comes with minimal hassle for the team -- the car is wheeled out in front of the garage in the hour or so before testing begins; photographers take pictures of the drivers taking a cover off a car; and that's that.

Are these the team's cars for the first race of 2020?

No. These cars can be considered the bare bones at this stage. Teams are relentlessly working on the car that will emerge from the garage on the first day of testing on Feb. 12, but will also have upgrades and parts in the pipeline for the rest of the slated time in Barcelona and for the opening race weekend at the Australian Grand Prix.

To illustrate how early the teams still are in the design process -- each team will have only one car fully built going to testing, with the name and numbers simply swapped around depending who is in the car at the time. This is why a heavy crash during testing can be such a setback to a team at this stage in the season.