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New cars waiting in the wings, as '09 countdown begins 08 Jan 2009

The new Ferrari F2008. January 6, 2008. © Ferrari S.p.A. McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 Launch, Stuttgart, Germany, 7 January 2008. World © Sutton. Nick Heidfeld (GER) makes the first run in the BMW Sauber F1.08. BMW Sauber F1.08 Launch, BMW Welt, Munich, Germany, Monday 14 January 2008. World © Sutton (L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) Honda, Ross Brawn (GBR) Honda Team Principal and Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Honda. Honda RA108 Media Launch, Honda Racing F1 Factory, Brackley, England, 29 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Force India F1 Team Livery Launch, Mumbai, India, Thursday 7 February 2008. World © Sutton

A guide to which teams launch when and where

With 2009 already a week old and March’s season-opener drawing ever closer, the Formula One teams remain closeted in their factories, busy preparing for this year’s campaign. But over the coming month almost all will break cover and unveil their new cars.

Launch season is always an exciting time, but this year’s is particularly interesting thanks to wide-ranging new regulations. With KERS, the return of slick tyres, and stricter aerodynamic limitations to contend with, design departments have had their work cut out.

The final tests of 2008 provided a small glimpse of what awaits and it’s clear the 2009 cars are set to be very different beasts to their predecessors. Lower and wider front wings, taller and narrower rear wings, and altogether cleaner, less fussy looking bodywork will contribute to the most radical changes in the cars’ appearance for several years. Exciting stuff.

With testing now banned during the season, the earlier you can start on-track development the better. That appears to be Ferrari’s maxim - the reigning champions will be the first team to launch when the wraps come off their as-yet unnamed ’09 challenger next week. An online debut on Monday (January 12) morning will precede Felipe Massa putting it through its initial paces at the team’s Fiorano test circuit.

Toyota have also opted to forgo the traditional launch ceremony. Instead the Japanese team plan to distribute press material via the internet next Thursday (January 15). The TF109 will then enjoy its first track outing on January 19, at the start of a three-day test at Portugal’s Algarve Motor Park.

McLaren’s 2009 machine, the MP4-24, will be unveiled on Friday, January 16 at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, UK. World champion Lewis Hamilton, who hasn’t tested since taking the 2008 title back in November, is expected to get his first ride in the new car shortly after.

Renault are next in line, revealing their ’09 challenger the following week on Monday, January 19 at an official pre-test presentation at Portugal’s Algarve Motor Park.

Williams also plan to roll out their FW31 at the Portimao circuit on January 19. The Toyota-powered challenger will appear on track on the Monday morning, running its winter test livery. The British team do not plan to unveil the car’s full racing colours until the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

BMW Sauber have also opted for a low-key launch, with the F1.09 set to make its first public appearance during testing at Valencia in Spain on Tuesday, January 20, with race drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld expected to attend.

Red Bull, meanwhile, are to wait until Monday, February 9 to take the wraps off their RB5 at the Spanish circuit of Jerez. Despite the significantly later launch date, team principal Christian Horner believes the late debut could pay dividends as the team will have ‘optimised the car as much as possible’.

Red Bull’s sister team, Toro Rosso, have yet to announce their launch plans, and there has been no official world from Force India, although following November’s news of their new technical partnership with McLaren, driver Adrian Sutil revealed that he didn’t expect to test the VJM02 until March. Honda, meanwhile, must wait for news of a buyer before confirming when they will unveil their new car.

The launch line-up in full:
January 12 - Ferrari, online / Fiorano, Italy
January 15 - Toyota TF109, online
January 16 - McLaren MP4-24, Woking, UK
January 19 - Renault R29, Algarve Motor Park, Portugal
January 19 - Williams FW31, Algarve Motor Park, Portugal
January 19 - Toyota TF109 (track debut), Algarve Motor Park, Portugal
January 20 - BMW Sauber F1.09, Valencia, Spain
February 9 - Red Bull RB5, Jerez, Spain

Stay in touch with Formula1.com over the coming weeks for the latest news and pictures of the 2009 cars.