With just over one month until the five red lights go out for the first time in 2018, Mercedes has unveiled its latest Formula One challenger.
The F1 W09 EQ Power+ is improved in every area over its predecessor
Millions of working hours, thousands of parts, long days and late nights... the Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ is more than a machine. It's the representation of a proud, passionate and determined group of people who are all driven by each other. A 1,500-strong team, ready to do battle once more.
Team partners, guests and media joined the team for the official unveiling of the W09, with thousands of fans around the world getting involved in the action and watching online as the new Mercedes F1 car was unleashed.
As the most advanced machine ever conceived by Mercedes, the 2018 car aims to become part of the team's long and rich racing heritage, while at the same time pushing the technological boundaries of motorsport.
The F1 W09 EQ Power+ is improved in every area over its predecessor and is expected to beat last year's Formula One lap records, making it the fastest Mercedes F1 car in history.
Christened Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+, the new car proudly carries the 'EQ Power+' designation which was already featured on last year's car. As part of the naming strategy of Mercedes-AMG, 'EQ Power+' stands for the brand's future performance hybrid models.
As well as officially uncovering the result of the team's hard work, effort and graft, the W09 also took to the track for the first time, with a 100km filming day around Silverstone. Valtteri Bottas was the first driver to sample the new W09 and completed running in the morning, before handing over to his team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the afternoon.
So, not only was it a chance to show off the new car to the world, but it was also the first opportunity to put it through its paces out on the race track - completing the first two major milestones any team faces during the course of a long F1 season.
'It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive', says Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, describing the atmosphere in the team prior to launch day.
'It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive'
F1 never stops
"It's never going completely seamlessly or smoothly, as a matter of fact you're trying to push the boundaries and make the car as light as possible and eventually as quick as possible. We've had a good winter, I would say, no real drama. But there is always stress within the organisation at that time of year."
F1 never stops. It may be called the 'winter break' but at the factory, there's little time to pause and reflect. The focus is always on what's ahead. The development cycle of designing and creating F1 cars is relentless, but it's also a hugely rewarding time too, as things begin to properly take shape.
"The winter is intense", says Technical Director James Allison. "The planners have got thousands of lines of plans to deliver on, the design group have got to deliver several hundred new designs per day in order that they can be made.
"All of the test and development people and the people running the dynos have to stand ready as the pieces come in hot from the machines that made them to assemble them up and put them on all the in-house testing kit that allows us to be reasonably sure that everything is strong enough and has the right shape and will perform reliably."
The all-new F1 W09 EQ Power+ shares some of the DNA of its predecessor, the Championship-winning W08. Affectionately dubbed a 'diva' for its occasional lack of predictability, the 2017 Mercedes F1 car was nevertheless the most successful car of the past season.
The aerodynamic regulations have remained largely stable for the 2018 season, with the introduction of the Halo and the ban of both the monkey seat and high T-wings being the biggest changes. So the team decided to follow a similar design philosophy, aimed at further developing the many strengths of the 2017 car and improving its weaker areas.
'We like some of the character traits from our diva', Toto explains. 'The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car's many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.'
But while the car has gone through an evolution, the team's driver line-up remains the same. Lewis heads into his sixth season with Mercedes and 12th in the sport, ready and raring to go. 'It's hard to believe that it's already our sixth year together, it feels like it's gone by so quick' the four-time World Champion says. 'It's been an emotional rollercoaster together.'
'It feels like it's gone by so quick. It's been an emotional rollercoaster together.'
The question is, are you ready?
Valtteri is approaching his fifth F1 campaign and second with Mercedes. He made big strides during the course of 2017, winning three races, and is determined to fight for the title this year: "I want to use all the things that I learned last year and be on a good level on every single race weekend - that's going to be the goal for me this year."
The start of the 2018 season is on the horizon. Following eight days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, teams will head back to base to make final preparations for lights out in Melbourne.
The team is ready. The drivers are ready. The car is ready. The question is, are you ready?