Two days ago we saw Ferrari launch its F2008, and yesterday McLaren Mercedes unveiled its MP4-23 at the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart. Lewis Hamilton was on hand for the launch, and it being his birthday, called the MP4-23 the “coolest birthday present you can get.” The car certainly looks delicious, no doubt a reflection of the 14,000 man-hours spent engineering the vehicle and the additional 14,000 man-hours in manufacturing. Hamilton’s first test of the new car is set for Thursday, January 9th.

With more than 3000 hours logged in the wind tunnel, the MP4-23 is already a highly-developed and tuned race car - which is to be expected, since it has been under design and development since November, 2006. Nonetheless, like the Ferrari shown earlier this week, the entirety of the aerodynamic surfaces will be re-engineered and upgraded before Australia. Unlike the Ferrari, which sports a modified wheelbase among other changes, the MP4-23 is an evolution of the MP4-22, and bears no significant visual difference.

Some of the performance figures published on the MP4-23 are not so much astounding as simply mind-boggling. Zero to 60mph time: 2.3 seconds; 0-100mph, 3.6 seconds; 0-100-0mph, 6.6 seconds. Perhaps the most incredible statistic is the braking: 185-0mph happens in just 3.5 seconds. Of course, these numbers are typical of most cars in the Formula 1 paddock (with some variation, of course), but they just go to show how otherworldly performance really is as the top level of motorsport.